Having a sweater at the ready through June, July and August certainly does something to ones’ summer loving psyche. We never had those sweltering days where you need a popsicle or pool dip to cool off. Indian summer IS our summer, (and our spring and our fall.) The markets are the best places to feel and see the changing seasons – the dwindling supply of berries and tomatoes, making room for corn, zucchini, and pears is evidence that summer is quickly waning. This healthy bounty is a reminder that we have a good deal to be thankful for, to celebrate.
And so, it seemed that we were due for a party – to acknowledge the coming and going of summer, but also the time to enjoy good simple things with good people. And that is exactly what we had.
Evenings this past week were spent cooking up ice cream bases at the Zahler house – usually bubbling up, cooling and churning a couple of flavors each night until we had successfully filled our freezer with big glass jars of home-made ice cream. A good bit of inspiration came from the latest tome to be added to my cookbook collection – Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. Jeni is from Ohio and her ice creams have become renown nationwide for their straight-from-the-market breadth, and their dreamy consistency. Literally and completely splendid. My pre-ordered signed copy came a couple of weeks back and immediately, my creative ice cream fire was lit. Jeni uses a few techniques that are completely unconventional (from a classically trained point of view,) but her product is easy to achieve and consistent so I utilized a few of her flavor and technique suggestions and combined them with my own as I slaved over a cool freezer. I was hoping to have time to make homemade “magic shell” chocolate sauce, and from-scratch waffle cones, but those special items can be saved for next time. Come Thursday night, the freezer was full and it was time to have our friends come to help us empty it.
As the sun was just starting to set over the Bay, we pulled 3 gallons of home-churned ice creams from our icebox and opened our arms to 20-some-odd guests and their favorite accoutrements. The sunset and succulents on our patio were ample decorations but we set out these cool reuseable chalkboards to post the flavors, and asked that everyone fill out a few old school nametags for themselves and their accoutrement of choice. We ran out of “Hello My Name Is” nametags – in fact, we had many accoutrements (everything from parmesan cheese to nutella, to favorite cereals, salty snacks, savory inspirations, and home-made baked goods) that lack of table space required us to push out and onto the chilly patio at dusk! Both their creative concoctions and the company were top notch; we were very impressed with a few of the combinations that ensued:
- Orange + Cardamom Cookies and Chamomile + Chardonnay Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Sweet Basil + Pine Nut Praline Ice Cream w/ White Chocolate + Black Truffle Popcorn
- Honeydew + Cucumber + Cayenne Ice Cream w/Red Hot Cheetos
- Salty Caramel Ice Cream w/ Dark Chocolate Dipped Pretzels
- Kona Stout Beer Floats
- Goat Cheese + Roasted Fig Ice Cream w/Wine Soaked White Peaches
- Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream w/ Ginger Snaps + Honeyed Almonds
- Ugandan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a little scoop of everything else on offer
We were all enjoying ourselves, and our bowls of ice cream too much to take photographs (or to play any of the silly ice cream game ideas that I had brainstormed) so you’ll just have to close your eyes and imagine what these lovely concoctions looked like. I’m so proud of our casual culinary efforts! And, so egged on to have another “social” soon. The chill of the wind and malfunction of our outdoor heater was a bit of a bummer so until next summer, we might be thinking about doing candied apples, holiday cookies, or a big old pie eating contest instead…..something where great people, and love from the kitchen combine.
Thanks so much to everyone for making the night so special, and for indulging my hankering to make massive amounts of ice cream! Next time, we hope to have so many more of you join us, and to see what creative spoonfuls you come up with!