I’m not sure why – and I’m certainly not complaining – but ice cream seems to have become all the rage, these days (not that it ever wasn’t). Over the course of a recent week, I was presented with unique presentations at three of Las Vegas’ newest restaurants; and thanks to some of our city’s chefs, realized that just because it’s gotten cold outside is no reason we can’t enjoy cooling down our insides – whether for lunch, dinner, or just because. So, here are some of my favorite places in Vegas to enjoy the cold sweet stuff, and some new explorations of a classic treat.
The first of these recent encounters transpired over dessert at Chef Marc Vetri’s Vetri Cucina at Palms Casino Resort; where, on the side of the Pear Almond Tart we’d been served some Wild Honey Gelato. My friend Penny and I nearly got into a spoon-duel over that sole scoop of intensely flavored goodness; one that finished our already fantastic meal on a resoundingly memorable note.
Something that’s become a bit of a tradition for me and my sweet-tooth, is that whenever I find myself picking-up tickets at Wynn Las Vegas – whether for Le Reve at the Wynn Theater, or for any of the incredible concerts in the Encore Theater (i.e., Diana Ross, Mel Brooks, John Fogerty, etc.) – on my way to the Box Office, I make a point of stopping by The Café’s walk-up gelateria (featuring kosher gelato from San Francisco’s Double Rainbow), and order myself a heaping cone of Mint Chocolate Chunk. So, what if some invariably runs down my chin, and drips onto my tickets? I’m happy, and can’t be bothered.
I was dining at Red Plate, the new upscale Cantonese restaurant inside Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; when I came across my next eye-opening ice cream experience. Having already enjoyed my fill of savory Sino gastronomy (insomuch as I ever am), but still feeling a bit peckish; our server, Ethan, suggested a bowl of Thai Tea Gelato; and it was SO good! (I mean, I’m a bit of a Thai Tea freak, so it really rang my bell.) Apparently, the Pastry team steeps the tea in milk for 24 hours; and then uses that to make the gelato’s base. Bonus: Like everything prepared at Red Plate, you can seemingly taste each of the ingredients with every bite you take.
Giving a little shout-out to the old-school, let’s head eastbound-and-down – in this case, to the Eastside, toward Downtown – and take our places in line, at Luv-It Frozen Custard (505 E. Oakey Blvd). Now in its fourth generation, this family-owned-and-operated institution has been putting smiles on Vegas faces since 1973, when the current owners’ great-grandmother brought the frozen custard concept to town. No matter what the occasion, I always seem to run into someone I know, at Luv-It; and I love that the only things that’ve changed are some new flavors and a fresh coat of paint.
Back Strip-side, once again, it’s the CrazyShake™ milkshakes from Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian Resort that call out to me – especially their peanut butter shake, the Sweet n’ Salty. Featuring peanut butter ice cream, M+Ms, and PB cups, and a chocolate-peanut butter rim, and topped with a Sugar Daddy, a pretzel rod, chocolate covered pretzel, and whipped cream, under twin drizzles of chocolate and caramel; the Sweet n’ Salty is the shake that eats like a meal. And if you’re really feeling it, opt for the “Boozy” version, and have the bartender take your shake to the next level.
The third recent experience – and also the last stop on today’s tour of frozen treats and where to find them – is most surprising (to me) for its seeming banality, and that is the Vanilla Ice Cream à la minute* that closes out any meal enjoyed (by me, anyhow) at Cipriani Las Vegas in Wynn Las Vegas’s new Wynn Plaza. Known to any habitué of Harry’s Bar in Venice as the Gelato di Vaniglia al Momento, this large serving (suggested for two) of whipped vanilla ice cream is presented with chocolate sauce and caramelized nuts, and will make you rethink every disparaging thought you’ve ever had about vanilla. Each day, a fresh mixture of milk, heavy cream, yolks, vanilla bean, and sugar (three different types) is prepared. Then it is boiled, stirred, strained, and chilled, until an order has been placed. Once it’s been ordered, the mixture is poured into the machine, and whipped into the satiny confection that we know and love. Sure, it takes longer than getting a scoop at your local 31 Flavors, but it’s so much more decadent. Vanilla. Who knew?
Apparently, Maggio Cipriani (great-grandson of founder, Giuseppe), that’s who. Says Cipriani, “I always love seeing the smile on our customers’ faces, when they taste their first spoonful… I think we all go back to being kids, for a moment.”
And maybe it’s as simple as that. Whether it’s that ice cream transports us back to a time in our lives when smiling was our go-to expression; or just that it tastes so damned good. Regardless, I’m always down for a second scoop/bowl/serving/whathaveyou.
Get into it!
[Editor’s Note: À la minute is a cooking term that refers to a dish that is prepared to order and served immediately.]