Black is the New Vanilla; Black Ice Cream is Summer’s Coolest Treat.

Morgensterns NYC

This Monday marks May 1st, the fateful month ice cream shops officially open for business, if they aren’t already.

On the topic of the colour black—or rather the absence of colour, I personally try to limit wearing it (female sacrilege I know!) and it certainly isn’t the most appetizing of hues, n’est pas?

Fact: I’d rather drink bath water than eat black licorice—no joke.

While black ash ice cream surfaced last spring, the trend will fully permeate the foodie zeitgeist for summer 2017, ceremoniously making its way to an ice cream shop near you.

Black is the new Vanilla…

I’m always fascinated by the genesis of trends and how they find their way towards mainstream utopia.

In the case of black ice cream, all roads lead to the sheer inventiveness + complex flavour combinations found in Japan. Places like Hakodate and Otaro, which are found on the northern island of Japan just below Sapporo, and Saitama which is closer to Tokyo. 

Flavours like soft serve black squid inkblack sesame, black curry and deep espresso have been Japanese ice cream mainstays for years, as have wasabi, miso, + basil flavours. In some instances the black colour is created by bamboo charcoal powder, which is known to known to absorb impurities and excessive odours.

50 Shades of Grey…or Black?

Black Sesame Soft Serve ↑

While the crux of black soft serve combinations seem to take on a matte texture, the black sesame soft serve can fluctuate from a darker to lighter grey. *Click on each photo for some of their respective flavours.

…and simply by proximity, Vancouver and Los Angeles are well known to have adopted an abundance of Japan’s and all of east Asia’s culinary delights.

Case in point Little Damage in Los Angeles has a black almond-charcoal soft serve that is taking over Instagram. Dubbed as “Goth Ice Cream,” the sweet treat is cheekily being referred to as ice cream that’s as “dark as your soul,” including their handmade black waffle cones.

But if we are giving credit where its most certainly due, huge kudos needs to go out to Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream in NYC for premiering the viral phenom that started it all, black Coconut Ash ice cream. The owner Nick Morgenstern, achieved the colour from a form of coconut ash activated charcoal, that wait for ittastes like coconut and may temporarily dye mouths inky black. Fetching, really!

And lastly, black ice cream has landed in la belle province of Montréal courtesy of NDG’s Ca Lem—which means ice cream in Vietnamese. Ca Lem offers up an assortment of Asian flavours like taro, red bean, green tea, coco ash and black sesame. Unfortunately Ca Lem is only opening in mid to late May, but trust me, they are worth the wait!

*Click on photos for respective flavours.

Will the black ice cream phenom have staying power in North America or is it a here-today-gone-tomorrow-Starbucks Latte, coveted soley for its Instagram potential?

Time shall tell, my kittens!

“I scream you scream, we alllll scream for BLACK ICE CREAM!”

XOXO,

Couture Candy; This Ain’t Your Granddaddy’s Fun Dip.

 

A previous limited edition from Sugarfina: 4 karat gold-dusted, Dom Pérignon-infused gummy bears

A box of Nerds is soooo very pedestrian, while a bag of Maltesers reeks of bridge and tunnel. 

Luxury and couture candy—aimed towards an up-scale adult market, is the latest trend in sweet bonbons.

Sugarfina

Sugar Logo

Leading with their tag line ‘Candy for Grown Ups’Sugarfina is a luxury gourmet candy boutique curated by Los Angeles wife and hubby duo Rosie O’Neil & Josh Resnick. Inspired by their vast travels, they set off to meet with the world’s premium candy ‘artisans,’  bringing only the finest of ingredients back into their pristine boutiques.

Luxe offerings like Kyoto Blossoms, tiny sugar flowers imported from Japan and Baby Champagne Bears sourced exclusively from the Bavarian region of Germany (where gummy bears were invented!) are flavoured in Brut and Rosé. 

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…and below Champagne-infused, handcrafted marshmallows dipped in 24K gold, their famed Bling Rings—sculpted from dark chocolate with a thin sugar shell brushed with edible silver and Champagne Bubbles dressed up in tiny white nonpareils—all superb for your swankiest cocktail parties.

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With boutiques across the US and one in Vancouver’s Nordstrom’s and a newly minted boutique in Toronto’s Nordstrom’s!

Sweet Saba

Lady in Red: Maayan Zilberman Photo- Steve Earle

 

Lingerie designer-turned baker-turned rock candy confectionista, Maayan Zilberman’s Sweet Saba line offers a multi-sensory experience that is equal parts kitsch and artful design. 

rock shorterSweet Saba; Not your granddaddy’s rock candy…

 

The former Israeli and Vancouverite has been showing off her unique wares through a series experiential New York pop up stints, where she currently resides. Back in November, Zilberman created a conceptual ‘Candy Rock and Crystal Bar’ at Fort Gansvort and during February and March a  ‘Lovers Rock’ collection at The Standard High Line Hotel.  

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Too beautiful to eat? A pop up display promoting the ‘healing powers’ of Sweet Saba’s gem inspirations.

Zilberman worked closely with a food technologist to create 30 experiential flavours that range in taste from champagne, grass (yes, actual grass!) bubble gum, bacon and whiskey. 

Clients can purchase Sweet Saba mainstays online—our favorite being the mix tape that can be customized with whatever title gives you the coziest nostalgic **feels.**

Custom Order the name on your very own mixed tape.

 

And being that Zilberman is never not dressed to the chicest of New York minute NINES, replete with red lips and her signature sex kitten nails, who can resist the lure of a one-of-a kind tube of lipstick—infused with vitamin c and antioxidants, no less!

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Her designs are constantly evolving with each pop up performance, the next slated for the Whitney Museum this April!

Chocolates X Brandon Olsen

 

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CXBO chocolates; Not your granddaddy’s Goobers…

 

Few new brands can boast A-List testimonials like Beyoncé’s, but that’s just what happened when through creative channels, QueenB got to taste Toronto’s Brandon Olsen’s delectable CXBO chocolates. “We sent some of our salted caramels for Blue Ivy’s birthday,” says Sarah Keenlyside, marketing director of Chocolates X Brandon Olsen, (also fiancé X Brandon Olsen!) Unfortunately the salt wasn’t suited to Ivy’s toddler taste palate, but Beyoncé was so impressed that she told her assistant that he “should have brought 100 boxes!”

Olsen’s chocolatier comeuppance has been a slow and steady rise after spending years as a chef de cuisine in some of Toronto’s most prestigious kitchens—his inherent love for “all things sugar” finally winning out. “We use really high quality ingredients and I care a lot about the flavour combinations,” says Olsen. “I think it comes from my background as a chef, where the design of a plate is important, but if it doesn’t taste good, your restaurant isn’t going to last very long!”

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Luxurious flavour combinations like Lime Ginger Black Pepper, Raspberry Rose Fennel, and Cinnamon Brown Butter are part of the draw, but equally are the distinct artisanal design elements of CXBO’s bit sized chocolates. The moulds are a specific reference to American architect Buckminster Fuller who famously designed geodesic spheres (he did the Biosphere for Expo ’67 in Montreal), the splatter an ode to Jackson Pollack’s famed technique. Their boxes are all individually splatter painted as well, making every box an original work of art. “I’m a Lego guy, always have been,” offers the confection wunderkind, “and I think people who are into Lego as kids are inherently interested in design and colour.

Choco Lite
Holiday themed exclusives; a Valentines gift set and the magnificent Chocolates X Brandon Olsen Easter egg that sold out within days.

 

Presently, you can order Chocolates x Brandon Olsen through their online web site and Shopify, but coming in May CXBO will be opening a College street west location with an open concept kitchen—Willy Wonka styles—Olsen’s favorite childhood film!

***

So is there a price to pay for luxury? Does high design equate to some hefty cha-ching?  Well, yes and no.

Sugarfina’s products were moderately priced all things considered; the exquisite ingredients, the uniqueness of product, the displays and packaging—the overhead of being a stand alone boutique in a tony Bev Hills zip code?

Sweet Saba’s pricing is most definitely on the higher end with a customized mix tapes costing you a cool $40.00 a pop, the lipsticks at $15.00. But the creativity tho? The experiential flavoring tho? The vitamin C and antioxidant infused lip sticks tho?!?! Plus did we mention its KOSHER?!?!

And lastly on the topic of Chocolates X Brandon Olsen which were recently coined as “Too Die For” from a Toronto Life Magazine e-commenter, what is $18 for a box of 9 delectable bites— if not the most reasonable ticket to heaven ever? Also, Beyoncé approved?!

So really, why even try to put a price on zee works of art, n’est pas?

Until we meet again—parting is such SUHWEET sorrow

XOXO

New Crop

Phó Mania; All About the Vietnamese ‘It’ Dish…

In terms of pop culture, Phó —the Vietnamese noodle soup, is currently experiencing revival ‘IT‘ foodie stature.

In fact, this dish is so happening, that if Phó were an actor it would be Jennifer Lawrence.

If it were a model, it would soooo be Cara Delevingne

If it were a singer it would be that annoying troll-hobbit Ariana Grande—I long to take a weed whacker to that phony-tail of hers.

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But before any more vocal confetti, first a brief history lesson!

Did you know, that Phó is strictly a staple breakfast offering in Vietnam, served with a black cup of coffee?

• While the word Phó appears to be pronounced ‘Faux‘—like a Kardashian, the correct elocution is actually ‘Fuh‘ (like Huh’)…Illuminating stuff, yes?

• Lastly, the word Phó refers to the actual rice noodles known as bánh phở and can come with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, vegetables or any combination thereof. 

***

My initial indoctrination into the cuisine happened in early 2014 via a friend after a yoga sesh. While I’ve certainly enjoyed many a oversized asian-inspired noodle soup during my life’s quilt, this was the 1st time I was mindfully trying Vietnamese Phó, ya dig?

Said friend brought me to Phó Rua Vang Golden Turtle on Ossington street in Toronto. On any day of the week, the place is packed to the gills with hipsters and foodies slurping down enormous bowls of soup and other yummy accompaniments. It is considered by and large the #1 eaterie for Phó in the downtown Toronto area. Other big draws are their famed deep-fried pork spring rolls (I don’t indulge in the swine) and their spicy satay chicken + lemon grass with vermicelli.

The instant you sit down at Golden Turtle you are sated with a steaming hot-pot of green tea. I order a vegetarian Phó soup and it comes to the table in the blink of an eyelash with a side plate of extras. The side plate at any Phó establishment are the add-ons that are integral to the heightened flavor of ones soup bowl.

*Insert Record Scratch Sound Here*

But before we go on, I must make a dramatic 360° turn to another restaurant I discovered, that trumps The Golden Turtle in terms of their Pho’ broth and over all presentation.

Back in the early spring I was having a conversation with a local restaurant owner and telling him all about my Phó obsession at Golden Turtle.

Yeah, it’s good, but there is so much better Phó around,” he said matter of factly.

But what do you mean” I said in disbelief? “It’s packed all the time, sometimes it’s impossible to get a table!”

Yeah, it’s packed, but do you notice that it’s strictly all non-asian clientele?”

He continued.

If you want good Phó, you should go where Vietnamese people go. Like down on College St. at Phó Linh—it’s incredibe.”

Where the Magic Happens: The Mother Ship, Phó Linh

Where the Magic Happens: The Mother Ship, Phó Linh

And just like that I became a convert overnight. My friends sage advice was some of the most potent, yet simplistic foodie-wisdom-for-the-ages. If you want the best of any cuisine, go where people from said cuisines background go to eat. Brilliant!

So, yes, IMHO, Phó Linh is *better* than the Golden Turtle in terms of the actual soup broth, veggies, tofu and add-ons. Did I mention I have a six day-a-week Phó habit that I have no intention of giving up?

Green Tea

Green Tea

Like the Golden Turtle, the peeps at Phó Linh bring a green tea to your table as soon as your booty hits the seat. In the summer its a cold green tea offering, in the fall/winter, hot. Because I am there so often, (I’m literally on an IV drip of the stuff) they no longer take my order and just give me an all-knowing nod as they hand a paper to the cook. It’s also important to note that Phó Linh is also PACKED to the gills with patrons–they’ve been around since the late 90’s!

Also I don’t want you coming. Seriously. This is not an advertorial. I don’t want it getting more popular. I’m totally serious about this. It’s such a little gem for me. I don’t want THE MAN, messing it up.

And…back to our story.

Important to note is the bric-a-brac of condiments nestled to my right; back tube (left) of hot sauce, (right) hoisin sauce, front right to left: pot au heaven (I made that up) a paste made of blended chili peppers, fish sauce (a Vietnamese mainstay) and finally shrimp sauce. Purists don’t believe in using condiments, but as you like is how I look at it!

Condiments A-Plenty

Condiments A-Plenty

In less than 10 minutes a steaming huge bowl of Vegetarian Phó soup with extra tofu, extra cripsy (my specific order) comes to the table with the side plate of extras that you heard about earlier in our story.

What comes next is a meditative ritual of spice placement that is really like an aromatic dance for me. I am never more ‘present‘ then when I’m going through the very pleasant rigmarole of preparing my Phó. The side plate bounty consists of (on bottom) crunchy bean sprouts, multi-leafed stock of THAI BASEL, it smells like a fragrant Saigon sunrise (I have no idea what that means), one piece of Culantro (not to be mistaken for Cilantro) but they are definitely related somewhere in the vine-lines of the Cilantro fam. Next is a mini crimson red chili pepper, and lastly a gorgeous wedge of lime goodness.

Side Plate 'Fixins

Side Plate ‘Fixins!

Quid Phó Pro

There are subtle rules of engagement when sitting down to a bowl of Phó. My process is as follows. I start with the plucking of the Thai Basel, one by one into my soup. Then I take the stalk of Culantro and break it up into pieces and spread it around the soup. My former amateur move was to stick the whole stalk of it in, until I observed how the initiated were doing it in the restaurant. I even received a nod of encouragement from a lovely Asian woman as I was doing it one day. Next I sprinkle in some bean sprouts, and finish off with a circular lime squeeze. The lime is so very essential to the over all TANG. I don’t use the mini hot pepper as I douse my Phó  in the mixed condiment chili paste as you will see shortly.

Next I take my ‘tools’—a soup spoon, and a pair of chop sticks. I mix the ingredients together with my soup spoon (there’s additional onions, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms bok choy, and a heaping of shallots and regular cilantro already in the soup.) I take my chop sticks and loosen the noodles underneath, and do a newly homogenized taste test. The picture doesn’t really do the presentation justice, (the veggies et al are hidden) but I wanted to take my own photos. Hear that Word Press Freshly Pressed panel?!! The photo that does do it justice is from the top of my story one taken from UrbanSpoon.com. It’s an exact replica and makes my mouth water just looking at it!

Phó Sweet Phó: A Thing of Beauty...

Phó Sweet Phó: A Thing of Beauty…

Lastly, I add some pot au heaven chili paste directly on my crispy pieces of tofu. The tofu, compared to the forgettable soft puff balls at Golden Turtle, are like tasty little firm mattresses! The broth at Phó Linh is a perfect blend of tastes, where comparatively the Golden Turtle broth is too salty and simply doesn’t have the same texture, aroma and quality.

So there you have it, I promise you I’m not this precious with any other meals, nor am I even remotely anal about other things in my life. I truly just enjoy the slow and mindful ritual of my warm and cozy solo Phó moments. Oh, yea, I like eating it alone. Company is not encouraged. No noise, no chatter.  Do you have certain meals that you like eating by yourself specifically? Please feel free to share your Phó stories with me!

Also, send money? This habit is getting expensive!

XOXO

The Pop Culture Rainman