Just when I think Gab Carbone of The Bent Spoon in Princeton absolutely cannot invent another flavor combo that will blow my mind, she does. In spades.
Twice within the last two weeks in fact. First, she developed a custom flavor for my friends George and Helen of Lawrenceville. They were the recipients of an auction item – 1o pints of your own custom flavor! – which Gab and partner Matt Errico offer regularly to worthy nonprofits, such as McCarter Theatre, Housing Initiatives of Princeton, and Slow Food USA. (Two years ago, Carbone tells me, a bidding war erupted at the Stonybrook-Millstone Watershed auction that resulted in a winning bid of more than $1000! For ice cream!)
I was lucky enough to share in George & Helen’s bounty. Their custom flavor of choice? Herb honey (Airborne brand, from New Zealand), candied pistachios, and fresh ricotta. Unbelievably good. I would have been happy for months going on the just the taste memory of that, but then last week I got to try another crazy-scientist-slash-culinary-artist concoction.
Actually, several of them. Gab was responsible for dessert at the eight-course “Collaborative Feast: Princeton Chefs Give Back” dinner at elements restaurant. A portion of the proceeds from the dinner benefited the Princeton Community Foundation. Each course preceding dessert was rich and memorable, so when it came time for dessert my tablemates and I began mumbling about perhaps not having room for it.
Then the first wave of a three-part ice cream dessert fantasy arrived. To say we approached our Pretzels & Mustard Hot Fudge Sundae with trepidation would be an understatement. But hesitation gave way to ecstasy with first spoonful. The mustard wasn’t shy, and yet it was perfect. The pretzels, well yes, salt and crunch are always welcome. But mustard? With chocolate sauce? I’m telling you, it works. In short order, we were also the beneficiaries of three mini-floats, in flavors that were nominally
“root beer” and “cassis” and “chocolate,” but made with exotic ingredients like a clear liquor infused with rare cacao nibs. Then came mini sugar cones filled with butter and Scotch ice cream. Not butterscotch as we know it, but butter and a smoky, peaty 15-year-old Scotch. (I think Gab said Laphroaig, but I could be mistaken.)
In truth, the flavors available on any given day at the Bent Spoon shop on Palmer Square are just as interesting (and often just as counter-intuitive). They change daily – sometimes several times within a day – and here are just three November choices:
Wild Turkey Bourbon with Sea Salt Caramel
Olive & Mustard Oil
For the less adventurous, there are more conventional but just as tasty ice cream and sorbet flavors, including cookies & cream, chocolate cinnamon, mocha chunk, mascarpone, and Sicilian blood orange. The Bent Spoon team has created more than 500 flavors to date, all told.
Here’s my first holiday shopping tip of the season: Gift certificates to the Bent Spoon! If you happen to have someone who doesn’t like ice cream on your list, cans of their ridiculously rich European-style hot chocolate mix can’t miss. And my daughters regularly give their friends super-cool Bent Spoon T-shirts, which feature a tiny map of NJ, reflecting Carbone & Errico’s dedication to using local ingredients.
Check out this charming YouTube video of Gab and Matt at work.