I quietly approached the pastry station, making room in the tight hallway for chef de cuisine Bradley Herron who buzzed straight through on his way to the rack on the far end of the kitchen wall. As he briskly added gusts of fragrant spices to a large bowl, the kitchen was suddenly overcome with the sweet, pungent scent of cardamom.
It was an intoxicating smell, gratified with even more sprinklings of cloves and nutmeg. I then turned to Trew and Amy, curious for the even sweeter aromas coming directly from Hedy Goldsmith’s pastry station. “I heard there’s a new dessert on the menu,” I said, hoping to hear more.
Trew’s eyes lit up. He grabbed a menu and began to explain how the Thai coconut ice cream combines exotic fragrances in smooth and crispy textures. I was immediately in a trance, realizing that the cardamom was merely the prologue.
The new dessert, which in its complete form is Thai Coconut Ice Cream with mango, passion fruit, and spiced wafer all begins with a French-style ice cream made with coconut milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime leaves are steeped in the warmed cream mixture to infuse a kick of flavor. Trew pointed out that the leaves of kaffir limes, which are commonly used in Thai curry pastes, are more astringent and aromatic than the more ubiquitous Tahiti or Persian lime varieties. The kaffir lime leaves balance the custard, and the natural richness from the coconut milk.
The coconut ice cream is then topped with a fresh fruit salad of chopped Haden mangoes and passion fruit pulp dressed with vanilla and lime zest, the black seeds of the passion fruit adding midnight hues and popping crunch to the tropical ice cream topping. Cubes of basil jelly reinforce the Thai influence on this east Asian-inspired dessert. A garnish of a few sprigs of the fresh herb offer a hint as to the cool flavor of the emerald jelly. A pistachio, curry and honey wafer rests on the glass cup of ice cream. Baked with a blend of coriander, fennel and black sesame seeds, the wafer adds an extra crunch to complete this textural, aromatic treat.
As Trew finished putting it all together, I noticed the sprinkling of a yellow powder atop the powdered sugar-dusted wooden board.
“Is that curry?”, I asked him, curious about the sunset dust.
“No, it’s ground up dried orange peel,” he answered nonchalantly. It almost seemed as if that powder was just as common as my original guess, the spice mixture readily associated with Indian cuisine.
Curious, I took a spoonful of the dessert. A cool celebration of fresh herbs, spices and traditional Thai flavors, all re-worked and re-thought in a new, genuinely fresh way. It was definitely delicious. But, most of all, it was just as entrancing as a big bowl of cardamom pods. After just one spoonful, I was most certainly hooked.