Brindles Ice Creams serves up strange and wondrous by the scoop
The Strand shopping center on Huebner at I-10 packs a fatal one-two punch: a Half Price Books outlet adjacent to Brindles Awesome Ice Creams, Gelato. Buy a book, take it next door, order a couple of scoops, and plunge into both creative worlds. Brindles' comfy interior, furnished with squishy sofas and accented in lavender and pistachio, encourages this sort of contemplative activity. But many of the ice cream flavors are downright edgy, and approach the icy pinnacle represented by the helados found in the little town of Dolores Hidalgo, home of El Grito, in central Mexico. There, on the main plaza, several carts vie for the honor of vending the most outrageous ice cream flavors: dried shrimp, corn, beer, and, of course, tequila, along with exotic fruits such as the intense zapote negro.
|A selection of ice cream and sorbet creations from the traditional to the wild are available at Brindles Awesome Ice Creams (Photo by Mark Greenberg)|
Brindles Guinness Stout with chocolate, created for the Lion & Rose Pub, immediately brought Dolores to mind and, though I don't think it will become a perennial favorite, the dark beer and equally dark chocolate plays on beer's inherent malt flavors and that affinity for the food of the gods. The cinnamon in the Mexican chocolate was overly assertive, but, while we're on America's favorite flavor, the chocolate truffle (the server's favorite, too) was the closest thing to a pure chocolate bonbon I've tasted in frozen form. I'm a sucker for the likes of butterscotch fudge crunch (you might as well sin big) and this flavor, too, was sheer perfection.
At the extreme other end of the spectrum, the lemon with basil flavor should be consumed in small quantities, perhaps as a very intense, and very tart, herbal palate-cleanser. The passion fruit, too, was tart and bracing and might be best served in a puddle of fruit purée for contrast. Because there was a Dreamsicle flavor, I expected the blood orange to be pure, unadorned fruit. Instead, it was creamy, which was fine, but the orange hue was suspect; I suggest a little deep-red pulp, if only for the more authentic color it would lend.
Some of these flavors "are totally accidental, the result of mistakes," admits Brindles owner, Iranian-born Sima Hinson, and some are the result of specific requests from chefs. The sensational black sesame seed flavor - think cool and creamy halvah - was created at the suggestion of Chef Nelson Gonzales at Sushihana after he tasted something similar on a trip to Japan. Hinson also created a cantaloupe-strawberry combination at Gonzales' request, but "couldn't resist fiddling with it," resulting in a melon sorbet with strawberry swirls.
11255 Huebner (The Strand)
11am-midnight Fri & Sat,
Price range $3-6
Hinson started Brindles in 2001 with her retired Air Force husband, Steve, after determining that San Antonio was a market waiting to happen. As a supplier to Biga on the Banks, Sushihana, Boudros, Citrus, Ácenar, and several hotels, she has indeed found a nice niche market. "I don't want to turn anybody off, so I make sure we have an eclectic list," says Hinson, who thinks she may have concocted 200 or more flavors to date.
Sensing that the city "has become much more adventurous in the last four years," Hinson says she wants to be more global in her flavors, which has inspired her to produce flavors such as avocado, tamarind, and even sweet corn, that Dolores Hidalgo staple. "I just made a green-tea flavor last night," she says. "You should come by and try it."
Maybe I will. Hinson says she's also inspired by "the look on the faces of people who haven't tried something before." OK, I've had green tea, but I think I can come up with a good look of surprise regardless. Might not even have to fake it. •