Joey: What are you talking about? “One woman. That’s like saying there’s only one flavor of ice cream for you. Let me tell you something, Ross. There’s lots of flavors out there. There’s Rocky Road, and Cookie Dough, and Bing Cherry Vanilla. You could get ’em with Jimmies, or nuts, or whipped cream! This is the best thing that ever happened to you! You got married, you were, like, what, eight? Welcome back to the world! Grab a spoon!
Ross: I honestly don’t know if I’m hungry or horny.
Chandler: Then stay out of my freezer.
In that episode of Friends, Joey Tribbiani obviously considered the concept of one woman “monotony, not monogamy.” While the most uxorious among us might not be able to relate to the concept of polygamy, we can certainly relate to the nightmarish prospect of going through life partaking solely of one ice cream flavor–even if it’s a flavor we love. How boring would that be? There was a time, not too very long ago, in fact, in which three ice cream flavors–vanilla, chocolate and strawberry–dominated the market. That might explain why even today when dairy diversity reigns, vanilla remains the most popular flavor of ice cream with more than a third of total sales (chocolate is a distant second).
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, Americans consume almost 22 pounds of ice cream per year, the world’s highest per capita consumption. The vast majority of ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturers across the fruited plain have been in business for more than fifty years (New Mexico-based Creamland has been in business since 1937) and many are still family-owned businesses. Similar to the recent influx of the craft beer industry, independent mom-and-pop craft ice cream makers have begun to make significant inroads into the ice cream market–both in terms of profitability and creativity. Increasingly, consumers are demonstrating that they are willing to pay more for more adventurous and unique flavors.
More adventurous and unique flavors are the bailiwick of La Lecheria New Mexico Craft Ice Cream which in June, 2017 was named by Thrillist as the best ice cream shop in the Land of Enchantment–despite being in business for less than a full year. Thrillist noted that “this being New Mexico, you better believe there are chilis occasionally involved, as brown sugar red chili and (of course) green chile both figure into the seasonal flavor rotation alongside menu stalwarts like sea salt chocolate. So it’s possible your palate will be feeling a little heat, but it’ll be so blissfully pleased you won’t mind a bit.” Only months prior, La Lecheria was named by Best Things New Mexico as one of the ten best ice cream parlors in New Mexico.
In August, 2016, the Santa Fe New Mexican described La Lecheria as the city’s “newest, shiniest and probably tiniest ice cream parlor.” Though it’s ensconced in Lilliputian digs on Lena Street (just off-the-beaten-path) savvy foodies will go slightly out of their way to enjoy ice cream made preservative-free from all-natural and for the most part, locally sourced ingredients. The milk and cream are sourced from Albuquerque’s Rasband Dairy while fruit and eggs come from local farmers. The imagination comes from Chef Joel Coleman for whom creativity and culinary inventiveness aren’t enough.
If you’ve religiously followed the Food Network’s Iron Chef America series, you know that when a chef decides to use the secret ingredient to make ice cream, failure is inevitable. Invariably, even the most intrepid of judges tend to look askance at any chef who dares serve them bass- (or Andouille sausage-, cow’s cheek-, asparagus-, giant eel- or any of several other secret ingredients) flavored ice cream. Secret ingredient-based ice cream has been the death knell of many an Iron Chef competitor. So, why would any chef wanting to engender enthusiastic approval serve ice cream with an exotic (to put it mildly) flavor profile?
Chef Coleman’s goal is to take exotic and unique flavor profiles and make them delicious. The apparent secret is to tame but not obfuscate savory elements; to accentuate the elements which make ice cream a sweet rather than savory confection without masking those savory elements. After sampling just four of the many ice cream flavors he’s concocted, we’re willing to bet this ingenious chef can make even bass-flavored ice cream delicious. Chef Coleman developed his passion for creating ice cream in adventurous flavors while running his popular Santa Fe gastropub Fire & Hops.
For this unabashedly proud native New Mexican, the siren’s call at any restaurant is chile in both its red and green instantiations. There’s nothing more disappointing than when a restaurant fails to accentuate both chile’s incendiary properties and its incomparable roasted flavor. La Lecheria doesn’t disappoint in either aspect—not in the least. In fact, both the brown sugar red chile and the green chile flavored ice cream have more back-of-the-throat pleasing piquancy than the enchiladas at some New Mexican food restaurants. Both are creamy and rich with a nice mouth-feel and just enough sugar. More importantly, they’re delicious exemplars of the fact that chile improves everything with which it comes into contact.
Unfortunately buttered popcorn flavored ice cream wasn’t available during our inaugural visit, but there’s no way you could call my Kim’s choices—chocolate-sea salt and a Rosemary-accented vanilla ice cream. She loved the boldness of the chocolate-sea salt pairing, a terrific departure from the de rigueur caramel-sea salt combination. Though most assuredly dark chocolate, the sea salt’s influence is teasingly, tantalizingly balanced; it’s just enough. When fragrant, herbaceous notes meet ice cream, one of two things can happen. The first is that the herbs can overwhelm the ice cream. The second is a bright, fragrant and fresh marriage made in heaven. Such was the case with La Lecheria’s rosemary accented ice cream. What a wonderful revelation!
La Lecheria features a few flavors that’ll have a consistent presence on the menu, but adventurous diners will frequent this outstanding purveyor of imaginative ice cream for those unique and special flavors. At La Lecheria, every flavor will be your favorite.
La Lecheria New Mexico Craft Ice Cream
1708 Lena Street Suite 101
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 10 June 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Green Chile, Red Chile-Apricot, Chocolate-Sea Salt, Rosemary