Cooking with mint and lime: Lime Gelato at Tempo
Almost every Saturday that we're in Brooklyn, R* and I take a walk from our apartment in Prospect Heights through Park Slope and then back again.
A few weekends back we took a tempting walk. We passed Blue Apron, where I almost dropped in to pick up some fancy cheese and pickles. The store was crowded, so we didn't go in.
Next we passed a stoop sale. We always stop for stoop sales. At this perfect old school Park Slope hippies-gentrifying-brownstones stoop sale, you could name your own price for any item. Pick something, say how much it was worth to you, and it was yours. Sure, there were a few signs reminding stoop sale shoppers to be "reasonable," but the couple running the sale didn't seem too strict.
Some Pyrex labware caught my eye first: a beaker with a round base, another with a more triangular bottom. R* and I both liked them but since we had spent the whole morning cleaning and organizing closets, jammed full with many of my previous stoop sale finds and I didn't know how much would be fair to offer for the labware we'd use for vases, we walked away from the Pyrex. Next I noticed a beautiful set of old cookie cutters tucked in a box on top of a filing cabinet. Though I only make cut-out cookies ounces a year, I love the idea of cookie cutters. I could get out my glue gun Martha Stewart style and turn these tag sale cookie cutters into beautiful Christmas ornaments . . . in real life I'd never do that. I pulled myself away from the stoop sale without buying anything.
Once we made it to Tempo Presto though, there was no stopping me. As soon as I looked at their flavor list, I knew I had to have their minted lime gelato. Since my own basil-blueberry ice cream disaster, I've become more focused on trying other people's unique frozen treat flavors. I didn't even ask for a taste first, I just went for it.
Well, my first reaction was: blech! The mint had a vegetal, swampy flavor, similar to the taste and mouth feel of too much dried oregano in a tomato sauce. That mint muck taste didn't blend too well with the clean bright flavor of the cold mint sorbet base. I took a second taste and was so sad. The striped green cup and little green spoon looked delicious . . . and it even matched my green polo shirt.
A man of virtue, R* didn't order anything and sat on a stool in the back of Tempo -- which will soon be opening up a second store in Park Slope -- waiting for me.
"How is it?" R* asked.
"Not so good," I frowned.
My friend JK once told me a funny summer story about a co-worker of hers. This friend would buy an ice cream cone and take just a few licks. Then she would drop the whole thing into a garbage can on the next corner. As soon as JK told me that story I could picture it all: the red and white ice cream truck on a corner, the assured all-black-wearing office worker standing on the sidewalk waiting her turn in line and then ordering her small cone, her perfect two licks and the a delicious walk down a hot city block. But then -- SPLAT into a wire garbage can on the next corner.
Who could stop after just a quick taste of an ice cream cone and drop it into the garbage? With that story in mind and the fact that my three little scoops cost almost $4, I couldn't throw out my gelato, even though I didn't really like it.
A funny thing happened on our way to the butcher's. After a few more little spoonfuls I started to like the flavor of my minted lime gelato. What was mucky turked refreshing, like a swamp turning into bubbling spring. The mint reminded me of the ice tea a neighboor made growing up. She boiled fresh mint leaves to make it and added lots of sugar.
R* and I stood in the butcher shop, waiting for our turn. The butcher called out for my order. I didn't notice him. I was thinking too much about my hot and cold relationship with my gelato. The butcher made some crack about me absorbed in my ice cream like a little kid.
And I'm still thinking about the flavor of that gelato. Lime and mint both seem like flavors we need to be careful of in the kitchen, but shouldn't avoid. "Mint is an aggressive herb -- no doubt about it. Outspoken in all its culinary collaborations," says Bert Green in Kitchen Bouquets, where he attacks cooking herb by herb (Thanks to A Chicken in Every Granny Cart for putting Bert's book on my reading list). Fake mint flavoring -- as in green chocolate chip mint ice cream, which was my favorite flavor as a kid -- doesn't have that harsh aggressive flavor. It just rolls over and plays sweet.
What are your experiences cooking with lime? Mint? Are you usually a love-at-first bite kind of taster like me? Are there other things that I might not like at first lick that I should give a second shot? If I only would have had a quick taste test of the minted lime, I never would have ordered it.