Salt and Pepper Caramel Softserve from Dominique Ansel Kitchen

Another week passes, and this city gets another Dominique Ansel treat. He really is a machine when it comes to pumping out novel sweet confections. Even with the PR juggernaut that comes along with it, and even if you (me) aren’t into all them, you can see the passion and intellect that underlies it all. This week those feelings were channeled into a new softserve ice cream flavour that came with the reopening of the ice cream window at Ansel’s West Village Kitchen location: salt and pepper caramel topped with mini devil’s food cake chunks, sea salt, and a potato gaufrette.

I can be quite fickle when it comes to Ansel. I love his version of kouign amman, the DKA, but I find his proper desserts too sweet. I loved the horchata cronut, but was sorely disappointed with the gingerbread version. Last year, I waited in a long (enough) line to try his burrata softserve, and while I did enjoy it—my soft spot for softserve—I never went back because I expected more. My gripes (as highlighted on an Instagram)? The texture, mostly, which reminded me more of icy Pinkberry than the richness of soft ice cream. I also thought the toppings were the best part, and they are in very short supply. I should say that my allergies prevented me from trying last year’s other flavour, chocolate hazelnut, which perhaps was the better choice. Given that burrata was brought back this year, however, it must have proved more popular.

My pattern continues because I was all over this cone. It was much creamier than last year, and a large cone filled with creamy softserve makes me feel like those three-year-olds who become transfixed with their Mister Softees. I was giddy and ravenous, yet trying to take good care so it would last. Again, the toppings were excellent, but so sparse. I want more salt on everything, so the few grains disappeared quickly. The cake cubes were moist, but again, just two… I lie because there was about another three waiting at the bottom of the cone. The gaufrette was a precious touch, and I know there really couldn’t have been more. It acts like those cookie tuiles that often come with a coupe of ice cream. But a waffle chip is just so much better than a tuile.

The cone has been properly waffled this year, and the sleeve to catch any drips appears larger. But there still was leakage. I’m a weird one who prefers the sturdiness and neutrality of cake cones. Waffle and sugar cones can be too sweet and interfere with the flavour of the ice cream. But I often get waffle cones these days because they allow for a greater volume (and fancy ice cream joints rarely have the lowly cake cone). Praise Dominique for the volume he bestows in his housemade cones! They are on the sweet side, but the texture is good in that in breaks more cleanly, that is, with fewer shards, than a packaged waffle cone.

The taste: Excellent. For the most part, it licks like a good salted caramel. I wasn’t sure how the pepper would come into play and was disappointed momentarily when it didn’t register at all. But then as I worked my way into it, my tongue was tingling. There was the pepper. There are no remnants of peppercorns showing off like in a cacio e pepe, but there was pepper in there alright, and I liked it.

But will I go back? I would be open to getting the swirl with both flavours (and both toppings) to see if the burrata has improved. The line, though. The line. I don’t know if I want to stand along 7th Avenue in the summer heat with the tourists and the fangirls and the passersby who crack jokes about waiting in line for ice cream.

Some of the best parts about today’s cone was down to the sad hat-and-glove weather: no melting and literally, no line.

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