By Cory Phare
If you’ve noticed an increase in the availability of artisanal ice cream in the Mile High City, you’re not mistaken.
“Even as recently as 10 years ago, most of your ice-cream places were pretty standard,” said chef Jackson Lamb, professor in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism. “Today, though, people are increasingly adding elements to make them stand out, to make them all their own.”
And that means that scoop of chocolate ice cream – America’s second-most popular ice-cream flavor, according to the International Dairy Foods Association – has never tasted better or been more carefully considered.
Just as we’re seeing Colorado brewers experiment with flavor combinations, there are many ways to arrive at a similar destination for our favorite frozen sweets, Lamb said.
“Whether it’s syrup, cocoa powder, granulated or something else, there are different ways of getting to chocolate ice cream,” Lamb said. “It’s just like a chef making a sauce.”
Just in time for the summer swelter, RED and Lamb hit nine Denver locations for the inside scoop on the city’s best chocolate ice cream.
1882 S. Pearl St.
Alongside standard and salted Dutch chocolate offerings is an adobo chocolate, the spice originating from aged chipotle peppers. “You don’t necessarily taste the kick upfront, but it really comes in later,” Lamb said. “Texturewise, there’s more granularity, and the triple dark Ghirardelli chocolate is delightful.”
Little Man Ice Cream
2620 16th St.
The standard chocolate at this popular Highland staple uses jet chocolate, Dutch chocolate and cocoa powder. “It’s more milk chocolate in its profile, and the mouthfeel was very smooth and creamy,” Lamb said. “It’s delicious – and in the midday sun, sticky.”
Neveria Sabor Latino
395 Federal Blvd.
Though the standard chocolate at this West Denver spot is refreshing on a hot day, it was less about the cream-based desserts than the fresh juices and cultural authenticity for Lamb, who regularly brings MSU Denver students to Oaxaca, Mexico, for study-abroad opportunities. “Culinarywise, you see more water-based fruits in Mexico,” he said. “And whether it’s agua frescas or freshly cut pineapple, melon, mango – man, it’s all going on in here.”
High Point Creamery
3977 Tennyson St.
“There’s a distinct milk-chocolate flavor with a smooth mouthfeel,” Lamb said. “It’s reminiscent of a Hershey’s syrup-made chocolate milk – yum.”
5135 E. Colfax Ave.
This dark-chocolate offering had a specific graininess rendered with solid chunks chopped up throughout. “It’s not a complete melt, which creates a unique mouthfeel,” Lamb said. “That’s one of those components chefs can do with food – the textural differentiation gives specific experiential characteristics.”
Of the several chocolate offerings at this Broadway hotspot, Lamb extolled the virtues of the house-made dark chocolate – one of his personal favorites. “The color is almost black, and the flavor is fantastic,” he said. “It’s very creamy with almost no graininess. You’ll often notice that texture if they’re using too much cocoa, but that’s not the case here – they’ve got a great product.”
7557 E. Academy Blvd.
Serving Little Man ice cream, this Lowry outpost also shares the unique external aesthetic, substituting Little Man’s milk jug with a rocket ship with functioning steam jets for launching taste buds. “The Mexican chocolate is delicious,” Lamb said. “In the U.S., we might see peanut butter mixed with chocolate but less so this combination of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s a really nice flavor profile – very similar to a Mexican hot chocolate.”
Glacier Ice Cream
200 Quebec St. No. 109
“This is almost more of a gelato style, with less air,” Lamb said of this Lowry town-center location. “It doesn’t have as much air, which makes it heavier and denser – and tasty.”
Bonnie Brae Ice Cream
799 S. University Blvd.
Scooping up sweets for more than 30 years, no ice cream store trip would be complete without checking out Bonnie Brae Ice Cream, Lamb noted – and we agree! “Darkest of all the chocolates tasted, this ice cream had a grainy mouthfeel of chocolate granules,” Lamb said. “There were also hints of cocoa powder and Dutch chocolate. Yum!”
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