I’ve heard of some interesting and unusual ice creams before. Think: ice creams flavored like ketchup and mayo, pickles or mac and cheese, to name just a few. But until I read this article on Lifehacker, I would have never considered olive oil, vinegar and sea salt as good options for topping my frozen treats.
I have heard of olive oil ice cream before, but I didn’t know about pouring olive oil on top of ice cream. Salted caramel and salted chocolate flavors have been around for a while now, and I do enjoy the occasional salted watermelon slice. But I’ve never used sea salt like I would candy sprinkles on ice cream.
Nevertheless, I was curious to try out these salad dressing ingredients on my favorite dessert to see if they’d live up to the hype. (To be clear, the idea is to add olive oil or vinegar to ice cream — separately, not both at the same time — as topping your ice cream with the two ingredients together would result in a very salad dressing-like situation.)
First, I assembled my ingredients. Lifehacker’s food writer Claire Lower recommends getting the highest quality versions of these items, so I bought the best olive oil I could find at my local grocery store. I also came across an intriguing passion fruit vinegar that looked like it might work well as an ice cream “syrup.” I had some French sea salt and basic balsamic vinegar at home that I got out as well.
Now for the taste test! I bought chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream in order to try each topping on each separate flavor, as these flavors seem to be the ice cream world’s equivalent to primary colors.
I started off with the passion fruit vinegar, which was just about half fruit base and half vinegar. On its own, this vinegar has a fruit-forward taste with a tangy vinegar aftertaste. It made me think of “shrub” cocktails or “drinking vinegars,” which have seen a resurgence in recent years.
To me, the passion fruit “syrup” went best with strawberry ice cream, which makes sense since balsamic strawberry ice cream and other gourmet fruit-and-vinegar ice cream recipes are already relatively popular.
And I would actually try this vinegar again on fruity ice cream. The more savory elements made the ice cream less sweet while not being too pungent since there was passion fruit in it.
I tried a tiny bit of salt on my second tasting (and did this for all the flavors). I can see how salt enhances the “flavor profile,” but I’d only use the slightest bit.
Next up was olive oil, which has been recommended as an ice cream topping by others around the internet, including Erica, one of the bloggers behind Honestly Yum, who calls ice cream and olive oil a “winning combination.”
“The grassiness and fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil and the delicate brininess of the sea salt flakes brings out the flavor of the vanilla and adds a wonderful, rich subtleness to the ice cream,” Erica writes.
I understand this perspective since I thought olive oil went best with the vanilla ice cream. And I liked it even better with salt sprinkled on top. That said, I would not try olive oil-drizzled ice cream on a regular basis. You also have to keep in mind how your stomach normally handles pure oil or really oily foods.
Finally, I tried balsamic vinegar on my three ice creams, and strawberry was the winner again. Overall, I didn’t like balsamic as a “syrup,” though. Maybe it would’ve been better with a thicker or better balsamic vinegar.
The chocolate ice cream didn’t seem to work well with either the vinegar or oil toppings. Maybe it’s because chocolate is richer and less sweet than vanilla or strawberry. I did enjoy a sprinkling of just salt on the chocolate ice cream though.
(That’s balsamic vinegar on the chocolate ice cream below, not chocolate syrup.)
What do you think? Would you try out any of these unusual ice cream toppers?