Cheap Eats: Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream

A sinful expanded menu and a second location

Wednesday September 28, 2011 09:00 am EDT

Ice cream parlors are not usually the place you go to find blowtorches and bacon, but no one ever accused Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream of being a typical ice cream parlor. The blowtorches and bacon come courtesy of a collaboration with Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, whose name graces the "celebrity chef creations" portion of the menu at Morelli's relatively new parlor in the Edgewood Retail District. Gillespie has been working with Morelli's since last summer, originally creating custom flavors for its first location a bit further south down Moreland Avenue. Now that Morelli's has a more substantial space with seating (super cute ice cream sandwich–shaped stools and benches) and an expanded menu of sundaes and shakes, Gillespie's presence on the menu has expanded as well.

The smoke shows up in an intensely smoke-flavored caramel sauce that graces the Campfire S'mores sundae, and the small blowtorch makes an appearance to toast the marshmallows on said sundae on the spot, however charred you like it. Combined with chocolate ice cream and graham crackers, this sundae makes for an appropriately campfire-y dessert. With the strong smoked caramel, it's just edgy enough to please adventurous adults, while still sticking close enough to a standard s'mores recipe to keep the kids happy. While the sundae is not inexpensive at $8.95, like the other three sundae creations from Gillespie, it is big enough to satisfy the sweet teeth of a family of four. Well, at least a family of four that favors quality over quantity.

As for the ice cream itself, Morelli's offers an ever-rotating array of flavors, around 20 at any given time at the new parlor. Recent offerings include a bright burst of flavor in pink peppermint ice cream, the subtle sweet Thai-like burn of coconut jalapeño, the smooth and pleasantly herbal olive oil and lavender, and the decidedly adult pleasure of an earthy chocolate Guinness ice cream. These out-of-the-ordinary combinations are where Morelli's really sings, so when you see ingredients like sweet corn, ginger, balsamic vinegar or rosewater, you should at least sample the flavors (two samples per person when there's a line, please!). Maple bacon brittle sounded like a sweet and smoky home run, but the hard frozen crunch of the brittle proved too much for my teeth.

Teeth, though, are not even necessary for what must be Morelli's greatest creation — its salted caramel ice cream. This is the salted caramel that all other caramels dream of. It is smoother than Morelli's other ice creams, and the creamy, salty, slightly burnt sugar and butter wave of flavor melts down into your mouth and into your soul. It is simply sinful. It makes you think bad thoughts. It makes you want to cheat on whatever other ice cream routinely sits in your freezer. It's that good.

And that's the real dilemma of Morelli's. Can I really pass up the salted caramel for coconut jalapeño? Why would I ever even consider a Black Forest malted milk shake or a piña colada sundae with coconut and Key lime pie ice cream topped with pineapple and toasted coconut? I'd much rather live in sin with my salted caramel. Would it be gluttony to ask for some smoked caramel on top?

Scoops: $3.38 for a small; sundaes: $4-$9.

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