Ice cream, once the preserve of royalty or the very rich, is thought to have originated in China. Dating back to 200BC, its earliest form was a mixture of rice and milk frozen in snow. During the Shang dynasty (618-97 AD), the Emperor had a large retinue of 'ice men' who would collect ice and snow from the mountains when he wished for his favoured frozen dish of buffalo milk thickened with flour, perfumed with the volatile and aromatic resin, camphor.
In Persia, ice or snow mixed with saffron, fruits or rose water was popular amongst royalty. Snow would be saved in deep underground chambers or, servants would be sent to collect the fresh snowfall from the mountain peaks of the empire's summer capital. This delicacy was transported to the Mughal empire, where teams of horsemen were sent to the Hindu Kush to transport blocks of ice to court, where some of the more refined sorbet recipes and techniques were thought to have developed.
It is Marco Polo who is given credit for bringing ice cream first to Italy, and from there, to the rest of Europe. Prising the closely guarded recipes and technique of freezing with a salt-ice mix from the kitchens of the Yuan dynasty, it is from here, many say Italy's association with ice cream and its reputation for fine ice cream makers began.
With rumours then of an Indian summer just around the corner, here are a few suggestions on where to get ice cream or sorbet fit for an Emperor or Empress, in Bristol.
Created by Dan Mifsud, Almond Thief Ices are available from a number of places across Bristol. The packaging alone is a joy to behold, but that would mean little if the ices did not measure up. So far I've tried peach and saffron, plum and more recently blackcurrant. Wonderfully fruity with a smooth mouth feel, these are quality ices to indulge in. (Arnolfini
; Arnos Vale Café
; Flinty Red
; Hart's Bakery
; Source Food Hall and Café
Bell's Diner, in its latest incarnation, has been creating quite the stir. Under the leadership of Kate Hawkings and Sam Sohn-Rethel it has turned into a great neighbourhood restaurant where small plates bursting with carefully sourced ingredients and flavour can be savoured and enjoyed. They do very good ice cream too: strawberry ripple; gooseberry and elderflower; peach with Polish vodka but my absolute favourite -apple and blackberry crumble.
A family run dairy farm based at Dundry Hill in the Chew Valley; milk from their show winning Geurnsey cows goes into the making of Chew Moo's ice cream, also made on the farm. My introduction to Chew Moo's has been through the Little Moo
cart usually to be found on College Green, although they do have other stockists
too. My favourite flavour by far is elderberry ripple, but the whisky and marmalade is equally good.
Rachael and Sophie of Southville based Copoazu Ices, in my opinion, make some of the most exciting ice cream in Bristol. For a taste of the exotic, try their signature ice cream, Copoazu; a Brazilian fruit with a fragrant, aromatic flavour akin to ripe melon, banana and a little bit of cucumber. Theirs is a seasonal menu; the flavours change regularly and, more recent offerings have included ripe and jammy fresh fig (pictured), and a sublime green apple with blackberry granita (top most picture). Find out where their cart will be here
and go sample the goodness.
Served in beautiful Moroccan tea glasses; ice cream, sorbet and granita feels the truly glamorous indulgence that it is, at the Lido. An important feature of their dessert menu since they opened; usually I cannot get past the salted butter caramel, spiked with glassy caramel shard. This summer I have been tempted by their deliciously fruity cherry and nectarine (pictured) sorbets, but my highlight, the lemon and almond granita -a holiday in a tea glass.
These guys do good ice cream. I can not give you photographic evidence, because usually I'm too engrossed in the eating. One of my ice cream highlights of this year (yes, I am such a person), is a Mi Casa white chocolate and bacon cookie, topped with a silky scoop of salted caramel ice cream. Sweet, savoury and smoky all at once, a pinnacle of dessert-dom. They do a wonderfully sharp crème fraiche and gooseberry too. Perhaps if we all ask nicely, Alexis and Kristjan will make ice cream more often!
Served from a converted 1973 Type 2 Volkswagen camper van called Daisy, usually found near Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill; this is soft-whip but not as we know it. Homemade accoutrements such as squares of gooey, chocolate-chip brownies and hot fudge sauce used in their hot fudge sundae, make for a delightful treat. For a more grown up indulgence try the banana, salted caramel and bourbon sundae or, one of Bridget's ice cream shots laced with kirsch soaked cherries or tequila and lime for a really boozy hit.
Know of any more ice cream dreams in Bristol? Please do share...