Greeks can be as passionate about ice cream as they can about soccer. Well, almost as passionate. Everyone has a favorite, and there are a lot of very good artisanal producers of ice cream in Greece. But one of the privileges of writing this blog is that I get to post my favorites (though I welcome dissenting comments!).
In designing its (continually evolving) line of products Kayak draws upon traditional Greek flavors but also explores relatively unusual ingredients or pairings of flavors, some of which are developed in cooperation with chefs such as Pierre Hermé and Gerard Taurin. Kayak calls these sources of inspiration legacy, innovation and travels. I like this mix of tradition, creativity and adventurousness, which could easily characterize many of the products presented here. Whatever the source, the ice cream is wonderful: dense, creamy and bursting with flavor.
A good share of the ice creams makes use of ingredients and flavors which its Greek customers have grown up with. The walnut-and-honey ice cream is based on what (together with yoghurt) is a dessert found at even the most out-of-the-way little kafeneion in the country. No less traditional and only slightly less ubiquitous (though neither is Greek in origin) are the crème brûlée and tiramisu ice creams. Even more closely bound with memory is the tsoureki ice cream, which plays on the flavors of the challah-like sweet egg bread served at Easter, and the Christmassy melomakarona ice cream. This is comfort food raised to the level of sensual indulgence.
Sometimes tradition is tweaked, as in the pairing of Chios mastic resin and pink peppercorns or chocolate and cayenne pepper, or deployed in new ways: as far as I know, Kayak is the only company to produce organic ice cream, which it does in the standard three (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry) as well as green tea. But even the non-organic products eschew artificial colorings and preservatives and the use of excessive air to increase volume (Kayak’s ice creams come in at about 25 – 30% add air, standard for gelato).
It used to be you’d be able to find Kayak only at one of its upscale ice cream bars in the northern suburbs of Athens or at restaurants and other distribution points but the company now produces a range of its ice creams for the retail trade.
If you’ve got a big party—a really big party—and can order over 18 kg of ice cream, Kayak can develop a custom-made, “signature” flavor for you. Fig-and-tahini ice cream, anyone?