We sent our favorite chefs in Seattle a love-letter on March 3, 2015; two weeks after our biggest time of the year, Valentine’s day. Our team heard back from everyone we sent the email to. Well, all but one. Because of a chef change-up at Canlis Restaurant that happened December 1st, we knew it might be a gamble. But Brian Canlis said, “Absolutely, count us in!” So we penciled ‘new Canlis chef’ into the Summer Chef Series Ice Cream plan and started working away.
March 19th rolled around and news broke. Brady Williams is the new executive chef at Canlis, Brady Williams! Great, we had another chef to our Chef Series Ice Cream. Not wanting to pounce, because let’s face it, he had bigger fish to fry. So, we laid low. We tried to be patient. As time went on, we reached out to Brian Canlis to feel it out, and Brian looped Brady in. That was it! We were cooking with fire! Soon the ideas would be flowing, conversation would be exchanged and team Cupcake Royale was pumped. We waited and waited, like the girl who went on a really great date and just sat by the phone waiting for the special someone to call them.
Like you all, we waited three long months to learn what flavor Mr. Williams would come up with. When we were first organizing the schedule, we placed Canlis to be in the line-up in July. Heaven forbid the citizens of Seattle would have to wait all the way until August.
Emails, smoke signals, and even prayed a bit. While we knew he had his hands full with the take-over of the Canlis kitchen, we were getting a bit nervous. Should we save our pennies and dine there to come up with an “inspired” flavor, based off the menu? You know, take matters into our own hands. But behold, in our inbox on July 10th was this:
First of all, I am so sorry for the extreme delay in getting back to you. I’m really looking forward to this project and think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
I’ve been going back and forth about what I’d like to do, and I’m thinking of doing something with anise hyssop and olive oil. In the case you’re not familiar, anise hyssop is a summer herb (one of my favorites) that has a sweet licorice profile. For olive oil, a really high quality oil is needed, one that is fairly neutral (can’t be fruity or nutty and grassy). I’d really love to use Pianogrillo olive oil, as it’s what we use here, and could point you in that direction. I’m thinking the end result is something herbacious and savory, but still light enough for summer.
Again, I apologize in not getting back to you sooner. If you have any questions please feel free to email me or give me a call.
C A N L I S
Sweet!! We laced up our running shoes and started sprinting. One would think this olive oil would be snap-your-fingers easy to order. Nope. We called three local companies and emailed two. Finally Provvista Speciality Foods said they stocked it, so we ordered it immediately. As soon as it came in, we broke open a can and tasted it. The oil has a deep smell of green tomato and just-cut grass, a tiny trace of artichoke. It is delicate, light, and round. The flavour is medium spicy while not being too acidic.
The herb on the other hand was nowhere to be seen or heard of by any of the farmers/vendors we use. Rut, now, shoot. Do we come clean and tell Brady we have failed to find his beloved herb? Yup, that’s what we did. Honestly is the best policy, right??
I’m sorry to bother you with this, but we cannot find anise hyssop anywhere. Do you have leads/farms that you can put us in contact with? We’ve called everyone we know and nothin!
Thanks in advance for your help on this.
Chief Operations Officer
Gulp. Would he get back? Would he be muttering “amateurs” under his breath? The team discussed ways to get Anise and Mint flavors into the ice cream without the actual herb. Sleep was lost, stress breakouts were happening and it was too late to plant a garden.
The Puget Sound Food Hub has it, and it is through them that we source ours http://www.pugetsoundfoodhub.com/
They deliver to our restaurant twice a week, so maybe you can have yours delivered here to get around the minimum order if necessary?
C A N L I S
Again, clutch player BW came through for the love of ice cream. We took him up on the offer, extended many thanks, and got to work.
A bit about Anise Hyssop- most might know that aniseseed is a flowering plant, and the flavor has similarities with some other spices, such as star anise, fennel, and licorice. Hyssop, however, does not ring a bell with many. The herb hyssop leaves have a very minty aroma and flavor. Due to its intensity, it is used moderately in cooking. Mainly used in teas and to flavor liqueur. In fact, it is part of the official formulation of Chartreuse. So merge the two herbs together anise hyssop tastes like licorice mint herbaceous goodness.
We drove over to Canlis to pick up the anise hyssop with t-minus seven days until we launch the flavor. As we batted around ideas, we reflected on our fresh muddled mint ice cream. We make a fresh mint simple syrup with one pound of fresh organic chopped mint for one batch of syrup. We do a hot and cold infusion, getting every bit of flavor out of the mint that we can.
We tried this with the anise hyssop, thinking we don’t have much time, and it works with the mint. “We got this.”
Turns out adding olive oil to our fresh cream increased the fat content. More fat means the harder it is to get other flavors to shine through. We made three batches.
Batch #1- too much olive oil
Batch #2- not enough herb coming through
Batch #3- too minty
Time was ticking away, but we made a decision that it was not perfect and needed his insight. We packed up batch #2 and brought it over to Brady. We stood around the kitchen with a gallon of ice cream and seven of Canlis’ fancy spoons. Chef took a bite, then we did. Then he asked “What do you think?” After much collaboration, we all agreed that we needed to bring the anise hyssop out a bit more and amp up the olive oil just a tad. He loved the creaminess commenting on how dense and creamy it was, which was a HUGE compliment. We gifted them the gallon for family meal, packed up our blue Coleman cooler, and jumped in our dented-up dodge sprinter van.
Back to the drawing board, but it did not seem overwhelming at all. Some small tweaks, here we go! The next day we decided to chop up the herb and hot infuse it into our fresh cream, then let it cold infuse overnight to continue to get all that flavor. We call this our ‘mother sauce’ which we add to each batch along with Pianogrillo olive oil and some sea salt. Bam! Simple, clean, and absolutely full of all sorts of refined flavors.
We set out in March to make ice cream better in Seattle by collaborating with great food innovators and chefs. While this particular flavor was challenging, because of the time constraint it was the most rewarding. Chef Brady Williams took time to give us critical feedback, introduce us to a new culinary herb, and give us a new olive oil to stock our pantry with. We can say the spirit of collaboration was why we did this and we could not be more happy that Canlis came through to support this idea!
Please read more about this very special oil http://www.pianogrillo.it/en/azienda-agricola
More about Provvista Specialty Foods http://www.provvista.com
You’ve got to learn more about Puget Sound Food Hubhttp://www.pugetsoundfoodhub.com