Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Parfait Ice Cream

Parfait Organic Artisan Ice Cream

I recently learned about a compellingly oddball movement called "Architecture Against Death", led by artist Shusaku Arakawa and poet Madeline Gins. In a nutshell, they posit that comfort is the enemy, that by making our surroundings less convenient, we can lead longer and more vital lives.

If Arakawa and Gins are right, pasty chef Adria Shimada will be with us for a long, long time. As the owner of Parfait Organic Artisan Ice Cream, Shimada cuts herself absolutely no slack.

Open only since July, Parfait stands out in Seattle's increasingly crowded and competetive iced treat arena by doing things the hard way. Within the ice cream industry, the practice of using a commercially-made base mixture of stabilized, sweetened milk is widespread, accepted even by some "homestyle" makers. Next to these industrial ice creams, Parfait's products are strikingly pastoral. Shimada starts by selecting the highest-quality ingredients, relying on local suppliers wherever possible. Her staples include milk and cream from the Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy Farm in Langley, eggs from Stiebrs Farm in Yelm, and coffee roasted locally at Caffe Fiore. As for sugar, vanilla, "...and other items that don't grow at the 47th latitude, we purchase only organic ingredients from sources that use socially and environmentally responsible practices." Most Parfait flavors are created from five or fewer ingredients, and never include corn syrup, preservatives, or added stabilizers. The ice cream is made in small batches and served in fresh homemade cones or biodegradable bowls.

The no-compromises approach means Parfait's products incur higher-than-usual material and labor costs. To compensate, Shimada chose to hit the road instead of going the bricks and mortar route. Parfait's lovely custom-painted "mobile parlor" (pictured below, right and left) makes regular stops at selected farmers' markets and Caffe Fiore coffee shops; a schedule is posted on Parfait's website and other stops are announced via Twitter.

I snagged two pints at the final Queen Anne Farmer's Market of 2009, before the market went into hibernation and Shimada went on maternity break. Parfait's menu emphasizes luxurious updates on classic flavors rather than envelope-pushing novelty. Shimada characterises the Fleur de Caramel (pictured above) as "traditionally French", promising that it would pack none of the salt-lick punch that characterizes many faddish caramels; indeed, it has the perfect amount of salt to bring out the smoky sweetness of the caramel. The Fresh Mint Stracciatella (pictured below, center) is delicate and refreshing, a balanced partnership between Dagoba chocolate and mint from Full Circle Farm.

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