The Ice Creams of Rosa Mexicano
I'm still new to Los Angeles, so there are many things I have to keep reminding myself of. Potholes on Wilshire that are the size of corgis, for example. Or even though there's almost no humidity here, that it still gets hot in the summer. So in the midst of one of those heat waves, how could I turn down an offer to sample the ice creams of Rosa Mexicano?
My ice cream-eating companion and I showed up on a weekday afternoon right in the lull between lunch and dinner, and we were immediately offered a table right by the patio; a best of both worlds inside/outside table. Even before the ice cream arrived at the table, I was already digging the space. It's got a cool vibe, with generously scaled booths, and a mix of woods, reds and purples throughout. Think trendy, but not in a way that makes you feel like you're in a nightclub frequented by jerks.
When you eat a variety of chocolates, you're supposed to start with the one with the lowest cocoa concentration first and move up to darker and darker chocolates. So too did the ice cream test go, with a pillowy-soft vanilla over candied pecans. Texture-wise, it was more light than creamy, and on a hot day, I felt as though an effortlessly light bite of vanilla would be far preferable to something creamier. The crunch of the candied pecans rounds out the ice cream.
Next in line was a flavor that I wouldn't have expected: sweet corn ice cream with toasted coconut and orange zest threads. It's actually two dishes in one, depending on whether you get a bite with the orange zest or not. Without the zest, you have a summery corn hit that gets pulled down from becoming too sweet by the coconut. The orange zest can dominate, but the result is an orange-flavored ice cream with a finishing note that highlights the flavor of corn without the sweetness: its a simultaneous contrast effect between bites.
If there's a magic number, it's three. Third was a sea salt cajeta with dried apple bark, and it was astonishingly good. Imagine, if you will that someone's made a gourmet version of the caramel apple. What Rosa Mexicano has done is take that gourmet caramel apple, and translate it into ice cream. The cajeta is a goats milk caramel, so this is a goat's milk ice cream, sweet yet tangy, and the sprinkle of sea salt on top carries the sweet and slightly sour to someplace truly special. But the final element that defines the ice cream is the apple bark. It's thin and brittle like the pages of old books, but it's the most intense baked apple flavor you can imagine coming from something so small and delicate.
The banana cinnamon swirl followed the intense flavor of the sea salt cajeta with a visual punch: a peanut tuile that gracefully arced skyward. Banana is one of those flavors that tends to be a bit more divisive, – I love it, my ice cream eating companion isn't as much of a fan – but the cinnamon swirled in was an excellent complement, and probably a little more of it could have sent this into the top two courses.
Mexican chocolate mole continued the artistic trend, with a small lattice of chocolate and cajeta dusted with a mild chili powder adorning the plate, sitting alongside a square ramekin of ice cream topped with hazelnuts. This is a spicy ice cream. They say to eat dairy along with spicy foods to minimize the burn, so this is one of those ingenious combinations. If
All good things must end, but the last course, a Strawberry Guajillo Chili Ice Cream still had a few tricks up its sleeve. My only concern was one that I feel is unavoidable with strawberry ice cream, in that the consistency does tend to get a bit buttery. But this is ice cream to be savored in small bites, and the “too-creamy” feeling gets whisked away when combined with the dehydrated strawberries on top and the homemade malted milk balls upon which the quenelle of ice cream rests.
In a way, this ice-cream tasting was like a journey. There was a definite progression from light to creamy, sweet to spicy that evolved over the courses. Each of these ice cream flavors is available a la carte, so if six courses of ice cream sounds a bit excessive, you can pick the ones that sound most to your fancy. And don't worry; even out of context, these ice creams each were self-contained little marvels that can stand alone.
All I ask in return is that you please tell me it isn't going to get even hotter than this in Los Angeles.