Monday, June 18, 2012

Lick Is King

Sometime over the last few years, someone doused the smoldering Austin food scene with gasoline. One after another, new places opened that set a new standard for long-stagnant categories. BBQ got upended by Franklin. Sweets got a new queen in Sugar Mamas. Uchi  lapped every other Sushi joint in the state. Medici made us forget that anyone else ever poured a latte. And now: Ice Cream. Lick simply eclipses anything else you can get in a cone.

I know this will rankle. I know that there are ice cream loyalties in this town that run deep. Please don't egg my car. I'm just calling it like I see it.

Lick is nestled in a compact storefront right next to Henri's and Barley Swine. This is a legit parking lot. A few benches out front and a couple of stools in a corner inside are the extent of the formal seating, but people make do - backs against posts, sitting on curbs, leaning on their single-speed bikes. Inside, the tiny space is pretty, but sparse, dominated by about 15 feet of ice cream under glass and a monumental, bright red, um, tongue, I think. Flavors are listed on large-size note cards tacked up on the bulletin board.

And that's where things get interesting. Grapefruit Ginger. Hill Country Honey Vanilla Bean. Strawberry Basil. Cilantro Lime. Beets and Mint. Salted Caramel. It's not Iron-Chef-Octopus-Eyeball-Ice-Cream-Weird, but it's also not a menu board you're going to mistake for Baskin Robbins. Dealing with savory elements is a tricky business, and Lick manages it beautifully, nearly all the time. The Grapefruit Ginger is pure summer - juicy, with a little pucker of sour flavor hidden inside folds of cream and sweet. The caramel and chocolate are the most intense of either flavor I've ever tasted in an ice cream. Chocolate ice cream usually comes with a chalky, powdery edge - I avoid it whenever possible. But here, the chocolate tastes like a cold, creamy ganache - elegant and pristine.

It's brilliant, but it's not perfect. There are creamier ice creams, and the scoops set about melting more quickly than others. Occasionally, as the flavors of the generally-local ingredients shift, the flavors in the ice creams shift as well. I've had strawberry basil so good it made my toes curl, and I've had the same ice cream where the basil was too forward, leaving the strawberry as an afterthought. It's the reality of pushing limits though, and the reality of working with powerful, flavorful, real, ingredients. A little inconsistency is OK by me.

Lick is the Franklin, the Sugar Mamas, the Uchi, the Medici of Ice Cream. It changes the dessert landscape in this town. Thanks for showing up, Lick, we've been waiting for you.

Lick - Honest Ice Creams on Urbanspoon


South Austin Foodie said...

Nicely put! Lick is a great addition to the area. I've only been twice, and sampled MANY flavors.... there were certainly some that I wished had a little more punch to them. My fave so far - golden beet & mint. :)

Unknown said...

Haven't ventured into the Beet yet. It is on my list for next visit. It's one of those brutal conundrums: want to try all the flavors. also: always want the grapefruit ginger. First world problems, I suppose.

Lee Stokes Hilton said...

Thanks for this, Eli. I love the idea of the Grapefruit/Ginger flavor. I often put candied ginger on my Texas pink grapefruit, so I already know the taste!


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