Creamistry Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

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Have you heard of liquid nitrogen ice cream? It’s all the rage now. I know, it sounds frighteningly scientific, but all you need to know is that the liquid nitrogen is used to flash-freeze milk and turn it into ice cream right before your eyes.

Why do you need this in your life? Well, first, it allows you to have customized flavors. And second, the rapid freezing process keeps the milk particles from forming into ice crystals, producing an ultra creamy texture that I have never experienced in traditional hard ice creams. Imagine a cross between hard ice cream and soft serve.

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Creamistry is a popular chain of liquid nitrogen ice cream shops — they have over thirty locations in California alone. Most importantly, they have dairy-free options, and not just sorbet. You can have your ice cream made with a coconut milk base.

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Plus, you have a pick of many different flavors, some of which I’ve never seen in dairy-free form. Like Nutella. I’ve never had Nutella ice cream, let alone dairy-free Nutella ice cream. So at the first Creamistry I went to, in Montclair, CA, I ordered a coconut milk base with Nutella mixed in. One topping is also included, so I chose chocolate chip cookie dough. The “creamologist” asked if I wanted it sprinkled on top or mixed into the base, so I chose mixed in, hoping for a Ben & Jerry’s-like result.

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Unfortunately, the Nutella flavor was barely detectable, and the cookie dough was so macerated that it was also too subtle. But the creamy texture of the ice cream was amazing! I would absolutely try this flavor combo again, next time asking for extra Nutella and the cookie dough sitting on top, not mixed in.

But the next time I went, I got a different flavor: green tea (matcha). I used to love green tea ice cream — especially the mochi desserts you get at sushi restaurants — but I’ve never seen a dairy-free version. So this time, at a Creamistry in Costa Mesa, I ordered a coconut base with green tea as my flavor and mochi balls as my topping. The result tasted very much like a green tea mochi. And it was smooth as silk.

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My two caveats about Creamistry are that (1) the taste of coconut can be a little strong, especially upon the first few bites, and (2) this shit is expensive. You will spend about eight dollars on a small cup, more if you get extra toppings or upgrades like a waffle cone or bowl made of chocolate (yeah, I gotta try that one).

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But keep in mind that part of what you’re paying for is the fun of watching your ice cream being whipped up in a giant cloud of white mist and hearing the hiss of the liquid nitrogen evaporating. It’s like a science experiment. It’s cool — pun intended.

CREAMISTRY, 9359 Central Ave., Suite F, Montclair, CA 91763
CREAMISTRY, 3033 Bristol St., Suite F, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(And many other locations across the country)

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Homemade Dairy-Free Chai Tea

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I’ve always loved chai tea, the kind that you get in Indian restaurants, not the kind from Starbucks or the pre-made chai tea that almost every tea brand now sells. At worst, those chai teas taste like candy, and at best, they’re too intensely spicy. Once I asked an Indian friend how to make real chai tea and she gave me a masala mix, but it still didn’t taste like the chai tea I got in restaurants.

Then I went dairy-free and couldn’t drink chai tea at Indian restaurants anymore because they always make it with cow’s milk. After years of deprivation, I became determined to figure out how to make my own chai. I did some research and was able to put together this recipe using just three key spices easily obtained in most grocery stores.

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Cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cardamom pods.

Instead of cow’s milk, I used coconut milk. (I thought the coconut would work better in chai tea than almond milk.) For desserts and coffee, I like to use Kara coconut milk because it’s thick and creamy. But for this tea, I wanted a milk that was thinner, so I used Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk.

You can brew your chai with just about any unflavored black tea. I used my usual breakfast tea, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. I’ve tried almost all the organic breakfast teas available at my neighborhood Ralphs, and this one is the most flavorful and affordable.

Keep calm and chai on!

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Dairy-Free Chai Tea Recipe

2 cardamom pods
1 cup water
2 bags black tea
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup coconut milk

Crack the cardamom pods by tapping them with a mallet or other heavy object. Put the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods in a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes.

Pour the tea through a strainer to remove the solids. Pour the strained tea back into the pot and add the coconut milk (and sugar or other sweetener, if desired). Warm over medium heat, stirring, until hot. Makes 2 servings.

Pink Grapefruit Sorbet at Caffe Bella

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If you live in the Los Angeles area or are visiting this summer, chances are you’ll find yourself at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica at some point. There is one dairy-free dessert that is worth wading through the crowds for: the pink grapefruit sorbet at Caffe Bella, a little kiosk at the corner of Third and Santa Monica Boulevard.

First of all, I love pink grapefruit. I am partial to pink grapefruit sodas (especially San Pellegrino), gummy bears (Bissinger’s are the best), lip balm (Burt’s Bees, yes please), hand soap, dish washing liquid and dishwasher pellets (Method all the way). I will try just about anything if it’s flavored or scented with pink grapefruit.

So even though Caffe Bella has a vast selection of dairy-free sorbets — a whopping twelve flavors — I of course went right for the pink grapefruit. In case you’re curious, some other flavors they had were mandarin, watermelon, lemon, limoncello, and blueberry. They claim that all of the sorbets and gelatos are made fresh daily. I find that hard to believe, but it certainly explains why they’re so insanely expensive. A single scoop will cost you six dollars after tax.

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But the scoop I had was delicious. It tasted like real grapefruit, sweet and tart with a slightly bitter aftertaste like zest from the peel. The texture was smooth, not icy, and even the color was an appetizing light pink, not an unnatural neon pink like other pink grapefruit flavored foodstuffs. This sorbet was so satisfying that I didn’t even need to eat the whole thing. Two people could share a single scoop and be fine.

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I can’t vouch for any of the other food at Caffe Bella since I haven’t tried it, but the atmosphere of the place is cute. It’s right in the middle of the promenade, so it’s a great spot to sit and people-watch. And they have a trashcan that looks like an ice cream cone! Unnecessary and totally adorable!

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After a hot summer day at the beach, I will be sure to swing by the promenade for my pink grapefruit fix. Who needs ice cream sandwiches and milkshakes when you have this heavenly dairy-free concoction?

CAFFE BELLA, 1400 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Daiya Dairy-Free Caesar Salad Dressing

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In the summer, my husband and I tend to eat more salads at home. I like to make salad dressing from scratch, but sometimes it’s just too much work, especially when it’s a dressing that traditionally contains dairy products.

Like Caesar salad. I love Caesar salad. In fact, the first time I ate a proper Caesar salad, drenched in freshly grated Parmesan cheese and whole anchovies laid atop it, I thought, “This is the only kind of salad I will ever eat again.” That turned out not to be true, but to this day, I would rank Caesar as my favorite salad.

Which is a real bummer, since I can’t eat it anymore. I’m lactose-intolerant, so cheese is off the menu for me, and a proper Caesar salad has not only Parmesan sprinkled on top of it but also blended into the dressing itself.

So I’ve been on the hunt for a dairy-free Caesar salad dressing that will at least kind of resemble a real Caesar. I decided to try Daiya’s Creamy Caesar Dressing, even though I’ve had mixed feelings about other Daiya products.

This dressing is so thick, it took some work to even get it out of the bottle. Once I did, it looked fairy decent:

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But the taste was atrocious. It had a pungent flavor, almost like blue cheese. In fact, I wondered whether they accidentally put the dairy-free “blue cheeze” dressing (also available from Daiya) into the wrong bottle. But even if it were supposed to be blue cheese, it was not good. I couldn’t make it through more than a couple of bites.

Hello, compost bin.

But I can’t say I’m surprised. This is not the first time Daiya has let me down. I used to eat their dairy-free cheddar style shreds in omelets and on nachos, until I realized it was giving me gas. Horrible gas. (Just ask my husband.)

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I also tried Daiya’s dairy-free cream cheese. It tasted nothing like cream cheese and was so nasty that I dumped it after the first bite, just like the salad dressing.

So far, the only Daiya product I’ve been able to tolerate is their dairy-free mozzarella cheese, which Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza uses for their vegan and lactose-intolerant customers. I’m a big fan of Blaze; it’s the only pizza I eat these days.

Blaze Pizza

But even at Blaze, I have to make sure the person making my pizza goes easy on the Daiya or I will end up with… you guessed it, horrible gas.

In the meantime, I will continue my quest for an off-the-shelf dairy-free Caesar dressing and let you know if I find a good one, hopefully before summer salad season is over.

Dole Whip Shake in Las Vegas

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I know, I know, I won’t shut up about the Dole Whip, the pineapple soft serve that is my favorite dairy-free frozen dessert. But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the Dole Whip shake I had while on vacation in Las Vegas last week. My husband and I chose a scorchingly hot day to explore the Strip and happened upon a tiki bar called Island Time Floats that had a menu of several Dole Whip items (printed on a surfboard, no less). How could I resist?

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First, I sampled the Orange Float — basically, the same as a Dole Whip, but orange-flavored soft serve instead of pineapple. It tasted like Bayer Children’s Aspirin. Trust me, the pineapple Dole Whip is the only way to go.

Although tempted by the Ultimate Dole Whip, served in an actual pineapple, I opted for the shake. It’s a blend of fresh strawberries, pineapple juice, and of course, Dole Whip. It normally comes with whipped cream, but I asked the guy not to put any on mine since I’m lactose-intolerant. He topped my shake with a large head of Dole Whip instead. The wedge of pineapple, orchid blossom, and cocktail umbrella were the final touches that made this dessert “Instagram-ready.”

If only it had been a slightly less blistering day when you can’t feel your skin melting off your body — global warming is not a hoax, folks — maybe the Dole Whip wouldn’t have turned into a puddle quite so fast. But it was still delicious. The fresh strawberries were a nice complement to the taste of pineapple. I’m still a purist at heart, though, so in my opinion, nothing beats a plain ol’ Dole Whip.

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As for Island Time Floats, it’s not really a tiki bar, as it claims. For that, it needs some bamboo, puffer fish lamps, palapa umbrellas and, ideally, misters that would take the edge off the bone-dry desert climate. That would truly make Island Time a tropical oasis.

But we did our best to embody the island spirit.

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If you’re heading out to Vegas this summer, know that you can get the Happiest Dairy-Free Frozen Dessert on Earth at this little spot in the shopping arcade near Bally’s.

To read my post about Dole Whips at Disneyland and Palm Springs, click here.

For the one about Dole Whips at Brian’s Shave Ice in West Los Angeles, click here.

And for the one about Dole Whips at Dodger Stadium, click here.

ISLAND TIME FLOATS TIKI BAR, 3641 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV 89109

Non-Alcoholic Pineapple Mint Mojito

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Next Sunday is Father’s Day, and to many of us that means one thing: barbecue. This year, consider making a special beverage that everyone can drink, adults and kids alike. It’s dairy-free, non-alcoholic, and super-healthy — that’s right, it contains kale!

As you can see in the photo above, it has a nice frothy head and looks great in a fun glass, like this midcentury highball that makes me think of Palm Springs. One day I had mine in a Star Wars tiki mug. What Star Wars fan wouldn’t want to drink a smoothie from a Jawa?

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Star Wars Geeki Tiki mugs available at ThinkGeek.com
But no matter the style of presentation, you’ll find this drink refreshingly tart and just the right amount of sweet. I adapted this recipe from the NutriBullet app, but you can make it in a regular blender, too.

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Non-Alcoholic Pineapple Mint Mojito Recipe

1 cup kale or spinach
1 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup fresh mint
juice of 1 lime
honey or other sweetener to taste
1 1/2 cup chilled coconut water

Add all ingredients to your NutriBullet cup or blender. Blend for 30 seconds or until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Dole Whip at Dodger Stadium

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Those of you who know me and/or follow this blog know that I’m fanatical about the Dole Whip, a dairy-free pineapple soft-serve dessert that originated at Disneyland. It used to be that you could only get Dole Whips at Disneyland, Disney World, and the Dole Plantation in Hawaii. But now they’re showing up in a lot more places, and although I was worried this would make the Dole Whip less special… who cares? As long as it’s the real thing, I say, “Bring it on.”

Last weekend my husband and I went to a Dodger game, and anyone who’s been to Dodger Stadium knows how mediocre the food options are. (Don’t let the hype about Dodger Dogs fool you. They suck.) I was standing in line at the snack bar, reading the menu and talking to my husband on the phone to see if he wanted anything, when I blurted, “OH MY GOD! SWEETIE, THEY HAVE DOLE WHIPS! IN A HELMET!” so loudly that the entire queue turned around to look at me.

You have to understand, soft serve ice cream in a helmet was always one of my favorite treats at baseball games. To be honest, for me, watching baseball is really about the food. Of course, I can no longer eat soft serve because I’m lactose-intolerant. So to be able to have a Dole Whip — my favorite dairy-free alternative to ice cream — in one of those cute little hats is a dream come true.

They also have strawberry-flavored Dole Whips and pink Dodger helmets, but I went for the classic pineapple in a blue helmet. Incidentally, they also serve all kinds of nachos and fries in helmets. The nachos are so huge they come in a full-size helmet that you could wear while batting.

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The Dole Whip is a steep $7 but only 180 calories, as opposed to the nachos that contain approximately 67% of your daily calorie requirement.
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My friend Brooke (right) and her daughter. Those little helmets make great gifts!

I believe Dodger Stadium needs to step up its food game and follow the example set by stadiums like Safeco Field in Seattle and AT&T Park in San Francisco. If you’re going to make us spend fifty dollars on overpriced concessions, then at least give us some spicy fried grasshoppers or lobster rolls from Thomas Keller…

But until Los Angeles reaches that level of culinary sophistication, the addition of Dole Whips to the menu at Dodger Stadium is a move in the right direction. The only place I saw them was the LA Taquería on the Reserve level. If you can’t find a Dole Whip at the concession stand near your seats, keep looking and ask around.

DODGER STADIUM, 1000 Vin Scully Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012