Vanilla? Snooze. Chocolate? Ho-hum. Don't get us wrong: we like to keep things simple and sweet — sometimes. But this summer, scoop yourself something different. We scoured dessert menus to find spots that are serving especially unique flavors of ice cream, from international inflections to surprisingly savory concoctions.
Postre de Guacamole at Rosa Mexicano
This week Rosa Mexicano kicked off its Ice Cream Festival, which is really a summer-long series of special flavors that put ice cream-related twists on savory Mexican dishes. Exhibit A: this avocado ice cream served in a frozen molcajete (you know, where you usually find the guac) with raspberries, white chocolate shavings, coconut crunch and mint. On top: piloncillo-chocolate sauce and cinnamon-sugar buñuelos. The "festival" runs until August 24.
155 Seaport Blvd.; 617-476-6122
Olive Oil at Ribelle
The Brookline wunderkind that is Ribelle has had olive oil ice cream since it opened last year, and while the dessert menu has continued to evolve, this hit isn't likely to go anywhere. Luscious and decadent, it's also covered in a hard chocolate shell.
1665 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-232-2322
Jackie Treehorn at Heirloom Kitchen
This Dedham biz focuses on takeout and delivery of precooked meals for home dining, and it offers delivery to nearly every Boston neighborhood. Save room for dessert, because it also creates some intriguing ice cream flavors, like the Jackie Treehorn, named for the leisure-suit-wearing porn kingpin of The Big Lebowski, an "adults-only" creation of white Russian ice cream and Kahlua.
125 Washington St., Dedham; 781-326-4060
Bourbon-Maple-Bacon at Commonwealth
Chef Steve "Nookie" Postal often lets his sense of humor shine in some of his inventive, housemade ice creams. (Even if the Girl Scouts of the USA weren't amused by his Naughty Girl Scout 3.0, a former flavor made with their cookies. Geez.) But we're seriously addicted to this regular offering, the height of salty-sweet satisfaction.
11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge; 617-945-7030
Clambake Ice Cream at Precinct Kitchen + Bar
Chef Adam Radzevich's scrumptious summer creation is pretty wild. His sweet-corn ice cream is laden with chorizo, clams, and nuts. Something this nutty may not be for everyone — but scoop it up and see for yourself.
350 Stuart St.; 617-532-3827
Rhubarb and Honey-Anise Sorbet at Bondir Concord
For those who prefer something a little smoother, we felt it necessary to nod to some alternative ice creams too. And the Concord outpost of Jason Bond's acclaimed Bondir always has an inventive array of ice cream and sorbet. Among the former, flavors like buttermilk-thyme and goat's milk ice cream. Among the sorbets, rhubarb and honey-anise hyssop (both pictured).
24 Walden St., Concord; 978-610-6554
Red Bean Mochi Ice Cream at Haru
If you've managed to never have mochi ice cream, fix that problem. The satisfyingly chewy Japanese rice cakes encase a few different flavors at Haru, from vanilla (pictured) to mango, green tea and our favorite, red bean. Except for mango, they're all available in familiar ice cream form too.
55 Huntington Ave.; 617-536-0770
Bastani at Lala Rokh
Continuing with some international ice cream approaches, we must point out this Persian-style favorite at Beacon Hill's Lala Rokh. Here, housemade saffron and vanilla ice cream is sprinkled with pistachio. Result: bliss.
97 Mount Vernon St.; 617-720-5511
Pandan at Empire
Pandan is the leaf of the screw pine, native to tropical Asia, and has the flavor of a nutty vanilla. Pastry chef Maria Cavaleri boils and purées the leaves, then uses them to create an ice cream for Pandan Profiteroles, covered in chocolate sauce and served with sweet berries.
1 Marina Park Dr.; 617-295-0001
Fresh Cucumber at J.P. Licks
When it comes to ice cream, homegrown brand J.P. Licks is now a Boston icon. But it certainly breaks away from tradition to introduce unique flavors, and one of our favorites (and most summer friendly) is the refreshing fresh cucumber, made with actual cored cukes and ginger brandy.