Young and Hungry

Solid Gold: Iranian Ice Cream in Vienna

After gobbling down a number of dishes at Friends Kabob, a Persian/Middle Eastern newbie along Chain Bridge Road in Vienna, I really wanted to sample the "carrot juice and ice cream float," which I thought sounded like either a forerunner of those modern, savory-savvy desserts or just plain wrong. I didn't get a chance to find out which. The guy behind the counter said he could not float my boat. He was out of the dessert.

He suggested I try instead the Iranian ice cream, which he said included a mixture of butter and saffron. Containers of this golden, straw-colored treat were sitting in a cooler to my right, next to the cash register, so I fished one out and happily paid the counterman $2.99 for my dessert.

I popped the plastic lid and immediately noticed that freezer burns pockmarked my dessert around the edges of the waffle-cone square plastered to the top. My plastic spoon could barely burrow into the rock-solid sweet, requiring me to hold the utensil near its small scoop and apply geological-like pressure. The bite that I eventually extracted was surprisingly gooey; it pulled away from the container in a taffy-like manner.

Little about its appearance prepared me for the taste of Iranian ice cream. Microscopic bits of saffron suffused the dessert with their unmistakable flavor, a sort of aromatic pungency, but it was balanced with a dense creaminess and the undeniable undercurrent of rosewater. It was, despite being deep-sixed in the freezer for God knows how long, delicious.

But how did butter figure into this treat?, I wondered. None of the recipes that I later consulted online mentioned butter, including this one and this one. Ultimately, I had to come to the conclusion that the counterman perhaps didn't know the difference between cream and butter. I say this rather sheepishly because he was generous with his time and with his knowledge of the menu. But I should also note that he insisted the meat in my shawarma/gyro was beef when it taste much more like lamb to me.

Whom to trust: the restaurant employee or my own taste buds? Both have been known to fool me.

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