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Summer treats with a twist to sweeten the end of the season

Linnea Covington

Chefs and restaurants are putting creative spins on classic summer treats, with dishes like the Oreo zeppoli at LAVO New York.

No summer ever seems long enough, and Labor Day signals that this one is quickly coming to a close. You don't have to worry about that beach body for a while, so why not see the season out with a bang?

Chefs all over are giving classic warm-weather treats grown-up, modern twists. Take pastry chef Ashley Summers’ reinvented Choco Taco, which she serves at the Midtown Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant Zengo in New York City.

Linnea Covington

Choco Tacos at Zengo

Summers makes this gourmet version of the ice cream-truck staple by deep-frying wonton wrappers and molding them into crispy taco shapes. The wontons then get stuffed with vanilla ice cream that the chef makes using the Pacojet, a crazy-cool machine that shaves ingredient-filled ice into creamy tendrils. The whole thing gets coated in dark chocolate and cashew pieces.

"At the beginning of summer, I started craving a dessert that would be both sweet and salty, but would be cool enough for the coming hot months,” Summers said. “I thought about what I liked as a kid and remembered chocolate ice cream tacos, so I created my own recipe off that.”

Another traditional ice cream truck treat is soft serve; something Christina Tosi at Momofuku Milk Bar has taken a creative stab at. At the dessert spot’s various locations, you can find cups of soft serve in flavors like cereal milk, green apple-cheddar, raspberry rye and blueberry pancake. If you’d like to deviate further from the traditional summer treat, you can get a shot of Makers Mark in your milk shake at their Williamsburg shop.

Brooklyn’s 67 Burger in Fort Greene and Park Slope also serves up their milk shakes with a boozy twist: They whip up their malty drinks with beer.

Linnea Covington

Watermelon Cucumber Cloud cocktail from STK Downtown

At STK Rooftop, general manager Soy Chiever took a carnival classic and put it in a drink. And so, the cotton candy-filled Watermelon Cucumber Cloud cocktail came to be. It might look extremely sweet, but that’s not how it tastes.

“I wanted to create something whimsical and all about illusion,” said Chiever. “When you give this cocktail to any vodka drinker, they love it. Then you tell them it’s gin and see the pleasant confusion spread over their face.” She added, “I'm a gin lover on a mission to convert vodka drinkers.”

On the cookie side, LAVO New York has taken the zeppole, an Italian fritter, and laden it with Oreos. A homemade malted vanilla milkshake accompanies this devilish dish.

And while you can indulge in cupcakes all year round, the newly-opened Prohibition Bakery in the Lower East Side adds a deviant twist to these cute and classic cakes. Owners Leslie Feinberg and Brooke Siem spike their goods with pale ale, peach schnapps, pinot noir and gin in order to create cupcakes modeled after cocktails like the Bee’s Knees, Sangria and Sex on the Beach.

Linnea Covington

Snow cones at La Biblioteca

Speaking of beaches, you can’t hit the surf without treating yourself to an icy. Though Richard Sandoval’s La Biblioteca and Zengo are far from the Rockaways, they took the traditional snow cone and added a healthy dose of boozy syrup to the cool snack, creating sunny flavors like strawberry tequila (recipe below) and hibiscus.

Finally, Chef Ted Cipollone of Pounds and Ounces in Chelsea pumped up the restaurant’s classic barbecue sauce with Pop Rocks, calling the clever concoction Gunpowder Sauce (recipe below). The explosive candy adds a zing to the summery sauce, which pleasantly crackles on your tongue and creates an unusual sensation in your mouth when eaten with a savory dish.

Linnea Covington

Gunpowder Sauce from Pounds and Ounces in Chelsea

So whether you want to relive your favorite summer memories through your dessert or revisit your childhood in a more adult way, all these treats have something new to bring to sweet traditions.

Strawberry tequila snow cones from Zengo
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 quart sour mix
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Ice
  • 6 to 8 ounces tequila

Directions:

  1. Blend half the strawberries, sour mix, and sugar.
  2. Pour puree in a quart container that has the rest of the strawberries, diced.
  3. Shave ice and scoop into 6 to 8 individual serving cups.
  4. Pour the puree over the ice until well saturated (or until the ice become the same color as the puree).
  5. Add 1 ounce tequila and serve.

Chocolate hazelnut tacos from Zengo
(Home cooks can use store-bought ice cream for faster preparation)
Makes 30 tacos

Ingredients:
For the Mexican vanilla ice cream:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 Mexican vanilla beans
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar

For the taco shell:

  • 30 wonton wrappers
  • Frying oil

For the chocolate hazelnut jam:

  • 2 cups dark chocolate (we use Valrhonas 61%)
  • ½ cup hazelnut paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ cup cream

For the candied cashews:

  • 1 cup unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt

Preparation:

For the Mexican vanilla ice cream:

  1. Combine milk, cream, beans, extract and salt and bring to a simmer.
  2. Whisk together yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Slowly ladle hot milk mixture into the yolks while whisking until about ½ of the milk is mixed with the yolks.
  4. Return to the pot, continue to whisk and heat until the mixture returns to a simmer.
  5. Strain and spin according to your ice cream machine’s directions.

For the taco shells:

  1. Heat the frying oil to 350 degrees. Fry wonton wrappers for about 2 minutes or until golden brown with crunchy bubbles.
  2. To create the shell, take the top of an aluminum can and bend in half, put freshly fried wonton inside and top with another bent aluminum top. Hold until fully molded into taco-ready shape. Cool and set aside.

For the chocolate hazelnut jam:

  1. Combine chocolate, hazelnut paste and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Bring cream to a boil and pour the cream over chocolate mix, stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
  3. Store in jars at room temperature.

For the candied cashews:

  1. Combine all ingredients and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Cool and chop. Set aside for garnish.

To serve:
Paint the inside of the wonton shells with the chocolate hazelnut jam and shower with candied cashews. Fill with the Mexican vanilla ice cream and finish with a drizzle of more chocolate. Serve immediately.

Pounds and Ounces Gunpowder Sauce
This sauce is great for dipping (especially for French fries or grilled veggies), or slathered on already-cooked chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ cup chipotle peppers
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 ounce tequila
  • 1 cup unflavored popping candy
  • ¼ cup cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for popping candy and cayenne pepper, together. Store and refrigerate.
  2. Combine popping candy and cayenne pepper and store in a separate container.
  3. Combine the two mixtures together when you are ready to serve.

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