Ice cream sandwich from Nellie's
When it's too hot to cook, a sandwich is a perfectly acceptable meal. And if it's an ice cream sandwich from Nellie's, all the better.
An offshoot of the popular Nelson's Ice Cream, Nellie's has found a way to make this novelty treat even better. And it starts with a Chipotle-like assembly line. Choose a fresh-baked cookie (more on that in a minute), add a generous scoop of Nelson's ice cream, top with another cookie, choose a topping to roll the sandwich in, and warm it all up on a panini-like press, which heats the cookies but keeps the ice cream cold. It's a steal at $4.75. (And kudos to the inventor of that machine, because it makes all the difference.)
Now, about those cookies. Nellie's has wisely partnered with next-door neighbor Rachel Anderson and her Vikings & Goddesses Pie Co. for the sandwich bases. "Over the winter, we worked with Rachel to come up with the perfect cookie combinations, sizes and varieties to offer," said Nellie's owner Daved Najarian.
With five cookie varieties — plus a Rice Krispies treat — and 20 rotating flavors of ice cream, you could create new combinations all summer long. Our choices: peanut butter cookies with dark chocolate peanut butter ice cream (pictured) and chocolate chip cookies with Almond Joy ice cream. Both were delicious.
If the sandwich seems too overwhelming, waffle cones ($5.75) and cookie sundaes ($5.25) are also available. And don't worry about making a mess — there's a sink inside that will wash away all the evidence. (Nicole Hvidsten)
2034 Marshall Av., St. Paul, 651-645-7839, nelliesicecream.com. Open Mon.-Thu. 3:30-9:30 p.m., Fri. 3:30-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-9:30 p.m. Cash only, but there's an ATM available.
Pavarotti ice cream at Sebastian Joe's
This house specialty, which hums with banana and caramel goodness and is studded with chocolate chunks, is as much an enduring symbol of Minneapolis as the Foshay Tower, Prince or Minnehaha Falls. To me, anyway.
The opulent flavor combination reaches back to 1987, shortly after siblings Tim, Michael and Todd Pellizzer opened their ice cream cafe (named for their grandfather), which was an offshoot of their Fratelli ("brothers" in Italian) counter in the Riverplace food court.
The Pavarotti name came along when Todd Pellizzer delivered a few cartons of the stuff to the stage door at Northrop auditorium, where Luciano Pavarotti was performing. The next day, the Italian tenor made an unannounced visit to the shop for a refill, and sang an aria to staff and customers to express his thanks.
"After that, we couldn't keep calling it 'Caramel-Banana-Chocolate Chip,' " said Tim Pellizzer.
All these years later, it's still one of the menu's top-selling flavors (scoops $4.45-$9.65, pints $10.50), along with raspberry-chocolate chip, Oreo and Nicollet Avenue Pothole, an over-the-top blend of chocolate, caramel, crumbled Heath bars and a touch of sea salt.
They're all great — especially that crazy-good raspberry-chocolate chip — but there's something about the mix of that refreshing banana and buttery caramel, prodigiously packed with pops of chocolate, that sets Pavarotti above and beyond. To me, anyway. (Rick Nelson)
1007 W. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-870-0065 and 4321 Upton Av. S., Mpls., 612-926-7916, sebastianjoesicecream.com. Open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Kiwi-strawberry paleta at La Michoacana Purépecha
When I was a kid, a pinnacle of warm-weather bliss was when Mom stocked the freezer with Popsicles. She referred to them as "air conditioners on a stick," which may have been wishful thinking on her part, given that we resided in an AC-free house.
These Mexican frozen treats are a huge improvement over what we relied upon to keep cool all those years ago.
The advantages of these handmade beauties ($3.15) add up fast: concentrated natural flavors (no watered-down wishy-washiness here), a vast selection (there are 50-plus varieties on hand) and a peppy Sunday comics color palette.
Even better, the visible chunks of fruit lend a layer of virtuousness to the proceedings. A guilt-free — or guilt-free-adjacent — dessert? Sold. (R.N.)
701 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-886-3039; 809 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-348-6672, lamichoacanapurepecha.com. Open 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily. Also at Twin Cities Premium Outlets, 3965 Eagan Outlets Pkwy., Eagan, 612-259-7833, open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
Root beer float at La La Homemade Ice Cream & Luncheonette
At this delightful ice cream shop and cafe, owner Jennifer Lisburg purchases sugar cones by the case, but sodas? Like most items on her menu, they're produced on site. There are more than a dozen varieties — caramel, vanilla cream, lemon cream, basil — and when combined with the shop's ice creams they create some seriously fabulous mix-and-match float opportunities.
"Our customers come up with the best combinations," said Lisburg. "Someone recently ordered maple soda with Good Girl ice cream — that's almond milk with lavender and burnt honey — and I thought, 'That's a great idea.' "
Me? My nostalgia-seeking self didn't get any further than a root beer float ($6.50-$8.50). On a 99-degree day, it hit the spot, and then some.
Lisburg's old-school root beer formula calls upon bergamot, coriander, star anise, vanilla extract and a restrained level of sugar, forming a syrup that's mixed to order with a splash of soda. The freshly effervescent results, nicely mellow, avoid the saccharine-sweet wallop that overpowers so many root beers.
A generous scoop of Lisburg's lusciously pitch-perfect vanilla ice cream is the finishing touch. The alchemy that happens when the root beer and the ice cream lose their individual identities and merge into a kind of creamy, cloudy slushy? That magic is summer in a cup, folks.
Two evenings each week, Lisburg sets up a stand (alas, no floats) at a pair of farmers markets. On Tuesdays she's at the Midtown Farmers Market (3032 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., midtownfarmersmarket.org, 3-7 p.m.), selling prepacked cups and pints in a half-dozen flavors. On Thursdays she sets up a portable scoop shop, funneling six to eight flavors, including at least one nondairy option, at the Centennial Lakes Farmers Market (7499 France Av. S., Edina, edinamn.gov, 3-7 p.m.).
"I don't like being inside all summer, so this is a nice opportunity to be outside," she said. "It's also nice to be able to get to other parts of town and to meet people."
Oh, and get this: Lisburg and her crew just cleaned, chopped and bagged 175 pounds of locally raised rhubarb, and while the lion's share is sitting in the freezer, awaiting a future in pies, sorbets and ice creams, some of the bounty was reserved for creating a syrup. Rhubarb soda means rhubarb floats. Sign me up. (R.N.)
3146 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-5252, lalahomemadeicecream.com. Open noon-8 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
Rhubarb elderflower ice pop from Saint Pops
Geri Barber was a fan of Saint Pops long before she bought the business in 2019. An ice cream lover, Barber started an ice cream truck in 2014 as a way to spend summers when her hospitality work at Xcel Energy Center was a little slow. And on that truck — called 9 Yum Yum — she carried local novelties, including Jennifer Helm's Saint Pops.
"I found them right away and started carrying them," Barber said. "It was a great addition."
When Helm wanted to move on, Barber stepped in and continued to make and sell the pops, which are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free. They're also refreshing, tasty through and through, and not over-the-top sweet — ideal for keeping cool during a heat wave. (We each had two on a particularly steamy day.)
Barber works with what's in season, so I snapped up some rhubarb-elderflower pops knowing that rhubarb's time is limited. Fans of rhubarb will love them — so good! — and the tartness is tempered enough that those unsure about rhubarb should give them a try. (Pops are $4 each, or six for $20 at farmers markets.) The lemonade pops are equally energizing, and the chocolate pops are flavorful and creamy, thanks to coconut milk. Still in our freezer: Minnesota grape and strawberry cardamom. We didn't have room for the coffee, hibiscus, horchata or elderberry-lavender pops. Note to self: Bring a bigger cooler next time.
As the growing season changes, so do Barber's flavors. Look for blueberry to make an appearance, as well as cucumber-lime-mint and eventually watermelon-mint. She's hoping to develop a couple of new recipes, too.
When she's not making pops in the kitchen of Seward Soft Serve, Barber still runs 9 Yum Yum, and Saint Pops is at farmers markets five or six days a week. How does she do it? With a little help from her friends in the hospitality industry. "It's really in our blood," she said. "We just have so much fun." (N.H.)
Find Saint Pops at the Midtown, Fulton, Kingfield, Nokomis (every other week), Mill City, Eagan and East Isles farmers markets, online at saintpops.com and at Seward Soft Serve (2211 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.).