Once upon a time, an English noblewoman named Lady Anne Fanshawe scribbled down a recipe for a strange frozen cream treat.
"Take three pints of the best cream, boil it with Mace [a part of nutmeg], or else flavour it with orange flower water or ambergreece, sweeten the cream, with sugar," the ancient scrawl reads.
"Flavour it with orange flower water or ambergreece, sweeten the cream, with sugar."
For those playing at home, "ambergreece", spelt "ambergris" today, was a popular flavouring and perfume for those who could afford it. Like other fragrances of its ilk (we're looking at you, musk), its origins are rather rancid: in essence, it's a type of sperm whale faeces.
Thankfully, we've come a long way since that first recorded ice-cream recipe in the 1660s, but it's safe to say ice cream and gelato flavours are getting zanier by the week. We wouldn't be surprised if Messina rehashes Fanshawe's ambergris recipe in the near future. Until then, here are some other ways to get your wild frozen dessert fix.
1. Gelato Franco, Marrickville
Franco Riservato churned gelato for 20 years at Leichardt's legendary Bar Italia before opening his eponymous Marrickville gelateria with his business partner Shane Pollard. "I wanted to continue making gelato with the simple and traditional methods with my family around me," he says of going out on his own. "I found it sad that most of the gelaterias were embracing modern technologies. I don't believe in using flavourings."
"I wanted to continue making gelato with the simple and traditional methods with my family around me."
True to their word, Riservato and Pollard use only fresh seasonal fruits and nuts roasted by Riservato's parents on the weekends at Gelato Franco.
"It's a family affair," he says.
This natural approach to gelato-making is modelled on his Sicilian heritage; Riservato's dad hails from the Italian island just off the toe of the "boot", and his mum from a mountainous town in the southern Basilicata region.
"It [Sicilian food] is mostly very simple food using seasonal ingredients. And lots of delicious sweets. Many of my recipes have been inspired by my childhood and also from my travels as I have gotten older."
As for the churning, Riservato favours the method traditional: a vertical batch freezer where the gelato is manually extracted from the top.
"It's more labour-intensive, but it gives you a more dense, full-bodied gelato that has less air and more flavour."
Don't miss their zabaglione gelato - layers of sponge cake soaked in Sicilian marsala - for a rich, creamy, almondy affair.
281 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville
2. Gelato Messina
These Sydney stalwarts are as famous for their snaking queues as they are their off-kilter flavour mash-ups; where else will you find feijoa, vanilla and olive-oil sorbet laced with black truffle and crème fraiche mousse?
The wilder at heart could go their savoury-leaning kombu butter gelato with burnt eggplant and ponzu puree, crowned with crisp kale bits and onion ash. Messina nails the regular format too, like hazelnut, chocolate sorbet and tiramisu. They'll soon be paying homage to Filipino cuisine with a range of frozen treats at the Sydney Night Noodle Markets, like this one:
3. Cremeria de Luca
This quiet inner west cafe is home to Five Dock's most famous buns – the gelato burger. For a sweet treat, try two scoops of their house-made gelato, a dollop of whipped cream and a generous smear of Nutella which get smooshed between a milky brioche bun. Don't make our mistake and think you can share it between two: this messy tower is a two-handed, lone eating affair.
Cremeria de Luca
84 Ramsay Rd Five Dock
4. Hakiki Turkish ice cream
Husband and wife team Nev and Zeyneb Bagriyanik use the traditional Turkish method of pulling and stretching using an orchard root called salep to make their famous chewy ice cream by hand. In fact, they make everything themselves including the baklava, Turkish delight, sweets and biscuits. You can't look past their stretchy tahini ice cream with halva chunks.
Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream
1/63/71 Enmore Rd, Newtown
Dulcet Cakes & Sweets
Friends Vivienne Li and Juno Zhu run Dulcet Cakes & Sweets in Burwood and Haymarket, creating out-of-this-world Asian-skewed cakes, desserts and soft serves. This is one of the only places in town you can try Taiwan's hot-kid milk tea in soft-serve form. Or, go their intensely green matcha version with jasmine jelly bits.
Peanut butter and sea salt, blueberry pie and Earl Grey milk tea are just some of what's on offer at Aqua S. The soft-serve purveyors have made an art form out of frozen cream, inspired by a trip to Okinawa, Japan. Their sea salt flavour is a signature.
27/501 George St, Sydney and Westfield Chatswood
The scent of Tassie’s native pepperberry adds a lovely note to luscious ice-cream. You can make the basic custard, called an ‘anglaise’ in French, in a double boiler, which helps ensure you don’t overcook it. Anyone who says they don’t like Christmas pudding hasn’t tried this! This brilliant gluten-free orange cake, served up with pudding ice-cream, makes a perfect festive dessert, and it’s a lot faster than traditional pudding, too. This is my version of a South American biscuit called Alfajores filled with dulce de leche (caramel) ice-cream rolled in sugar and spice pecans
The scent of Tassie’s native pepperberry adds a lovely note to luscious ice-cream. You can make the basic custard, called an ‘anglaise’ in French, in a double boiler, which helps ensure you don’t overcook it.
Anyone who says they don’t like Christmas pudding hasn’t tried this! This brilliant gluten-free orange cake, served up with pudding ice-cream, makes a perfect festive dessert, and it’s a lot faster than traditional pudding, too.
This is my version of a South American biscuit called Alfajores filled with dulce de leche (caramel) ice-cream rolled in sugar and spice pecans