Black Tapp and its affiliate restaurants speckle New York City. The five locations appear to emulate a modernized take on the traditional diner, serving handcrafted burgers and french fries, with plenty of sodas and spirits to accompany.
But what sets these places apart may not even be their burgers, but the fifteen dollar shakes- and the man behind them.
Chef Joe Isodori, a self-described third generation New Yorker, was also a previous private chef to Donald J Trump, the current president of the United States. And while his current position may be slightly less in the spotlight, his specialty shakes certainly aren’t.
Last year, Black Tap announced plans to continue its expansion, and its made good on its promise. The reason behind this expansion? Trailing lines of sometimes one hundred people: nearly two hours for a chance to try handcrafted fare.
His shakes are featured on his Instagram on a regular basis, described by Biz Journal as “lavish multi-colored milkshake(s)” . His signature shakes “It might contain vanilla with peanut butter icing on top, stick candies, and whipped cream, or another shake comes with a piece of cake and cotton candy”.
Isodori’s story is, if nothing else, one of a high profile private chef who has shown not only his ability to cater to a variety of clients, but to capitalize on one of America’s most beloved treats.
Ice Cream: An American Tradition
And while homemade ice cream may seem like a specialty, it certainly need not be as ornate or lavish as Chef Isodori’s shakes to garner interest.
According to the International Dairy Farmer’s Association, the United States ice cream industry was a nearly $40 billion dollar industry in 2015, and 1.54 gallons or ice cream or related products were purchased by Americans. The Association estimates that the average American consumes over twenty pounds of ice cream a year.
Notably, despite Chef Isodori’s success, Americans overall seem to favor simplicity: the top three popular flavors, according to CBS News, are vanilla, chocolate, and butter pecan.
The Homemade Advantage
And while summer months means that ice cream peaks in popularity, there are so many options to purchase ice cream that personal and private chefs, strapped for time, may be reluctant to make ice cream themselves.
Yet there are clear advantages. Ingredients are simple and relatively cheap, and ice cream makers are also a very affordable investment. Most of all, though, homemade ice cream simply tastes better: with the ability to create custom flavors, source quality ingredients, and without fillers, dyes or preservatives, homemade ice cream is a fresh take on a classic. It’s also arguably healthier.
Cost wise, it may also be more efficient, especially if chefs are buying smaller and specialty ice cream cartons, as this comparison shows. Even if chefs are buying ice cream in bulk, transportation costs, and the reduction in quality control of both flavor and ingredients should be considered.
Stick with Basics
For this summer, trends for ice cream are all over the place, from innovative toppings like cotton candy and even cereal, to fish-shaped cones and Hello Kitty Inspired swirls.
And while these alluring ideas may dominate instagram, for personal and private chefs, especially those whose specialty is not ice cream, simple may not only be safer, but a better accompaniment. It’s also far more versatile for different occasions and different clients. Classics like vanilla can accompany pies, cakes, shortcakes, and more.
Sticking with basic flavors also allows chefs to focus on quality ingredients. For most ice cream, the basic components are some form of milk, fat, sugar, stabilizer (sometimes in the form of eggs) and flavor. Milk proteins, coupled with fat, achieve a creamy texture. The lower the fat content, the less creamy and the more ice like your mix will be.
For milk, aim for two percent at lowest, and, with no dietary restrictions, full fat or even cream. Organic dairy is more expensive but may be fresher tasting. Fat, however, is the most important consideration here.
Sugar does more than flavor: it also affects the ice cream’s freezing point, so be sure not to experiment too heavily with basic recipes.
For flavor inspirations, check out this selection here, but there is nothing wrong with a quality vanilla or almond extract as the main flavoring component.
Easy Does it: Steps and Mis-Steps
Most recipes call for an ice cream maker, though, in a pinch, there are alternatives. Foodiecrush, a cooking blog, offers a simple no-churn recipe with an egg base, which will produce more of a custard than traditional soft serve.
For a traditional route, The Food Network uses a base of milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, and flavoring of your choice. With an emphasis on consistency, straining, temperature monitoring, and churning all go into a simple but perhaps somewhat time consuming process. While this route is well tested, chefs will need to plan in advance, and may want to make and freeze larger batches.
Of course, things can, and do, go wrong, with anyone new to the process. Of the most commonly made mistakes, The Kitchn mentions five: using too low fat content, not allowing the ice cream bowl or machine to get to the proper temperature, pouring a warm ice bath in the machine, over-churning, and overfilling the machine.
To avoid an icy or gritty texture, make sure to give bowls and machines a full day in the freezer beforehand, and only churn the mix when it is to temperature.
If you’re looking for alternatives for clients who are vegan or lactose intolerant, check out this recipe for a creamy coconut milk based ice cream, or some other combinations, including banana-based ice creams, here. Just be aware the taste and texture will not be the same as ice cream, but delicious in its own right.