During the summer, my friend Peaches savors icy beer, cold milk and whole leaves of Romaine lettuce. She sits out on the portal, eating languorously, savoring the chilled greens like artichoke leaves.
As these toasty days set in, the ghosts of winter retreat in a flurry of pot roasts and turkey basters. The chill of a dreary economic climate casts the shadow of a question mark onto the months ahead, but ice cream trucks haunt the streets and the evenings promise hours of muted, lemony light. Heat has a way of rousing our primal hungers.
Ever the optimist, I look to easy fixes: sugar and friends with air conditioning. When the mood strikes, there are summer treats to suit everyone's fancy.
As an unapologetic naysayer of sweetened, cream-laden frozen coffee drinks masquerading as actual coffee, I prefer my joe as hot, dark and bitter as a tragic lover. If a substantial coffee dessert is up your alley try the blissfully austere espresso milkshake ($9) at Café Pasqual's (121 Don Gaspar Ave., 983-9340). The watermelon granita ($9) and the roasted pineapple ice cream ($9) at Pasqual's are possibly the most extraordinary frozen desserts in town and both can be picked up to go.
Kakawa Chocolate House's (1050 Paseo de Peralta, 982-0388) agave-sweetened grapefruit and espresso granitas (both $2) are refreshing, if a little sweet. Just across the parking lot from Kakawa (on Saturdays), the apple cider sno-cones ($3) at the Santa Fe Farmers Market (1120 Paseo de Peralta, 983-4098) may not be seasonal, but are a mild and frosty alternative to coffee for shoppers cruising the asphalt aisles.
For more conservative cravings, the archetypal affogato is tough to beat. Italian for "drowned," an affogato di gelato requires nothing more than vanilla gelato and a freshly pulled shot of espresso, though caramel or chocolate sauce is sometimes added. Latitudes Ice Cream & Espresso's (228 Old Santa Fe Trail, 989-9252) version ($4.50) is marketed nicely, though it is the silent, modest quintessence of affogato at Torinos' at Home Italian Deli (227 Don Gaspar Ave., 982-4545) that blows all competition out of the water. Torinos' Fraisier Cup ($4.95) is a must-try for anyone with even the slightest interest in sweetmeats; it's a boozy, rum-scented vanilla mascarpone cream sandwiched, with fresh strawberries, between slices of jaconde cake.
In the midst of a series of unintended metaphorical epiphanies, a triple-scoop cone ($6.65) piled with melting red, white and blue scoops of Tara's Organic Ice Cream (1807 Second St., 216-9759) has become an obsession: In my dreams, strawberry rose, blueberry mint and lavender are together forever. Skeptics, take note that orange cashew and green tea flavors make superb accompaniments to any of the flavors in my super-patriotic trio; so don't be shy, ask for a taste. If it's an ice cream sandwich you're craving, Tara's has organic brownie ice cream sandwiches. Provided you're not of the mind that it's too hot out for a delicious chocolate peanut butter ice cream sandwich ($3.75), Harry's Roadhouse (96 Old Las Vegas Hwy., 505-989-4629) serves one that ought to hit the spot.
The vegan mixed-berry pie ($5.55) at Body (333 Cordova Road, 505-986-0362) is a wet mess, albeit an exceptionally tasty one: tart and bright with garnet juices. At The Teahouse (821 Canyon Road, 992-0972), the Supreme Strawberry Shortcake ($5.50) is a stupefying affair, intimidating at first glance but manageable in actuality, as will become apparent after the first hypnotic bite. Here, The Teahouse's signature cranberry-almond scone is toasted, split, and filled with crème fraîche and fresh strawberries, then served on a sharp slick of raspberry purée.
If strawberry shortcake is as classic as a little black dress, then it's The Compound's (653 Canyon Road, 982-4353) Fresh Berry Shortcake ($9), with its dual tribute to berries and cream biscuits, that elevates the outfit to a black-tie ensemble. An exuberant symphony of strawberry sauce, vanilla crème anglaise, crème fraîche and fresh berries macerated in red wine berry coulis, this is no slacker's backyard assembly (though those can be tasty, too).
So, yes, it's summer. In my freezer sits a gallon of raspberry Lillet sorbet that I scoop, with a melon baller, into champagne flutes. With a glug of Gruet Blanc de Noirs and a few fresh berries tumbled in, the simplest and most refreshing of summer pick-me-up is at my fingertips, just inside the freezer door.
Champagne toasts are golden and toast smeared with butter is better, but the soporific pall of summer heat does not have to be an unwelcome guest. Cheers—and pass the popsicles.