For Sameh Wadi, chef/co-owner of the superb Saffron Restaurant & Lounge and quick-service World Street Kitchen, a foray into ice cream feels right.
“Well, duh,” he said with a laugh. “Middle Eastern chef starts at fine dining and then goes to fast casual, so isn’t ice cream the next logical step?”
He’s calling the shop Milkjam (2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.), christening it after a favorite flavor of his, sweetened milk flavored with vanilla and then cooked down until it reaches a caramel-like consistency. The shop’s signature flavor will be a three-milk (goat, sheep and cow) ice cream swirled with milk jam.
With ice cream-obsessed Wadi at its helm, Milkjam will differ from other local ice cream shops in several ways. For starters, Wadi is planning on featuring three categories: an American (egg-free) version, a French (egg-based) custard and vegan variations, made with substitute milks (coconut, cashew) and enriched with plant-based fats.
“I’m personally most excited about the vegan ice creams,” Wadi said. “I’m lactose-intolerant, although that doesn’t stop me from eating ice cream. But with these vegan ice creams, I’ll be able to overindulge and not hate myself the next day.”
The scoop case will feature 16 flavors. At the start, the selection will include “Indian Elvis” (a blend of peanut butter, roasted bananas and curry-style seasonings), hibiscus-passion fruit, a huckleberry crumble and Champagne-and-sparkles because “why not?” Wadi said.
Along with cones, there will be the usual array of sundaes, malts and shakes. Because Milkjam is adjacent to World Street Kitchen — the two share an entry — the shop will tap into the restaurant’s wine and beer license. Translation: Champagne and beer floats. “I think we’re the only local ice cream shop that can do that,” Wadi said.
Milkjam will be open daily, but the hours aren’t carved in stone just yet; probably noon to 9 or 10 p.m. “I’ve never opened an ice cream shop, so I have no idea what I’m doing,” Wadi said with a laugh.
Wadi has hired Zelo pastry chef Ben Spangler to oversee the shop’s day-to-day operations. Look for a (quiet) early January opening.
“Because we’re really smart businessmen [a reference to partner and sibling Saed Wadi], we decided that January would be a phenomenal time to open an ice cream shop,” Wadi said in full self-deprecation mode. “We’ll have a few months of winter to work the kinks out.”
Will fans of the food-truck version of World Street Kitchen get a crack at Milkjam ice creams? Don’t count on it.
“One day when we grow up, we hope to have an ice cream truck,” Wadi said with a laugh. “A Middle Eastern chef opens an ice cream truck. Yeah, that’s super-logical.”
Saffron, 123 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-746-5533, saffronmpls.com; World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-424-8855, eatwsk.com
On newsstands now
Let’s see, the last time Food & Wine magazine gave a Minnesota chef a six-page spread was … never.
But, yes, that’s Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-224-9850, spoonandstable.com) all over the glossy’s January 2016 issue, taking the Hot Dish Challenge.
The story? It’s the anchor of the magazine’s nostalgic-flavors-made-modern theme. The judges? Nine know-their-stuff women from Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
Naturally, the James Beard award-winning Kaysen sailed through with flying colors, despite some good-natured trepidation.
“Hot dish is a dangerous thing to play with,” he told F&W’s Julia Heffelfinger. “There will always be someone with a grandma who makes it better.”
Find Kaysen’s recipes for Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet, Root-Vegetable Hot Dish With Parsnip Puree, Creamed Spinach With Fried Cheese Curds and Chocolate Pot de Crème With Candied Brioche Whipped Cream at foodandwine.com/recipes. Pick up the magazine for his recipe for Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole, a formula inspired by his grandmother Dorothy.
Oh, and the restaurant is also featured in the January issue of GQ, part of the magazine’s “Where’s the Bar” series. Watch the “What’s It Like to Eat a Life-Changing Meal in Minneapolis” video at video.gq.com, and learn how to prepare bartender Nathaniel Smith’s Warming House Punch.