A two-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef award, Dana Cree is no stranger to the Chicago food scene: She held positions at Blackbird and Avec before becoming the executive pastry chef at sister restaurant The Publican last year. With her new book, Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream, available now ($14.53; Barnesandnoble.com), the dessert mastermind gives us the scoop on her favorite places in Chicago and all things ice cream.
SPLASH: Since moving here from Seattle in 2012, how has the city of Chicago inspired your recipes?
DANA CREE: I had never seen black raspberries before I moved. They came into season when I took over the kitchen at Blackbird, and the farmers we worked with brought them to the restaurant one day. I didn’t know what to do with them, so I put them in a pot and cooked them. I almost passed out it was so intoxicatingly good. It took almost 35 years to discover them, and I thank Chicago for bringing them into my life.
S: Where are your favorite dessert spots in Chicago?
DC: I just discovered Mindy Segal’s cookie shop [HotChocolate Bakery] in Revival Food Hall (125 S. Clark). And Lula Cafe (2537 N. Kedzie) — I love sitting down for their plated desserts.
S: While writing your book, did you have any go-to spots in the city to work?
DC: I think I wrote half of my book at Spinning J (1000 N. California) — it’s like a little soda fountain/pie shop.
S: The book is subtitled The Art and Science of the Scoop — is it more than a cookbook?
DC: It’s the book I wanted to find when I started making ice cream, one that could walk me through my first scoops like a normal cookbook with easy-to-follow and enticing recipes. People can use those recipes to make up their own flavors — not just the ones I provide in the book. It’s one of life’s simplest pleasures, [but] it is one of the most complex foods we eat: It’s all three states of matter together at once.
S: What is the most obscure ice cream flavor you’ve ever made?
DC: At Blackbird, one of the first dishes I put on the menu [was] burnt artichoke ice cream, which was surprisingly delicious.
S: If you could claim one recipe as your own, what would it be?
DC: There’s a story in the book that talks about cinnamon and basil ice cream. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would love to be credited for inventing, but Mother Nature beat me to it. There’s actually a variety of basil called cinnamon basil and it tastes like a cinnamon stick and basil had a baby.
Photos by DS Shin
Read It And Eat Ice Cream Lab and Book Signing
Sunday, April 9th at 2 p.m.
Culinary Historians of Chicago Talk and Book Signing
Saturday, April 15th at 10 a.m.
Feeders Market Drop by Book Signing
Friday, April 21 at 12 p.m.
Chopping Block Lincoln Square Class and Book Signing
Saturday June 17 at 2 p.m.