Hampden handcrafted ice cream shop The Charmery is no stranger to unusual ice cream flavors. Old Bay Caramel, Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Swirl, Chinese Food and a Movie (which features buttered popcorn and chocolate covered fortune cookies) and Mango Lassi have graced the menu, which is constantly changing.
“My friends and employees are used to us doing crazy things,” said co-owner and “master creamer” David Alima, who owns The Charmery with his wife, Laura.
With that mentality came yet another unlikely mash-up of flavors. Alima joined forces with Josh Hershkovitz, chef and co-owner of Hersh’s in South Baltimore, to make a take on a Caprese salad.
The sundae was available for one night only, on Tuesday, Sept. 9. It was the second sundae in The Charmery’s guest chef series, the first of which featured a Heath Bar Bread Pudding sundae with Chad Gauss from The Food Market.
To arrive at the final product, Hershkovitz and Alima did a lot of brainstorming. It started with Hersh’s house-made ricotta cheese.
“We thought it would go well with a lot of different things, and so we decided to do a blondie,” said Hershkovitz, whose restaurant features pizza and Italian food. “But instead of doing it traditionally, we pulled back a little bit on the brown butter and added some of the tomato paste that we make at the restaurant inside.”
The ricotta comes in with the ice cream.
“We took about three-and-a-half pounds of the cheese and put it in our ice cream, and we did a little bourbon and a little Tahitian vanilla,” Alima said. “Then we took our chocolate sauce and infused some fresh basil in it.” It’s all topped off with a nut brittle.
Of course, when trying to make a salad-inspired sundae, at least one of the creators had some trepidation.
“When people approach me with their idea I’m always like, ‘Phew, you know we’re an ice cream shop here?
I don’t know how that’s going to work,’” Alima said. “And slowly it kind of builds and builds and builds into this kind of thing that’s delicious and something I could never have thought of on my own.”
Customers who tried the sundae called it “interesting” and like something they’ve never had before, and were happy with their dessert purchases.
“I was expecting more of an oddball thing, but it’s delicious,” said Patrick Boyle.
“It’s crazy how well it all goes together,” said Soraya Bailey.
The night not only offered a one-time sundae, but a dollar from each sundae sold was donated to Seeds of Peace, the charity of Hershkovitz’s choice. The contents of the night’s tip jar were also donated to the charity.
Seeds of Peace engages young leaders from regions of conflict with various programming in hopes of achieving lasting peace.
“A few of the camps have Israeli and Palestinian kids staying in bunks together,” Hershkovitz said. “They play sports and what not, but they sit down and really start talking about things and try to get past some of the stereotypes they have of each other and really start dealing with ‘how do we make this a more livable world?’ … It seems so hopeful.”
Another recent charitable effort landed Hersh’s in the national spotlight. After Ray Rice was cut from the Ravens on Monday, Sept. 8, amid a domestic violence scandal, Hersh’s offered a free pizza and a $2.70 donation to House of Ruth for every Ray Rice jersey brought to the restaurant that week. Customers brought in about 50 jerseys on Monday, Hershkovitz said, and its Facebook page grew from 1,400 likes to nearly 2,600 as of press time. Hershkovitz, who was wearing purple Nikes at The Charmery event, was also trying to get the Ravens to donate directly to House of Ruth for Hersh’s collected jerseys once the team announced it was instituting its own buy-back program.
On Thursday, Hersh’s announced via its Facebook page, where the trade-in was first announced, that it would not be talking to the media about the jerseys anymore because of threats to the restaurant and expressed regret that “all of the media attention turned this story into a circus.”
“We are Ravens fans and season ticket holders at Hersh’s, and we found the news on Monday terribly troubling,” the Facebook statement said. “While we appreciate reasonable statements of all kinds, whether in agreement with our actions or not, we are highly troubled by the profanity and threats of physical violence we have received via Facebook and via telephone calls to the restaurant.”
As for The Charmery, Alima is scouting other guest chefs, thinking about bringing some tea flavors into his shop and debating bringing back last year’s Apples and Honey ice cream for Rosh Hashanah.
“We’re always trying to do some new, different things,” he said.