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Monday, July 16, 2012

Azucar: I Melt for You

     Fresh local ingredients, grandmother's recipes, and a whole lot of I'm not talking about some pretentious farm-to-table restaurant (not that there is anything wrong with that), I'm talking about Azucar.  South Florida has no shortage of options to make our perpetual summer just a little more tolerable.  Whether you want gelato, smoothies, Italian ices, or ice cream sandwiches, it is available.  As a born and raised local, that means I have spent numerous field trips, straight A report card celebrations, and dates, at different establishments around town.  However, in my experience, nothing has managed to capture the essence of our fair area, quite like Azucar.
    Located along Calle Ocho across from the Tower Theater, this ice cream shop makes you nostalgic for the days when your biggest concern was trying to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk (ever since some smart aleck had remarked it would "break yo mamma's back").  Even from the street it is pretty hard to miss, Little Havana's version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The pile of rainbow scoops beckons you inside and offers solace from the unbearable Miami sauna.
The shop is bright, colorful, and just plain fun, combining elements of whimsy with a definite nod to the owner's Cuban heritage.  There is a huge portrait of Cuban singer Celica Cruz, chalkboard walls covered in bright scribbles, and a stunning mosaic floor.
Even better, the owner makes ice cream just like her abuela, with fresh ingredients and a whole lot of love.  All of the options are homemade (or rather, shop-made since they have machines in the back constantly freezing up new creations), and the fruits used come from the nearby fruit market.  While you can call ahead to request your favorite flavor, they have around 24 on hand at a time, usually with some new innovative concoction you just can't resist, and a couple more choices hidden in the back.  The end result?  A truly distinct variety, and some tantalizing artisanal ice cream and sorbets.
As for the flavors...While you can get Mantecado, the Cuban version of French vanilla, they've also got options like Pinot Noir, Flan, Mamey, Beam Me Up (Bourbon Heath Bar), Plantano Maduro (Sweet Plantain), Dulce de Leche, Elvis (Peanut Butter and Banana), Mango, Nutella, and Rum Cake.  Abuela Maria is an homage to Cuba in a cup (or cone), boasting a creamy vanilla ice cream base with chunks of crunchy galletas Maria cookies, and miniature nibbles of guava and cream cheese. 
My absolute, hands down, penultimate favorite though is the Lemon Basil.  The perfect balance of sweet and tart, it is light and refreshing.  Even if the snowy white concoction bears no visible bits of lemon or basil, you can't deny the robust flavor.  Since that isn't always available though I've had to branch out.  The nutty taste in the Almond is unmistakable, and the Avocado is a surprisingly delectable choice.  Contrary to what you might think, the avocado flavor is subtle, and somehow works really well for making a silky smooth dessert.  Additionally, I discovered a scrumptious Rose Petal ice cream around Valentine's Day, and most recently, I became enamored with a rich Peanut Butter ice cream filled with peanut butter cups, and Nutter Butter cookie bits.
They've also got something for the Diabetics and the diet conscious, sugar free options like a Strawberry or Pineapple ice cream.  Furthermore, I'm consistently impressed with how attentive they are, and that even when the place is completely packed and on the verge of chaotic, they manage to move the crowd along efficiently while maintaining a friendly demeanor.  Great service, charming ambiance, and the best ice cream around, Azucar will satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you wanting more.
  Come, enjoy, and indulge!

1503 Southwest 8th Street
Miami, FL 33155
(305) 381-0369
You can also follow them on twitter for events and new flavors @AzucarIceCream
Azucar Ice Cream Company on Urbanspoon


Y'all Taste This said...

I've been thinking about your Lemon Basil note...I have an awesome recipe for homemade lemon ice cream that we make during the summer. I'm going to try my hand at converting it to lemon basil. I like a good challenge!

SteffiJill said...

If anyone can do it, it is you! Mmm lemon basil really is the perfect treat, just enough flavor and not too cloying!