Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Some sensational scoops

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2005 at 12:00 AM

This summer, I scream, you scream, we all scream for — air conditioning. And ice cream. We’ll find no better place to cool off and slake our ice cream jones than Shatila (sha-TEE-la) Bakery, purveyor of a baker’s dozen super-premium flavors including cantaloupe, apricot, mango, pineapple and — perhaps unique to Shatila — kashta.

Don’t be confused by the fruit names — these are not sherbets. They combine fruit purées with butterfat to produce that rich taste and velvety texture that only cream can bestow. Neither are they just vanilla with a splash of their names thrown in; they’re intensely flavored. Shatila’s cantaloupe ice cream tastes more like a cantaloupe than a cantaloupe does.

Foodie mag Saveur, in its June-July issue, included Shatila in its national list of recommended independent ice cream parlors.

Shatila’s apricot is potent in color and flavor, with bits of fruit adding to the sensation. Tart and creamy sound incompatible until you taste Shatila’s lemon (it’s neon yellow, though; tone down the food coloring, please). If you shun pineapple because of childhood memories of canned rings, rethink and try this whole ’nother thing: mild, not-too-sweet and refreshing.

Nonfruit ice creams are equally inspired. Caramel, a rich mahogany color, is reminiscent of crème brûlée, with a slightly burnt essence. Pistachio is chock full of nuts; coconut is run through with exquisite little crunchy threads; and almond mocha is strong coffee, not as sweet as some coffee ice creams.

Kashta is the Lebanese name for a heavy cream obtained by simmering whole milk. Shatila’s ice cream of that name is simply the richest-tasting you will find. Think of the fanciest, fattiest French vanilla, and notch it up.

My favorite? This summer, lemon. At a cooler time of year, maybe caramel.

Other flavors include vanilla (still the No. 1 seller in America), chocolate and strawberry.

You’ll pay, of course. A cup of pistachio contains 580 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 48 grams of carbohydrates. Best stick to a scoop at a time, if you can.

Of course, unless you’re ordering online (, Shatila’s other wares will be displaying their own sticky temptations as well. The array of Mediterranean and European pastries is vast and changes daily.

One of the best is the familiar baklava. Baklava is made by drenching layer upon layer of phyllo with melted butter and a honey sauce. This ultra-sweet and ultra-rich combination is leavened by the different, waxy richness of the nut filling — walnuts or pistachios, sometimes cashews. It’s worth trying the different variations on this theme — burma, bird’s nests, fingers — although you won’t be able to eat many at a sitting.

Without nuts, I find the plainer pastries, such as marakoun (not a macaroon), just too sweet, like eating a spoonful of honey, and some are pretty chewy. If you like them, though, the choices are dizzying. Some, such as katayef or shouaibieh, cut the sweetness with a kashta filling. (And shouaibieh gets a prize for using all five vowels.)

Mini-mamouls are small cookies, rolled in confectioner’s sugar and filled with dates, pistachios, walnuts or cashews. Ball-shaped chocolate hazelnut cream cookies, which contain coconut, are the only chocolate pieces on the Lebanese side of the store.

Shatila’s European counter, on the other hand, specializes in fancy chocolate confections, usually light cakes with lavish ornamental frosting. My favorite was an ethereal apricot mousse topped with a slice of apricot on a bed of chocolate cake. Fanciful shapes such as pyramids are topped with fruit, nuts or simply a lovely design in icing.

The ultimate is a teacup, with a handle, made of chocolate, filled with yellow cake and topped with blueberries, apricots and whipped cream. If you eat this on the same day you eat Shatila’s ice cream, you may decide to fast for the next 24 hours.

Shatila has a few nonsweet offerings, and they are quite tasty, not also-rans at all: sausage rolls, a tangy and flaky spinach pie and tiny star-shaped cheese pastries. A huge croissant, with cheese or thyme, is not as flaky as you expect a croissant to be.

Shatila’s high-ceilinged space is filled with customers sipping coffee or raw fruit juices, busting their diets, and enjoying the air conditioning. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to


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