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10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

An elderly man is sitting with his granddaughters at Scoops Ice Cream & More in Bloomington, Minnesota.

"When I was your age, we only had two ice cream flavors -- chocolate and vanilla," he begins. His granddaughters remain focused on their complex ice cream concoctions, clearly unfazed by another of their grandfather's "back in the day" stories.

"But I always got strawberry!" he finishes, chuckling to himself as his granddaughters halfway attempt to decipher his punchline, but stay focused on their cones.

See also: Top 10 ice cream shops in the Twin Cities

The flavors may have been few in grandpa's time, but travel even further back in the history of our favorite frozen treat, and you'll find flavor combinations that surpass even the strangest we see in ice cream parlors today. There were no chocolate milkshakes, Neapolitan cones, or pints of Chubby Hubby. Instead, there was rose water, saffron, dried fruits, nectar, honey, and nuts.

After ice cream was introduced to the States in the 1700s, ice cream-making methods and flavors stabilized, and chocolate and vanilla became the standards. But in recent years, we've witnessed a resurgence of inspired ice cream flavors. Some flavors -- like blood, pizza, and smoked salmon -- are made more for the novelty factor, while others probably just sounded damn good to their creators.

We've gathered up our 10 favorite experimental ice cream flavors from around the Twin Cities for your end-of-summer eating pleasure.

Red bean pictured on top
Red bean pictured on top
Emily Eveland

10. Red bean - Izzy's Ice Cream Izzy's is well-known as one of the Twin Cities' top local ice cream shops. Their Minneapolis and St. Paul locations currently offer a rotating list of 150 flavors, using local ingredients like Wild Country maple syrup and Summit Oatmeal Stout whenever they can.

Though Izzy's often sticks to high-quality standard flavors, they occasionally unveil intriguing flavors like red bean, number 10 on our list. Red bean ice cream is made from azuki bean paste and is served throughout Japan. It has a slightly chalky consistency and isn't as sweet as consumers are used to, but if you're in the mood for something different, Izzy's red bean ice cream is a worthwhile challenge for the taste buds.

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

9. White licorice - Sebastian Joe's We're not sure how Sebastian Joe's managed to make a non-hurl-worthy licorice ice cream, but we've learned not to question the ice cream mavens. The white licorice flavor, made with freshly ground anise, is light and creamy, leaning more toward a white chocolate blend with a licorice twist. We tried ours at Scoops Ice Cream in Bloomington, which offers a variety of ice cream flavors from Sebastian Joe's, Kemps, Edy's, and Cedar Crest.

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

8. Grey Duck Chai nine-spice rice milk gelato - Jackson's Coffee & Gelato

This one goes out to all you dairy-free folks in the Twin Cities. Jackson's Coffee & Gelato brings in a local gelato whiz a few times per week to make specialty gelato flavors, like Nutella and peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in the back of the shop.

Jackson's recently started implementing rice milk in a number of its gelatos, including the mulberry and the nine-spice rice milk blend that uses chai from Minnesota's Grey Duck Chai. The rice milk lends a lighter quality that pairs well with the strong, spicy Chai taste.

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

7. Basil - Izzy's Ice Cream

We struggled to decide between Izzy's basil ice cream and Sebastian Joe's orange-basil sorbet, but ultimately, this is about ice cream. Don't be afraid of basil. Though it seems counter-intuitive to put a generally savory herb in a milky cold treat, it works. It's creamy, lightly sweet, and bursting with garden-fresh flavor.  

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

6. Black sesame - Sweet Science

Sweet Science's black sesame flavor is a seasonal concoction inspired by Yelp reviewers. In Asia, it's apparently as popular an ice cream flavor as vanilla is in the west. Alas, Americans are generally hesitant to budge from our standard repertoire. But not Sweet Science. The company has crafted a nutty blend that perfectly balances sweet and savory and has a tahini-like consistency. It's exceedingly tasty despite what its gray color might suggest.

Cardamom pictured in center
Cardamom pictured in center
Emily Eveland

5. Cardamom black pepper - Sonny's Ice Cream

Sonny's Ice Cream is made from scratch at Crema Cafe on the corner of 34th Street and Lyndale Avenue South. Crema offers a full dinner menu on weekdays, but the ice cream counter is where it does some of its best work. Sonny's ice cream can also be found at the Mill City Farmers Market, the Kingfield Farmers Market, and at Eighth and Nicollet Mall on sunny days.

Cardamom black pepper is the pinnacle of savory frozen treats. The black pepper is more of an afterthought, leaving the cardamom to steal the show. This is another complex flavor that would be best eaten on its own or with a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream.

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

4. Lemongrass ginger bark - Sweet Science

Sweet Science is the brainchild of owner Ashlee Olds, who makes small batches of intriguing ice cream flavors, like olive oil and root beer float, and offers pint-sized versions at Verdant Tea in Seward. We're especially fond of the lemongrass ginger bark flavor, which pairs an herbal lemon base with crunchy chunks of crystallized ginger bark.  

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

3. Lavender ice cream with a blueberry swirl - Pumphouse Creamery Pumphouse Creamery is another small-batch shop that uses only local and organic cream and milk in its ice cream. Lavender ice cream with a blueberry swirl is the shop's newest flavor, combining a floral base with a sweet, fruity filling. We admittedly haven't tried a ton of lavender ice cream in our time, but Pumphouse Creamery's undoubtedly comes out on top, conjuring visions of a backyard tea party, complete with fairies and lush gardens.

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

2. Open Streets Cycle-delic - Sebastian Joe's

Sebastian Joe's has yet to fail our taste buds. Open Streets Cycle-delic was created to celebrate National Night Out, Nicollet Open Streets, and Kingfield Open Streets, and combines a mango base with chocolate chunks and a salted raspberry swirl. The mango and salt combo is a standard South American treat (with lime or chili powder), but the raspberry swirl and chocolate chips take Open Streets to another dimension.

10 best oddball ice cream flavors in the Twin Cities
Emily Eveland

1. Sweet corn with cinnamon syrup - FrozBroz

Pretty much any flavor purchased from FrozBroz is bound to be on the strange side. For the past six years, creators Ben Solberg and Erik Powers have challenged themselves to craft different ice cream concoctions in small batches each week. They recently started selling pints of their rotating flavors on Tuesdays and the last Saturday of every month at CityFoodStudio, but you won't know what you're getting until they post their flavors of the week on Facebook on Tuesday afternoons.

Their most recent flavor of the week had us swooning. Sweet corn with cinnamon syrup is like a big, warm hug in freezing cold form. Though their flavors change with what's in season, we hope they'll consider keeping sweet corn around. But if not, let's face it, we'll just keep trying whatever else they have up their sleeves.

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