With the temperatures continuing to climb this summer, the perfect way to cool out from the scorching heat is with a refreshing and scrumptious homemade ice cream, gelato or sorbet treat from Ocean Grill.
While Ocean Grill’s lunch and dinner selections are stellar — favorites include a perfectly grilled mahi mahi salad with shaved fennel and grilled pineapple tossed in a light lemon honey mustard vinaigrette during the day and the divine
Thai Mussels sauteed in a bright ginger coconut broth at night — desserts can easily steal the show.
Everything on the menu at the open air Mongoose Junction restaurant is made from scratch and that includes what part owner — with son and co-owner John Gillfillan — and pastry chef extraordinaire Patty Tacquard whips up for dessert.
Tacquard does not mess around when it comes to her favorite course, and we can all thank her for that. She has a basic philosophy that translates into simply delicious desserts.
“You have to start with real ingredients and don’t take short cuts,” said Tacquard. “I feel that way about all food. It all starts with the ingredients and using the real stuff.”
Diners at Ocean Grill can rest assured Tacquard only uses the freshest and finest ingredients she can find. For anyone who previously only tasted commercial vanilla ice cream, enjoying Tacquard’s hand-crafted Tahitian vanilla ice cream can be a life changing experience.
“People who only eat commercial ice cream have no idea how good homemade ice cream, or any dessert, can be,” said Tacquard. “Don’t even bother with the commercial stuff. I won’t waste my calories on that.”
“The commercial vanilla doesn’t even taste like vanilla,” said the pastry chef. “But when you use good vanilla and you can taste it, you realize why it became so popular in the first place.”
Although vanilla is Ocean Grill’s biggest ice cream seller, Tacquard’s Vietnamese coffee ice cream is starting to draw a loyal crowd of its own.
After falling in love with Papaya Cafe’s Vietnamese coffee concoctions, Tacquard decided to whip up some of the caffeinated goodness her way, as an ice cream.
“I made up that recipe last summer when I became addicted to the Vietnamese coffee from the coffee shop,” she said. “I steep the beans and use that in the ice cream. It goes really well with the creamy custard of ice cream.”
Tacquard has been cranking out batches of ice cream for 37 years, when her mother gave her what was then a crazy present.
“My mother bought me an ice cream machine 37 years ago which was pretty exotic at the time,” said Tacquard. “It was crazy back then — no one had one. People had the hand-crank thing for ice cream.”
While she might have had misgivings almost four decades ago when she started experimenting with the machine, Tacquard was quickly making it sing with delicious concoctions.
“It’s still working to this day,” she said. “Through all of my moves from the time I was in my 20s, I carried that ice cream machine by hand. I started making ice cream back then and I realized this is really good.’”
And it’s more than just ice cream. All those years of experience have given Tacquard the expertise to perfectly craft — and explain the differences between — gelato, ice cream and sorbet.
With a custard base consisting of cream and egg yolks, ice cream is the rich and creamy treat most people remember filling their cones and cups. Gelato — and we’re forever in debt to the Italians for this — is crafted primarily from milk with no eggs, and has less calories than the traditional American ice cream.
With no eggs or dairy, sorbet is made from sugar syrup and flavoring, making it light and a perfect way to showcase fruit flavors.
Tacquard tries to have between five and six different kinds of ice cream, sorbet or gelato — she crafts one-and-a-half gallon batches at a time — available each day at Ocean Grill with flavors changing every few days.
On a recent visit the sorbet offerings included a refreshing mango, strawberry, key lime and orange sorbet and a brightly flavored passion fruit and mango option, which Tacquard calls “passionate mango.”
Other frozen treats that day included a simply straightforward and divine chocolate gelato, and the popular Tahitian vanilla and Vietnamese coffee ice creams.
With so many different flavors and types of concoctions, it’s no surprise that Tacquard’s favorite ice cream changes often.
“My favorite is whatever I feel like that day,” she said. “Some days I really feel like sorbet because I’m hot and other days I want something really creamy, so I go for gelato.”
Desserts also come with Tacquard’s homemade accompaniments like candied almonds, sinfully buttery oatmeal cookies, hand-crafted dark cocoa sauce and fresh whipped cream.
Tacquard also has numerous non-frozen desserts in her ever expanding repertoire. A taste of the decadent, almost flourless chocolate cake or the always popular key lime pie proves Tacquard’s mastery of desserts doesn’t stop at the ice cream machine.
What Tacquard brings to all of her desserts is passion and her dedication to quality ingredients.
“Nothing on any of our menus is pre-fab,” she said. “That was the whole thing the boys and I wanted to do — real food with real ingredients. We wanted to get away from that tasteless national chain restaurant food.”
Ocean Grill has accomplished that goal and hasn’t looked back since opening its open-air doors in October of 2006 at Mongoose Junction.
Stop by the restaurant Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. and be sure to save room for dessert. For more information call Ocean Grill at 693-3304.