3 of a Kind: Creative Ice Cream Sandwiches with Churro, Red Bean and More

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3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

A nostalgic childhood favorite, the ice cream sandwich, has moved beyond its, well, vanilla past. This summer, chefs are forgoing the one-note flavor that has traditionally been at the center of this hand-held dessert. Instead, they’re experimenting with everything from bourbon to Spam (yes, Spam), resulting in reimagined versions of the classic treat that are anything but basic.

Churros and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich at Tre Rivali, Milwaukee

After sampling a popular Spanish snack staple during a stint in Barcelona, Spain, former Top Chef contestant Heather Terhune was inspired to create her own riff on the cruller-like pastries known as churros. “They serve fried churros rolled in cinnamon sugar, and then you dip in rich hot chocolate. One of the best things I have ever eaten,” says Terhune.

She has turned the concept on its head with an innovative ice cream sandwich recipe at her newest, Mediterranean-influenced restaurant. To start, Terhune takes churro batter and pipes it into circles. After a turn in the freezer, the discs are deep-fried, then rolled in cinnamon sugar. Two churros are then sandwiched together with a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream between them. “The end result is a soft, pillowy fried dough with rich chocolate ice cream,” says Terhune.

Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich with Bourbon Barrel Ice Cream at Butchertown Grocery, Louisville, Kentucky

At this sleek New American restaurant housed inside a 19th-century former grocery, Chef Bobby Benjamin draws on a well-known Kentucky spirit to deliver a boozy, breakfast-inspired spin on the standard ice cream sandwich. To begin, Benjamin pulls in local Butchertown Bourbon from nearby Copper & Kings to make a Bourbon Barrel ice cream.

A sizable scoop of this decadent flavor is then topped with bourbon-candied pecans and stuffed between two hot-off-the-iron housemade waffles dipped in Cellar Door chocolate. A sprinkling of white chocolate confetti and a drizzle of maple syrup add to the richness.

A Trifecta of Korean-Inspired Sandwiches at Hanjip, Culver City, California

When it came to creating a dessert to serve at his hip Korean BBQ joint, Chef Chris Oh wanted a cool concept to match the spot’s funky vibe. And he knew just where to turn to make it happen. Oh partnered with the creative ice cream connoisseurs at Coolhaus to develop three outlandish ice cream sandwiches that embody Korean street food. “These sandwiches are playful and fun, just like everything that we are about at Hanjip,” Oh explains.

One sandwich is a take on Korean Chili Fries, complete with red bean ice cream and shoestring french fries sandwiched between Snack Food Chip cookies loaded with butterscotch, pretzels and potato chips. There’s also a Hawaiian Pizza option with Spam-studded pineapple ice cream nestled between white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. “Spam is one of my favorite foods, and I’m stoked we have it in dessert form,” Oh says. And completing the trifecta is the Korean Cookies & Cream sandwich: Think Tahitian vanilla ice cream laced with pieces of Korean Choco Pie (a marshmallow-and-chocolate snack cake) and smushed between chocolate-covered whoopie pie cookies.

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Photos courtesy of Tre Rivali, Josh Miller and Hanjip