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Melissa of Sweet Melissa Patisserie isn't from Philly, but she's scooping the city's fifth-generation ice cream tradition from her Carroll Gardens shop. Bassetts, a super rich and butterfatty brand available inside Reading Terminal and many Pennsylvania parlors, is an institution right up there with cheesesteaks, but not commonly spotted in New York. Other than a few high-end markets, the Little Pie Company in Manhattan, and formerly FAO Schwarz, it's a road trip away.
Trust Melissa, a woman known for pies and cakes, she would have churned her own ice cream if she had the space, and given recent remodeling at 276 Court Street, this should be a reality by next year. But after taste-testing ten brands from all over, Bassetts finally read her mind. "You can't always match what you taste in your head, and this one did."
She's regularly stocking six flavors (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, coffee and a raspberry sorbet) and a rotating seventh (like cookies and cream, black cherry, or peaches and cream), but the focus here is on Melissa's original toppings.
Crispy meringues, fresh whipped cream and gooey sauces like butterscotch, Valrhona hot fudge, caramel rum raisin and jumbleberry (a hodgepodge of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries). Brownies get sundae-fied, and straight from the iron Belgian waffles become sandwich bookends for any Bassetts flavor.
Ice cream just becomes a way to show-off the sweetness behind her glass pastry case. "Peanut butter indulgence," the rich block of chocolaty, peanuty goodness, has to be better with a scoop of vanilla, peanut brittle praline, and fudge, right? "Summer Camp Sundae," a concoction with graham crackers, marshmallows and fudge, has been a lazy summer afternoon favorite with kids, but Melissa is already thinking about Fall treats, like warm fruit cobblers and hot fudge in more forms.
The retro-feeling Creamerie is just over a month old and with forty-two seats, it's a big boost from the cramped nineteen nextdoor. The original patisserie will re-open as a marble "open" production kitchen in six weeks, spilling into the parlor's dining room space. Expansion has also doubled the backyard garden, which means more primrose-filled nooks, cherry blossom trees and butterfly bushes. "Brooklyn's best-kept secret," Melissa says of the backyard whimsy.
If Melissa ever does find the time and space to make her own ice cream, the challenge will be to recreate the Bassetts texture, not to mention avoid pissing off Philly transplants already hooked. She's equally hooked, but wants to swirl her own truffles into her own vanilla, and make old-timey butterscotch ripples. To quote Wonka, "invention, my dear friends is 93-percent perspiration, six-percent electricity, four-percent evaporation, and two-percent butterscotch ripple," and Melissa is quite the inventor.
175 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn New York 11215 (between First and Second Streets; map) 718-502-9153
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