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Durian, the fierce, spinous, tropical "King of Fruits," belongs to that fraternity of obscure and ostensibly repulsive things consumed by Western foodlums as a way to swing their experiential dicks around (see also balut, sannakji). Just maybe, if you can get past its barbed armor and the smell of rotten death that exudes from its custardy yellow flesh, you might have the stones to throw back shots of Malort with Andrew Zimmern.
So you have to give credit to Dallas-based gelato chain Paciugo for rolling out a durian ice cream—the third in a quartet of wacky flavors created in collaboration with Food Network chef Bob Blumer—that is pretty subtle, and takes advantage of the fruit's near perfect utility in an ice cream.
In parts of Asia, despite legendary airplane and hotel bans, the durian is much beloved, and a stroll through the grocery stores of Argyle Street shows it is used to flavor all manner of treats, both strong and subdued. You can buy whole frozen durian too, but due to the fruit's perishability a fresh one isn't going to happen except during a few weeks in summer (and you'll pay an arm and a leg).
I agree with Lakeview Paciugo manager Rachel Bach, a graduate of the French Pastry School, who says that the store's durian flavor, sprinkled with toasted coconut, could serve as sort of gateway drug for the actual fruit, or its more aggressive avatars. As I said, it has a mild funk, it's terrifically creamy, and with only minimal sweetness you can get a real idea of what the fruit's flavor is like—which, in the flesh, is one of the most startling disconnects between malodorousness and deliciousness I've ever experienced.
Paciugo however does not have the local monopoly on durian ice cream. The fantastic Village Creamery also makes it. It is slightly funkier, but with a bunch of thickeners and corn syrup in the recipe its texture is a lot less enjoyable.
While durian at Paciugo rolls out today, two other Blumer flavors are already in rotation: chocolate-chipotle-butter pecan and roasted banana-cashew-Heath crunch. Maple caramelized bacon will join the mix May 21, just before the the third area Paciugo opens in Lincoln Square, at 2324 W. Giddings.