By Catherine Murray
On a recent steamy evening, I made the short trip from my house to Bainbridge Street Barrel House in search of one thing–homemade ice cream. Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly by owners Eleni Fetfatzes and Eric Paraskevas, whose passion is infused into every dish and drink they serve. With up to 16 unique rotating ice creams to choose from, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s palette, including vegan frozen treats.
A self described “ice cream junkie,” Chef Eric has been making homemade ice creams for years–since he first got his hands on an ice cream maker. One of his earliest creations, made for a friend obsessed with the Take 5 candy bar, featured pretzels, peanuts, caramel, milk chocolate, and peanut butter. He’s drawn to bold flavors and likes to play off desserts–like creme brûlée or s’mores–that leave diners more satisfied than a scoop of plain vanilla.
Two special flavors–baklava and habanero citrus–remain on the Barrel House menu year round. The baklava ice cream, a nod to Eric and Eleni’s Greek heritage, is texturally complex with a honey base topped with a cinnamon nut mixture and crispy phyllo dough. The high quality of the honey, usually procured from Green Meadow Farms, added depth to the flavor and the toppings were perfectly balanced.
Chef Eric likes to literally turn up the heat.He loves spice and is often at work crafting speciality dishes featuring a variety of peppers for his menu (he’s currently testing an off-menu “Lucifer” burger that sounds wildly hot). The playful habanero citrus ice cream starts with a smooth bite and then the heat settles in. The slow, yet bold, heat makes for one of the most surprising desserts I have ever tasted and leaves you eager for more.
Eric and Eleni keep an extensive garden at their home in South Jersey. Many of the fresh herbs and fruits used in the ice cream come directly from the garden, yielding incredibly bright flavors. The mint chocolate chip feels like a bite of summer with the herbaceous fresh mint. This variety is so delicious that it feels like the chocolate is a bonus, although it does add a nice bit of earthiness.
Another showstopper is the s’mores flavor that’s on this summer’s menu. This chocolate ice cream is layered with graham crackers and toasted marshmallows and then infused with campfire smoke. It’s more glamping than camping, and bursting with tastes of nostalgia.
My personal favorite flavor is the lavender brûlée, in which Chef Eric burns the sugar with a blowtorch before adding it into the ice cream. The bright lavender flavor and rich texture made me savor each bite. Other standouts on the menu are anything with Chef Eric’s fresh herbs – like blackberry basil, and his tart plum sorbet – a tangy ice bursting with flavor. Bainbridge Barrel House is coming up on its 7th year of operating this fall, and Eric and Eleni are continuing to impress and innovate.
Bainbridge Street Barrel House
625-627 S. 6th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147