CULTURE

A new choice for winter: Ice cream

»Rose Champagne» – now that sounds like the perfect gift for next Monday. And if you’re not the straightforward romantic type, what about cool pepper and fiery vodka? Perfume, body cream or cocktails? «Gourmet, homemade ice cream,» says Salome Stavridou, marketing manager of Greek ice-maker Kayak, who along with father and general manager Giorgos and sales manager brother Akis, is developing a hot business based on ice. Away from mass-produced brands, Kayak is taking an artisan, fresh and natural-ingredients approach. At its Koropi headquarters, established in 1993, an annual production of 450 tons points to a novel idea for this country: luxury ice cream for a niche market. No wonder the company was chosen by prominent French caterer and pastry chain Lenotre to supply freshness to the VIP section of Athens 2004. «As a family we all love pastries, which includes ice cream. We detected a lack of quality ice cream, flavors made of fresh fruit and fresh milk; the kind of ice cream we would make at home,» says Stavridou. The result is a broad range of ice cream for hotels, restaurants and cafes – not leaving out private orders either. Stavridou stresses the customized element, citing a recent case of a chef ordering a garlic and tomato flavor. While constantly looking into developing intricate and at times surprising combinations, Kayak is keen on respecting its Greek roots. Besides the triarchy of (Valhrona) chocolate, (Madagascar) vanilla and strawberry (sorbet), for instance, Kayak suggests a palette of 65 flavors ranging from traditional kaimaki to forward-looking parmesan. Past flavors include strawberry margarita ice cream, while stories about getting drunk while developing the champagne flavor – made with Moet & Chandon – abound. The real challenge, however, is to make ice cream a year-round companion. According to seasonal market rules, ice-cream sales skyrocket between May and September, only to fall dramatically along with the first raindrops. «Greece is second to last last on the scale of European ice-cream consumption,» says Stavridou. «It’s psychological, as soon as winter kicks in people stop eating ice cream, whereas in other European countries, with far lower temperatures, people eat ice cream all year long.» In order to fight against the psyche, Kayak suggests an alternative way of enjoying ice cream during the cold months, by allowing it to take on an accompanying role next to warm brownies, chocolate souffle and apple pie, for instance (all desserts are produced in-house). At the same time it maintains consumer interest by coming up with new collections – the current one including «Spicy Kayak» and «Chocolate Trilogy.» Sensual, oriental and unexpected, «Spicy Kayak» is a combination of five spices. Based on vanilla – a flavor made of no fewer than 250 compounds – it is then embellished with cress, anise, cinnamon and, finally, ginger. Even hard-to-please chocoholics will enjoy the «Chocolate Trilogy.» The idea here is the interaction of Grand Crus chocolates, defined by their origin – there’s Araguani from Venezuela, Guanaja from South America, Caraibe from the Caribbean and Manjari from Madagascar. The trilogy opens with the Guanaja bitter ice cream, made of 70 percent selected cocoa from South America’s Criollos and Trinitarios cocoa trees. Based on Caraibe chocolate, the second part offers a combination of chocolate and coffee (with 66 percent cocoa deriving from Trinitarios cocoa-trees). The third installment features a creamy chocolate with a discreet vanilla flavor based on milk Valrhona chocolate, Equatoriale Lactee, a mix of cocoa beans with soya and natural vanilla. With the bulk of Kayak’s business conducted within Attica, the company is slowly beginning to expand nationally. Currently Kayak products are to be discovered at some 400 points, including hotels such as the Athens Hilton, the Lagonissi Resort, the NJV Athens Plaza, Thessaloniki’s Macedonia Palace, the Fresh pastry chain and Kolonaki’s Filion cafe. Retail is not part of the company plan, though a flagship boutique store acting as a point of reference could be on the cards. For now, Kayak is preparing for the launch of yet another line, the Organic collection. «We are taking small steps ahead,» says Stavridou. «Food is a very serious business and ice cream is very delicate.»