The 19th-century French gastronome Jean Anthelme de Brillat-Savarin said that ice cream is the most perfect and wonderful of all desserts. I doubt if he was referring to the Parmesan ice cream at Twist or even the lobster ice cream made by Ben & Bill’s in Maine. Otherwise, I can’t disagree—especially when it’s summertime. Here’s a saner list of options. They are my favorites ice creams in town, and as you’ll see from my waistline, I have made the rounds—from malls to grocery stores—to make sure I hit the old favorites and got the scoop on as many of the newcomers as possible. (Regarding the former, I was sad to find out that one of our city’s best old-time ice cream parlors, Leatherby’s, recently shuttered its doors.)
The 16-Flavor Challenge at RM Seafood. Chef Rick Moonen dares you to name all 16 flavors in his ice cream tasting, served in a clever 4-by-4 indented ceramic dish. Do so, and the dessert is free. Flavors change often, and can be as exotic as foie gras, white licorice or pink peppercorn, or as normal as pineapple, vanilla or coffee. $16 for two-person tasting, at Mandalay Place, 632-9300.
Double Rainbow at the Sugar Factory. When I lived in San Francisco, I was a regular at Double Rainbow, one of the Bay Area’s best ice cream chains. Now these ice creams are in the Sugar Factory, sold from a large case. They are distinguished by 15 percent butterfat and have low overrun, which, in ice cream terms, means little air is whipped into them. The 24 flavors include crème brûlée, mojito and dulce de leche. $5 a scoop ($7 for a second), Paris Las Vegas, 331-5100.
Atomic #7. Rachelle Fournier, who works as a dancer, and Ginger Corbett, formerly a lighting designer, freeze ice creams to order with liquid nitrogen from cylinders located just below the counter. The Neutron Scoop is 5 ounces; a Super Nova Scoop, 9 ounces. Choose as many flavors as you like from a long list, including peanut butter, chai and bananas Foster. Choose the base next: cream, soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk or lactose-free 2 percent milk. There is fat-free yogurt, too. $4 and up, 605 Mall Ring Circle, Henderson. 458-4777.
Espressamente Illy. There are many places to buy gelato on the Strip, but this Italian chain store sells 54 flavors, including tiramisu, coconut, mango and lemon. The gelato has a 12 to 13 percent butterfat content, but little air is pumped into it, so it feels denser and creamier than ice creams with a higher fat content, and is therefore less caloric. Such a deal! $5.95 a cup, $7.50 in a cone, the Palazzo, 869-2233.
Graeter’s at Smith’s supermarkets. The Cincinnati brand is one of those regional treats that natives pine for. I spent a summer in Cincy, and I have to say Graeter’s does live up to its colossal rep. Smith’s now stocks four flavors, each a variation in the key of chocolate chip, for $4.50 a pint. The flavors are black raspberry, coconut, mint and chocolate. Trust me, they are addictive.
Ben & Jerry’s. This legendary Vermont-based chain sells ice cream with a whopping 18 percent butterfat. For a commercial product, you just can’t beat the smooth, creamy taste. Some of my favorite flavors are Cherry Garcia, Boston Cream Pie, Chunky Monkey and Crème Brûlée. 7 locations, BenJerry.com.