I’ve been known to satisfy my thirst for international wanderings any way I can—even when I couldn’t afford a plane ticket. Once, that meant that I went on a vacation to northern New Jersey. It was just as glamorous as it sounds, but it was on this journey close to a decade ago that I discovered Kwality Ice Cream. Don’t let the intentional misspelling fool you: The Jersey-based chain is serving serious stuff. Think of it as a smaller scale competitor to Ben & Jerry’s or Baskin-Robbins, but with Indian flavors you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
One of the saddest goodbyes for me when I left Houston for NoVA was saying farewell to my local Kwality Ice Cream. But I said hello again last weekend when I visited Dessert Lounge in Herndon. The two ice cream cases are filled with all my favorite flavors, but I was just as excited to walk in and discover the smells of savory food emanating from the kitchen.
My dining companion and I went out front to sit in the grass and have a picnic of pleasantly spicy and sweet samosa chaat. We followed that up with a paneer burger and a mutton burger, which the counter server proudly told us was made from never-frozen meat. Both were humble affairs, on the same sesame-covered burger buns your mom might serve at home, along with a handful of potato chips. My companion compared the second sandwich (favorably) to Indian sloppy Joes, with its loose-ground meat.
But this was just unspoken foreplay for my real goal: The brownie sundae. I could have gotten it with vanilla ice cream, but what would be the fun in that? Rose-petal-flavored ice cream is my favorite, so that was a must. But when I was told that I could add a second scoop, the decision was more difficult. Would it be chikoo (sapodilla fruit) or paan (a combination of candies and nuts wrapped in a betel leaf) flavors? I was afraid those (especially the latter with its dominant fennel notes) would overpower the rose. Instead, I went with thandai, a complexly spiced ice cream that’s based on an aromatic, milky drink, sort of like Indian eggnog.
If I had been allowed to sit down inside, the brownie would have come to me on a sizzling platter, the server said. Instead, the chewy, fudgy specimen was placed in its paper cup while still warm enough to quickly melt the ice cream. That only meant more enjoyment, packed into a shorter time frame. But that’s OK. Dessert Lounge is my new ice cream shop of choice and this was just the beginning of a sweet friendship. // 348 Elden St., Herndon
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