Drink This: Panciuto’s Milkshake Brings All the Pawpaws to the Yard | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Drink This: Panciuto’s Milkshake Brings All the Pawpaws to the Yard 

Panciuto's pawpaw milkshake

Photo by Alex Boerner

Panciuto's pawpaw milkshake

I remember walking through my neighborhood ten years ago and seeing this tree on the side of the street in someone's yard," Aaron Vandemark says. "It had these large, green, mango-looking lobes, and I thought, What the hell are those?"

They were pawpaws. And that, for many people, raises the same question: What the hell are those?

Pawpaws have been called "America's forgotten fruit" by NPR and "America's best secret fruit" by Serious Eats. Their nicknames range from "custard apple" to "hipster banana." But let's just call them delicious.

They're indigenous to the eastern United States and are particularly abundant in our neck of North Carolina. During the three-to-four-week season, from late August to early September, you can forage them or find a farm with its own trees.

Minka Farm in Efland has seventeen. Vandemark—owner and chef of Panciuto in Hillsborough—got almost a hundred pounds of pawpaws there.

"And they have more than that," he says. "They can't keep up with how many are coming off the trees."

Panciuto has done pawpaw dishes before, and they're always sweet because of the fruit's tropical flavor, with notes of banana and mango. The large yellow fruit have what Vandemark describes as "a creamy pulp inside, almost custardy" and "large, fava-bean-sized black seeds."

These seeds make them labor-intensive to process. But once you harvest the flesh, it freezes well—save for some inevitable oxidation—and then can be used well beyond the fleeting season.

In past years, Panciuto has done a pawpaw budino (an Italian pudding), a pawpaw tart, a pawpaw cocktail with rum, and now, a pawpaw milkshake.

"I've been wanting to do a milkshake on the menu forever, as we push back against this notion of fine dining and play with the idea of fun dining," Vandemark says.

Except, Panciuto doesn't have an ice cream machine, and Vandemark isn't the type to buy anything he could make from scratch. So how do you make a milkshake without ice cream? The answer, it turns out, was in the restaurant's pantry.

Panciuto sources brown sticky rice from South Wind Farm, which grows a notably wide range of grains, from oats to rye. The restaurant uses the rice for dishes like risotto, but inevitably the grains leave some shards and scraps behind, unfit for most recipes.

Knowing this, Vandemark started to think about horchata, a sweet rice milk drink hailing from Mexico and parts of Central America, often spiced with cinnamon, sometimes fortified with almonds or other nuts. What would happen if you substituted rice milk for the usual cow's milk? And frozen, custardy pawpaw flesh instead of the usual ice cream?

You get a just-happens-to-be-vegan milkshake. Well, until Vandemark dollops some whipped cream on top, plus a shower of rainbow sprinkles. A milkshake can only take itself so seriously.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature

Twitter Activity


A great little family Italian restaurant. Good menu. Quiet setting. Good service. …

by Anthony Dean Morgan on Pulcinella's Italian Restaurant (Durham County)

The Refectory is no longer on the Duke Campus. Their new, permanent location is on Chapel Hill Blvd, and yes …

by Beth Owl's Daughter on The Refectory Cafe (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Might be more accurate to note that Davidson County just approved alcohol sales but Lexington has allowed alcohol sales inside …

by Virginiamaxine on We Go Behind the Scenes at Bull City Ciderworks to Get the Juice (Food Feature)

January may be rough on the service industry but December, with all of the after work holiday parties and increased …

by LT on Why Everyone's Dry January Is Your Lucky Break (Food Feature)

My experience was less-than-delicious sushi, but I am spoiled having grown up with parents who make their own sushi and …

by Breana van Velzen on A Japanese American Cautiously Accepts Conveyor-Belt Sushi at Rockin' Rolls--And All That It Means for a New Foodie Generation (Food Feature)

I feel the same thing! I love Rockin' Rolls but I find myself craning my neck to get glimpses of …

by Jack Mac on A Japanese American Cautiously Accepts Conveyor-Belt Sushi at Rockin' Rolls--And All That It Means for a New Foodie Generation (Food Feature)

Strong Arm Baking is the BEST! We are so thrilled and proud to have them in Oxford. Entrepreneurs like Julia …

by Jackie Sergent on You Don't Need a Storefront to Run a Popular Bakery, But a Wood-Burning Oven Helps (Food Feature)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation