The secret of The Parlour's labneh ice cream | Food Feature | Indy Week
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The secret of The Parlour's labneh ice cream 

A cone of labneh, mint and olive oil ice cream at The Parlour

Photo by Alex Boerner

A cone of labneh, mint and olive oil ice cream at The Parlour

It's become a running joke among my friends. We go out to dinner and stare at a menu until someone inevitably looks my way and asks, "Are you gonna get the Greek salad?"

I never get the Greek salad, but my friends get the Greek side eye.

So when I walked up to the register of The Parlour in Durham this month, gripping my cone like a trophy, the reaction of owner Vanessa Mazuz didn't surprise me.

"I got the labneh scoop, with the olive oil," I said.

"Of course you did," she replied.

Labneh is not Greek, but it's close enough to our yogurt that I buy it when I'm too lazy to make my own. Its texture is smooth and thick like sour cream, and even more tart. In the Middle East, labneh accompanies a meal or is served as a mezze. With toasted pita bread, a dash of good olive oil—the kind Mama brings to town, imported from the homeland in a tin container so tall I've used it as a seat—and a sprinkle of za'atar or dried mint, I've got breakfast.

But there's nothing sweet about it, so I squinted at the "labneh, mint, olive oil" description written on The Parlour's chalkboard roster.

"People are weirded out by it, definitely," says Mazuz.

The labneh ice cream, though, is a rich cream, made more lush by extra virgin olive oil. The specks of mint are dark and woodsy, not toothpaste green; that's what happens when you pluck, chop and freeze a fresh herb. As you eat it, layers of tangy, sweet and savory flavors keep alternating. It's a decadent treat, without the sugar high.

Labneh will be on the menu until the end of September, says Mazuz, when they'll switch to date-orange, her husband Yoni's favorite. The two often invent flavors based on their shared Sephardic Jewish background and respective roots in the West Indies and Tunisia.

For me, the Greek, this monthly flavor comes with a pleasant caveat.

"We cheated and used Greek yogurt, since the way I make labneh at home would be frowned upon by the health department," says Mazuz. Her method consists of dumping a container of yogurt into a cheesecloth, tying it to the kitchen sink faucet and letting it drain at room temperature for several hours.

I'll stick with The Parlour's treat this month, then, happily sinking into stereotype one scoop at a time.

Eat This is a recurring column about great new dishes and drinks in the Triangle. Had something you loved? Email food@indyweek.com.

  • Olive oil, mint and labneh ice cream

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