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Photograph by Annelise Kelly
Petite Treat: Rin Salao (left) samples Scream Sorbet's apricot sorbet. Tiffany Thomas opts for lime mint.

Ice, Ice, Baby

We all scream for Scream Sorbet's crazy good fresh fruit dessert.

By Annelise Kelly

I LOVE a generous sampling policy. A teensy dip of Meyer lemon sorbet bursts with a fragrant, floral tang. A compostable spoonful of cashew-caramel infuses my mouth with buttery, unctuous delight. Chocolate, midnight dark, is a dizzyingly pure essence. I settle on a scoop of apricot, aglow with spring sunshine straight from the orchard.

Since May 27, shoppers at the Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers Market have been tempted by yet another take-away treat. This one is as wholesome as it is enticing: delectable pure fruit sorbets in a palate of seasonal flavors and vivid colors.

Scream Sorbet is forging a new frontier in frozen dessert territory at 21 farmers markets throughout the Bay Area. By relying on local (usually organic) produce harvested at its peak, subtly enhanced with the simplest of ingredients and processed by methods embraced by the molecular gastronomy crowd, Scream creates sorbet that sings with fresh fruit, inventive flavor combinations and the most alluring texture imaginable.

The tall and personable Noah Goldner, one of three principals of the enterprise, travels to Santa Cruz every Wednesday to offer six sorbet flavors, a teasingly small fraction of the 36 listed on their website, ranging from single fruits or nuts to visionary combinations. While visiting the Emeryville kitchen to witness the magic happening, I savored the coconut-lime-Thai basil variety and found the interplay of vibrant lime and bright herbaceous basil embraced by silky coconut milk dazzling.

A connoisseur's palate informs their use of specific varietals, such as pure Oro Blanco grapefruit, Murcott tangerine or Meyer lemon; true fruit flavors like cherry or peach; and bold innovations like black sesame-almond, lime-jasmine, beet-lemon and saffron-almond. The nut flavors are in a category by themselves, employing a seductive, satiny mouthfeel and rich consistency reminiscent of the thickest cream but entirely dairy-free.

Nathan Kurz, founder of Scream Sorbet, started "wondering what happens when you don't cut corners and whether there's an audience for a very high quality product. Our hope was that there are people who will pay for that top quality, and we're finding that there are."

He merged his experience in homemade sorbet and ice cream with his scientific inclinations as a physicist and began bringing sorbet to farmers markets in March 2008. Stephanie Lau, a trained pastry chef and the third Scream Sorbet co-owner, collaborates with Kurz on developing recipes, subjecting each fruit to "about 10 recipe variations. For example, we've discovered that the method of juicing makes a big difference in the taste of citrus, and we experiment whether or not to strain pulp or seeds out of the mixture." Further, they eschew gums and stabilizers: "our intention is to produce a fresh fruit product, not a shelf stable product." Taking a cue from the molecular gastronomy movement--the origin of all foods foamed, vaporized or otherwise fancifully altered--they invested in some high-tech Swiss gadgetry. Instead of being churned like ice cream, a fruity concoction is frozen solid and subjected to a titanium-coated blade spinning at 2,000 rpm, which purees the rock-solid blend without incorporating additional air, achieving Scream's trademark lush, dense texture.

Buying at farmers markets is a core element of the Scream philosophy, enabling the company "to close the loop between 'there's the source' and 'here's the product,'" says Kurz. "If you like our peach sorbet, we can point to a stand and say, 'We got these peaches from them,' and they can say, 'If you like these peaches, try that sorbet over there.'" He admits that "this approach to sourcing could limit our growth, but it's the key to the highest quality."

SCREAM SORBET is available every Wednesday at the Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers Market, Lincoln and Cedar streets, Santa Cruz, and on Tuesdays at the Old Monterey Farmers Market, Alvarado Street, Monterey.

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