Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Icosium Kafé

When I walked into Icosium Kafé, I thought it was going to be Crepe & Coffee Palace. It was a bit confusing. I guess ownership had recently changed. Nevertheless, the Algerian tapestries on the wall were aesthetically pleasing and not what I had expected to find inside of a creperie. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I think that's what generally happens when you're the only lunchtime customer...

A server approached my table with a minted ice water as soon as I sat down. She was friendly and helpful, but after having the menu open for only a few moments after she left, she returned. When you only have one customer, I guess it's difficult to not be overbearing.

I went with the Icosium Crepe, the Cheka Chouka ($9.99), which was preceded by a vegetable soup with something hard and bone-like at the bottom. Perhaps it was a bone chip? Anywho, I would call the flavors indistinguishable and bland and even though it was free, I didn't see its value. Some hot sauce accompanied it as did some pesto-ed pita bread, but neither really improved its quality.

The crepe itself benefited from an interesting presentation and lots of diverse flavors. The fresh ingredients combined to create cool textures and the portion size didn't leave me too hungry. There were roasted peppers, fresh basil, goat cheese, caramelized onions, fresh roma tomatoes, pine nuts, roasted garlic, baby spinach, and Icosium dressing (balsamic). Four word summary: sweet + savory + cheesy + balsamicky.

As luck would have it, some free baklava came out after my crepe and I wish it had been tastier. The flaky dough and cashew and pistachio were nice, but something left a foul aftertaste in my mouth. Once again, a free dish didn't necessary mean a good dish.

Looking back, Icosium Kafé didn't provide a great crepe (nor a great deal), but if you've got a hankering, this is a good enough spot until you find a better option. I will be going back, but I doubt this favorable status will last. Better creperies in Chicago? Let me know.

Icosium Kafé - Lincoln Park - (773)404-1300 - 2433 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 - Public transportation: bus 22 or the Fullerton stop of the Brown/Red/Purple Line.

Icosium crepe, Cheka Chouka - $9.99


Cora Shaw got the idea for iCream while pursuing her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. At the beginning stage of a group project in her New Venture Strategy class, she proffered a unique - and improbable - concept. The idea? Combining liquid nitrogen with various base liquids to make on-the-spot ice cream, yogurt, or sorbet.

The path wasn't easy; in fact in the beginning, iCream could only open for three days before closing for the next eight months to repair and re-engineer the intricate electrical and cryogenic equipment. But, ultimately, Cora Shaw and her business partner Jason McKinney have made it work. For more of the story's details, go here.

iCream is the next step as far as frozen treats are concerned. It's entertaining, fresh, and can be tailored to satisfy any of your sweet tooth cravings. There's non-fat and low-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat and soy and regular ice cream, hot pudding for the cold months, and even made-to-order Italian sodas. Oh, one last thing: any item can be made sugar-free.

For your personalized creation, there are four steps. You pick your treat, choose a flavor (29 options), select up to three add-ins and toppings (29 options), and then color your creation (eight options). I ordered a "cinnamon something or other" regular ice cream as per Cora's suggestion. The texture was excellent - it wasn't icy at all and the oreo + graham cracker crust were well blended into the cinnamon and coffee ice cream. I could've chosen a color for this creation, but I left it chaste.

As much as I enjoyed my visit to iCream (and chatting with Cora), it isn't quite perfect. The aforementioned creation that I got was kind of expensive for a small. It cost me $5.27, but in Cora's defense, it's an 8oz small while other ice cream places only give you 6oz. I guess you're paying for the novelty, the quality of the ingredients (many of which are organic), and the fact that it's a small business. But still - pret-ty pret-ty pricey.

That said, I still think that the interior design could be improved. To start, it's cold and plain and kind of dirty. I noticed some stains on the walls and leftover dirty napkins near the entrance. The florescent lighting doesn't help either, though it may have been chosen to reflect the scientific (or futuristic) side of iCream because it does evoke a sterilized lab (or a minimalistic ice cream store in 2050)...

I will be going back and I suggest you check it out before iCreams are as common as Cold Stone Creameries. That way, you'll secure yourself some bragging rights.

iCream - Wicker Park- (773)276-2100 - 1537 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 - Public transportation: bus 50 or 56 or the Damen stop of the Blue Line.

small ice cream w/ two flavors and two add-ins - $5.27