A classic ice-cream float might evoke memories of playgrounds and summer breaks, but this spring, pastry chefs are treating the nostalgic dessert with adult-level seriousness. In Chicago—if not in the United States or in the world—the queen of the reinvented, miniaturized ice-cream float is Mindy Segal, HotChocolate’s owner and blowout pastry chef. Throughout the years, her takes on shakes and floats have run the gamut: Her newest creation (pictured) takes ginger beer and rhubarb consommé, then sinks cream cheese–strawberry ripple ice cream into the glass. That mini float is just one component of her Coeur À La Crème Revisited, which is a Zingerman’s cream-cheese coeur layered with carrot-ginger cake and Three Sisters Farms oatmeal shortbread. At Terzo Piano, an ice-cream float resulted from a collaboration between the beverage director, Ryan Paykert, and Megan Neubeck, who develops Terzo’s desserts; both were intrigued by the idea of a menu item that fell somewhere between a drink and a dessert. The twist? The soda would be one of the ones that Pakyert recently began making in-house, in flavors like grapefruit mint and pomegranate thyme. The spring incarnation is a scoop of sage ice cream submerged in Paykert’s pineapple soda, topped off with a sprig of pineapple sage—a variety of the herb, grown by Nichols Farm, that looks like mint and has hints of pineapple. At C-House, Toni Roberts’s floats are for the 21-and-over crowd: They’re made not with ginger or root beer but with the real, alcoholic deal. She recently added two varieties: the Double Chocolate made with Arcadia Cocoa Loco Stout and dark-chocolate ice cream, and the Blueberry Pancake, which combines Sea Dog Brewery Blue Paw with blueberry preserves and maple ice cream. Both come with whipped cream on top and pecan shortbread for dipping, because some childhood pleasures never grow old.
HotChocolate 1747 N Damen Ave, 773-489-1747
Terzo Piano 159 E Monroe St, 312-443-8650
C-house 166 E Superior St, 312-523-0923