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Aquarium's sweet 'refreshing deal'

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Pascal Sauton, left, owner of Milwaukie Kitchen & Wine, and John Greer, the owner of J Gelati in Holly Farms Plaza, are proud of their collaborative effort in creating Key lime nori Italian ice.Seaweed and Key lime may not sound like a felicitous combination for an Italian ice, but in the hands of a professional frozen treat maker and a genuine French chef, the result can be downright delightful.

John Greer, the owner of J Gelati in Holly Farms Plaza, and Pascal Sauton, owner of Milwaukie Kitchen & Wine, have combined their talents to produce Key lime nori Italian ice. In addition, they have teamed up with a third Clackamas County business, the Portland Aquarium on McLoughlin Boulevard, to sell the Italian ice, starting June 15.

The special flavor also will be available at J Gelati for a limited time before that date, Greer said.

How did this all come about?

It was Milwaukie resident Jody Schreffler’s idea, Greer said.

“She comes to my shop, and she goes to Pascal’s place and to the aquarium. She liked the idea of a seaweed-flavored ice. She introduced me to Pascal, and we met to discuss it,” he added.

“Jody Schreffler, put us in touch, and has, from the day we met her when we first started construction on the aquarium, worked very hard to connect businesses and our community to join together to help each other out and seek out worthwhile causes in the process,” noted Vince Covino, the owner of Portland Aquarium.

“We wanted to partner with a vendor that had a unique product that would become a novelty and part of the whole experience at the aquarium for our visitors.”

Healthy and tastes good

And as for why put seaweed into a frozen dessert treat, that would be because parents are getting more health conscious, Greer said.

“Like my regular Italian ice, it has 40 calories per scoop, and there is no fat, no cholesterol and is gluten- and nut-free,” he said.

Schreffler agreed that it is the health benefits of nori that caught her interest, especially where children are involved.

“My kids snack on it all the time. Nori is something you will commonly find in kids’ lunchboxes. It is most commonly used as a wrap for sushi, so this is just a unique use for it,” she said, noting that nori is rich in protein and fiber, along with vitamins C and B12.

The overall reason for the nori ice was to fit in with the aquarium exhibits, but admittedly there are some people who might find the pairing odd.

“Nori is a very oceanic ingredient, and to think about putting it in sorbet sounds a little weird, but done properly, it is unusual, delicious and refreshing,” Sauton said.

As a French chef, Sauton said he is trained to pick out the best flavor profiles and he and Greer wanted to find something nutritious and refreshing for summer. He added that he has cooked with seaweed before, using it to flavor broth and to wrap around other ingredients.

Greer experimented with other flavors before figuring out what to pair with the nori, finally hitting on Key lime after he found an online menu for a restaurant in Japan that offers a Key lime and nori drink.

He took a tub of the newly created ice to the aquarium on May 4 and May 5 and sold the entire batch. The staff there liked it as well, he said.

“According to our Facebook page comments on the flavor, the vast majority really enjoyed the newly unique taste, but we did hear rumors of a few who were afraid to venture a sample,” Covino said.

“John did a fantastic job. He has a good sense of what works. There is just the right amount of nori taste without it being too overwhelming,” said Sauton, who noted that Greer set up in front of Milwaukie Wine & Kitchen for Milwaukie’s First Friday on May 3 and sold half a tub of the nori ice.

Building community

Covino, Greer and Sauton emphasized the fact that the custom Italian ice flavor came about through Schreffler’s efforts.

“Jody came up with the nori, and she is very good at bringing the community together. She is just the kind of person who can see people come together and work together,” Sauton said, adding that not many people would have thought to pair an ice cream maker and a French chef with an aquarium owner.

He added, “Business owners get stuck in a daily routine, but when someone else comes in and puts others together, it is like the sorbet — refreshing.”

Italian ice

To taste Key lime nori Italian ice, visit the Portland Aquarium, located at 16323 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd., in Milwaukie, weekends, June through Labor Day. Call 503- 303-4721 or visit the aquarium’s website at portlandaquarium.net for information about ticket prices and hours.

J Gelati is located at 3650 Concord Road, in Milwaukie, in Holly Farms Plaza, near Papa Murphy’s. Call 503-659-1374 for information about hours.

Milwaukie Wine & Kitchen is located at 10610 S.E. Main St., in Milwaukie. Call 503-653-3228 for hours.



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