August's Can't-Miss Dish

Frozen Painkiller Ice Cream Sandwich at State Park
By Ellen Bhang · 08/01/2022

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 


Frozen Painkiller Ice Cream Sandwich at State Park


On the plate: Frozen Painkiller Ice Cream Sandwich  

Where to find it: If you’re a fan of the classic tiki cocktail Painkiller, Cambridge bar State Park has the perfect ice cream sandwich for you. The indulgently creamy frozen treat, which riffs on the tropical drink’s pineapple, coconut, and rum flavors, has two distinct super powers: it’s vegan and gluten-free. Chelsea Kantor, pastry chef for Big Dipper Hospitality Group, which also includes Mamaleh’s Delicatessen and Vincent’s, loves to create luscious sweets that even dairy-averse and gluten-sensitive guests can enjoy. “And because State Park is a bar, we always like to incorporate something boozy into the dessert, because it’s fun and playful,” she says.

The Kendall Square cocktail bar, with its summer-camp-lodge-meets-dive-bar vibe, is the ideal spot for a game of pool or pinball while grooving to tunes on the jukebox. You could grab a Brisket Cheeseburger, dip a soft pretzel in Narragansett Beer Cheese, or do what the pastry chef invites everyone to do: Skip right to dessert.

Notes on the nosh: Kantor had cinnamon and sugar on her mind as she started dreaming up the summer novelty, so it starts with snickerdoodle cookies baked in-house. “We scoop the batter, and then sprinkle on top demerara, which is a coarser, unrefined sugar,” she explains. Those crystals, blended with cinnamon and nutmeg, add a delectable crunch to the puffy sugar cookie. 

To assemble the Frozen Painkiller Ice Cream Sandwich, she adds a dollop of wonderfully sticky, slightly chunky, rum-infused pineapple jam onto the bottom of one cookie, followed by a scoop of Vanilla Bean FoMu. (The local, small-batch brand is featured in Mamaleh’s FoMu Vanilla Milkshake, so there’s always some of the coconut-based ice cream in the freezer.) Another snickerdoodle completes the sandwich.

Kantor did a test run with colleagues before she named her creation. Alon Munzer, one of the restaurant group’s owners, took a bite and declared that it tasted like the dessert version of a Painkiller cocktail—and the name stuck.

Sip alongside: While you could enjoy the sweet treat inside the cool, dim interior of State Park, the pro move is to walk next door to The Bar By The Elevator, Big Dipper’s warm-weather patio pop-up at One Kendall Square. Scan the State Park QR code and order up the sandwich. While you wait for a server to ferry it to your table, ask the bartender to whip up—what else?—a Painkiller.

The cocktail recipe here includes both pineapple and orange juices, cream of coconut, and aged rum from Barbados. That cask-aged spirit makes a Painkiller more complex—toastier with baking spice flavors and less sweet—than its cousin, Piña Colada. Served over ice with flecks of grated nutmeg, State Park’s Painkiller is available year-round; but the ice cream sandwich has a much shorter lifespan. It will likely melt away at summer’s end.

“Get it while you can,” Kantor advises, “because it won’t be around forever.”

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