900 W. Mary, 494-6436
When the storefront next to Thai Fresh on West Mary became vacant, it was just too tempting to pass up: Thai Fresh expanded sideways. "We are now twice as big," explains Jam Sanitchat, the indefatigable young mother who, with her partner and husband, Bruce Barnes, owns and operates the popular Thai deli. "With this expansion, we have been able to add 20 seats to the dining room, a tea bar, a bakery case, and a case of homemade ice creams."
The ice cream, in fact, is what started the expansion ball rolling. Last summer Sanitchat began experimenting with coconut-milk-based ice cream, using the freshest farmers' market seasonal fruits. Her first effort – a Hill Country peach-and-mint ice cream, served in the Thai fashion on a bed of warm sticky rice – immediately sold out. So did every flavor that followed. Sanitchat realized that ice cream, in addition to being the perfect ending to a fiery Thai meal, had little competition in the area. "I knew that if we had more room, we could add lots of ice cream to the menu," Sanitchat says, "[and] really do it!"
Thai Fresh is now serving 12-14 handcrafted ice creams (one scoop, $1.95; two scoops, $3.95), roughly half of which are dairy-free. I sampled three: The Meyer lemon was cold and crisp, with intense citrus flavor. The banana pecan was equally intense, and the mango lime beautifully balanced the warm, fruity flavor of ripe mango with the zest of fresh lime.
The new bakery case brings ice cream and cake together again. Showcasing Sanitchat's newfound enthusiasm for baking, the case is full of cakes, cookies, brownies, and pies. The fresh ginger cake ($4.50) is made with freshly ground ginger; dark and moist, it pairs beautifully with the Meyer lemon ice cream. "We can't make the chocolate bourbon pecan pie ($4) fast enough!" laughs Sanitchat. Peanut butter chocolate bread pudding ($3), black forest cookies ($1.75), "Oprah's Favorite" brownies ($2.75), and Thai coconut custard ($3.75) are just a few of the standard offerings. Paired with pots of tea from the new tea bar, which offers whole-leaf teas from Zhi and Sesa Tea, the baked goods are proving nearly as popular as the ice creams.
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