With Halloween just around the corner, Bebe Zito, a small-batch ice cream shop in Minneapolis, has gone all out for the holiday by creating a Hannibal Lecter-themed treat. While the scoop shop's "basic flavors" are always complex and creative (think Vietnamese coffee with bourbon or Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles mixed into one delicious concoction), co-owner and pastry chef Ben Spangler knew they wanted to “turn up the volume” and deliver something really spectacular this year.
Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti
"We were so stumped and we were watching The Silence of the Lambs," Spangler tells Mental Floss. "When Hannibal said the line, ‘A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,’ immediately my brain went, ‘Oh, I know how to make a sweet-savory fudgy mousse.'"
So Spangler and his wife/co-owner, designer Gabriella Grant, developed Hannibal’s Dinner: Ice cream made with chunks of braised veal brains, cookie dough-like foie gras, lemony fava bean cake mix, and a caramelized Chianti gastrique drizzled on top. “It’s deep, deep red," Spangler says of the gastrique. "It looks like a slasher film." But what does it taste like?
"It really is a mind trip in how savory it is,” Spangler says. “Even when I was eating it, I was like, 'This tastes good, but it’s really messing with me.'" He describes the foie gras mousse as buttery and unctuous, and the brain chunks as salty.
"The thing that throws people off most initially isn’t the brain," Grant says. "It’s a little bit more of a savory profile than people are acclimated to. I always preface it by telling people it’s going to be a little bit more savory, otherwise your brain has to recalculate for a second before really understanding what’s going on ... The ingredients themselves aren’t weird as separates or in the more traditional application. But those things don’t seem like they belong in ice cream.”
Despite the out-of-your-comfort-zone flavor, customers are ordering it. “When someone walks in, you know exactly who’s there for brains,” Grant says. “They look super psyched. There’s this extra puff in their chest, and they’re super confident.”
Hannibal's Dinner isn't the only adventurous flavor on offer at Bebe Zito. They're also offering The Grasshopper—chocolate-covered cricket mixed into a mint ice cream base. They introduced the protein last year, and customers loved it so much that it could become a year-round offering. Compared to Hannibal's Dinner, Grant says that The Grasshopper “is pretty tame and not actually scary.”
Getting customers to try “foods that are consumed elsewhere in the world but are considered strange and creepy to the typical U.S. palate or shocking” has been part of Spangler and Grant's mission since opening Bebe Zito's doors in July 2020. They've regularly introduced what they consider “gateway flavors,” like Mushroom Pecan and Vanilla MSG. The goal, according to Grant, is to get customers into the mindset of thinking: “If Bebe’s doing it, we’re going to trust that it’s not going be bad.”
Among Bebe Zito's other limited-time Halloween flavors are Children of the Corn Chip; The Shining-themed redruM, replete with “bloody” strawberry sauce and served with an axe, and Beetlejuice, which features grape-flavored Nerds reduction, Ecto Cooler topping, and coconut and cocoa ice cream bases—totally vegan and gluten-free. They’re also in the middle of doing a Squid Game Dalgona candy challenge (minus the murder). “You get the horror buffs on board, but you still want to appeal to your more general Halloween people, too,” Grant says.
Hannibal Lecter once said that “It is important to try new things,” as he fed Ray Liotta’s brain bits to a child. The tastemakers behind Bebe Zito clearly agree.