Cold Ice Cream From a Hot-Selling 'Toy'

Times Staff Writer

When I first saw the Donvier ice cream maker at the San Francisco gourmet products show this spring, I was reminded of my daughter's little ice cream toy present that she received on her sixth birthday, many years back. Like the plastic toy, the new Donvier, which exhibits a multicolored 1950s "retro" appearance in its plastic exterior, has an inner tub that is first placed in the freezer to chill before mixing in the ice cream mixture.

How could a simple toylike gadget like this, which has been stirring a lot of excitement in the stores, become a best seller? How did it become a hit at the gourmet products show, despite the fact that its small booth was hidden in an inconspicuous distant corner?

Hot enough to freeze the competition--high tech and expensive imports--this portable ice cream maker requires no ice, no salt and no electricity and is inexpensive. The key to Donvier's workable principle is the pot, which gets the cold treatment.

Non-Toxic Refrigerant

Made of aluminum, the pot contains in its walls a non-toxic refrigerant called Chillfast, which is manufactured in Japan. The pot is placed in the freezer overnight so that it becomes cold enough to freeze any liquids that come in contact with it. (Quick freezing may be achieved by burying the pot in dry ice packages for at least an hour before making the ice cream.)

The uncomplicated operation goes like this: Place the frozen pot into the plastic tub case and pour in the mixed ingredients. (It helps to have a cold mixture.) Place the plastic propeller inside the liner and cover with the see-through lid. Attach the handle and slowly rotate it about five times. After that, all that's required is a few occasional handle turns, and in about 20 minutes, the ice cream is ready.

Smooth Frozen Texture

Don't expect an overrun or increase in volume since there has not been much churning or whipping involved. But you'll be delighted at the smooth frozen texture of all sorts of homemade ice cream concoctions, from basic vanillas and chocolates to custard ice creams, gelatos and tartufos. Even a simple fruit juice, we found, could be transformed into a more interesting slush. It doesn't take long to make icy Margaritas and daiquiris as well as frozen yogurts, fresh fruit sorbets and sherbets. Extra pint-size Chillfast containers may also be purchased so that the consumer may store one flavor while preparing another.

To help you start out, Donvier offers a small recipe booklet that contains ideas for frozen treats. Also listed in the book is a toll-free number that encourages consumers to call for questions or an exchange of ideas.

The Donvier ice cream maker from Nikkal Industries, Ltd., New York, is available at Williams Sonoma and major department stores such as the Broadway, Bullock's, Buffums, May Co. and Robinson's. The suggested retail price is $29.95 for the pint size and $39.95 for the quart size.

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