EatDrinkShopCook: Screaming for small-batch ice cream
It's been a few years since the fro-yo craze hit, and it's still going strong.
Drive by Fairfield's Pinkberry or Westport's Top This and you're chances are likely that you'll see a line of people of all ages waiting to get their frozen yogurt fix. Ben & Jerry's and Gofer, once popular stops for people looking for a frozen treat, both closed when yogurt came into popularity. With lower calories and fat and a range of flavors from tart to sweet, yogurt stole the spotlight from the once-popular decadent ice cream parlors.
But that doesn't mean that ice cream has disappeared. In fact, check your local specialty grocery store and chances are you'll find an array of rich, upscale ice creams made with the good stuff -- pure cream and sugar with exotic flavors and add-ins.
Whole Foods has three freezers full of small-batch ice creams available by the pint and quart, and at the Fairfield store, scoops of Rhode Island-made Cold Fusion Gelato is also sold in flavors like candied ginger, chocolate chili, lemon poppyseed and cake batter.
The Pantry in Fairfield makes its own line of ice cream in traditional flavors like vanilla and mint-chocolate chip, as well as fruit sorbets, sold by the pint.
One area ice cream company is celebrating 20 years in the business. Longford's Own-Made Ice Cream started off as a small ice cream parlor in Port Chester, N.Y. Today, they have retail stores in Old Greenwich and several sites in Westchester County, N.Y., but the bulk of its business is for country clubs, specialty markets and cafes. (If you've ever had the ice cream at any of the Barcelona restaurants around the region, you've had Longford's ice cream.)
To this day, all of the additions to Longford's ice cream are added by hand. That means that the Oreos and Girl Scout cookies, M&Ms and candy bar pieces are all stirred in with a giant spatula. "The blades [on the machines] will break up the inclusions," explained owner Patricia West. Longford's most labor-intensive flavor is Chocolate Cherry Avalanche, explained her husband and co-owner Nolan West. "The ice cream has chocolate candy, cherry sauce and chocolate cookies," he said. "It's the hardest to make because it takes three people," he said.
Because the Wests custom-make ice cream for local food establishments, they are willing and able to make all sorts of exotic flavors. In the past they've made chocolate jalapeno, maple bacon pecan, saffron, lemongrass, tomato bail, lavender and even olive oil. One of the craziest flavors Nolan had to make was a cilantro sorbet. "The chef gave me a big plastic tub filled with 40 pounds of cilantro juice," he said. "I'd rather eat Army socks."
Longford's produces about 100,000 gallons of ice cream a year, which is what some commercial factories produce in one day. But it's the small-batch process that allows the business to use fresh, local, quality ingredients, said Patricia.
More InformationTHE SCOOP For top-of-the-line ice cream, check out these stores and scoop shops: • WHOLE FOODS 350 Grasmere Ave., Fairfield / 203-319-9544 399 Post Road West, Westport / 203-227-6858 • THE PANTRY 1580 Post Road, Fairfield / 203-259-0400 • LONGFORD'S 146 Sound Beach Ave., Old Greenwich / 203-637-0480 151 Wilkins Ave., Port Chester, N.Y. / 914-935-9469
When asked which is better, ice cream in a cone or a cup, she had a definite answer with science behind it. "Cones are the best because they hit the sweet receptors on the tongue," she said. "When you eat with a spoon, the ice cream goes to the back of your tongue and you miss out on the intense sweetness."
Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For top-of-the-line ice cream, check out these stores and scoop shops:
- WHOLE FOODS
350 Grasmere Ave., Fairfield / 203-319-9544
399 Post Road West, Westport / 203-227-6858
- THE PANTRY
1580 Post Road, Fairfield / 203-259-0400
146 Sound Beach Ave., Old Greenwich / 203-637-0480
151 Wilkins Ave., Port Chester, N.Y. / 914-935-9469