Nothing is as delightful on a hot summer day as an ice-cream cone.
Ice cream is an all-around favorite; people of every age group, ethnicity, upbringing and financial background love it.
If you make it yourself, the big payoff for your time is fresh peach, vanilla bean supreme, and a summer full of mint chocolate chip.
All ice cream is a simple indulgence, but good ice cream — whether you make it yourself or buy it — is noteworthy.
“I remember the first time I tasted Carlo's gelato at the Stowe Coffee House and said, ‘Now this is something. We gotta do something with this,'” reminisces Michael Lesser, owner of Leonardo's Gelato. “When I finally started selling it in Waitsfield, people would just taste it and say, ‘Wow.' That's the best compliment we ever get — when someone just says, wow.”
Ice cream is no more than milk, cream, sugar and eggs. With all of the flavor enhancements available, it's amazing that vanilla is still the most popular flavor in the U.S. (according to the International Dairy Foods Association) and our fascination with the product seems to increase year after year.
In 2010, the U.S. ice cream industry produced revenues of $10 billion and in 2011 made 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and other delicious frozen deserts (again, according to the association).
When it comes to creating the flavors you love, Vermont's Island Ice Cream has a rule. “Patty and I will not make an ice cream that we personally do not like,” explains owner Gary Sundberg.
For their inspiration, they look to local chefs and what the seasons call for. “They tell us what desserts they are working on, and we try to pair it with an ice cream,” Sundberg says. “When the Farmhouse Restaurant in Burlington asked for a pairing for their pecan pie, we came up with Maker's Mark Bourbon ice cream, and we make a Linzer Torte ice cream for Trapp Family Lodge to complement its famous dessert.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Americans consumed 127.81 million pounds of ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt in May alone.
But what makes good ice cream? What separates the superior from the average?
Your brain's expectations need to be met or exceeded when those flavors hit your taste receptors. When your brain hears “Double Fudge Brownie,” it has an idea what it's going to get and expects a balance of sweetness, richness and salt. If the ice cream has that perfect balance, you're going to remember it as a cut above the others.
We've had an ice-cream maker since before our kids were born; it's a little red Kitchen Aid held together with duct tape. After 12 years, its initial price tag of $35 has more than paid itself off.
We do go to the store and buy ice cream, and we still love to stop by our local ice-cream shop for a cone, but when we've got the time and the patience, it's fun to work together to come up with the perfect summer treat.
Last week, we spent an hour making a double batch of base, spun four flavors over a couple of days, and ate ice cream on the porch every day. It was picture-perfect, it was fun, and it was worth every bite.
Sean Buchanan is a chef and advocate for local growers, producers and small businesses that focus on building Vermont's agricultural community through its local food system. Comment on this article on stowereporter.com , or email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Sean's Ice Cream Base Recipe
2 cups heavy cream