On a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio, a fellow food scientist and friend, Kirsten, took me and another food scientist friend, Teresa, to possibly the best ice cream I have ever had...at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, a local Columbus ice cream maker.
Jeni Britton Bauer worked at a patisserie for many years. She applies French pastry making techniques to American ice creams resulting in a culinary craftsmanship that I have never tasted in ice cream. She has learned from dairy scientists, chefs and gelato makers around the globe. Read a nice biography here.
What was so incredible about this ice cream? The flavors- hands down. Jeni's had the widest array of blissfully blended, carefully curated flavor creations (click on the photos for a closer look). I've had a lot of ice cream and usually there are one or two flavors that are outstanding or have unique pairing but Jeni's flavors were each created with many complex elements that came together in a delicious marriage in your mouth. Kirsten thinks Jeni has an amazing palate and after tasting, I am inclined to agree.
So how did we pick? Well another thing that I have fallen in love with at ice cream parlors is the ability to have many small tastes. My second favorite ice cream shop, Izzy's in St. Paul, Minnesota also does this by adding an "izzy" or small taste to the top of every cone. Jeni's offers 50/50s and trios. So of course, we ordered two trios and one 50/50 to sample eight flavors and everyone was willing to share.
Lauren's Trio- Cherry Lambic, Gravel Road and Goat Cheese with Cognac Fig Almond
Cherry Lambic Sorbet: This recently one a Gallo Family Gold Medal Award, which honors culinary craftsmanship in artisan foods and I could taste why. This light and foamy sorbet effervesces in your mouth. It is the older, more sophisticated culinary cousin of a cherry ICEE and it completely captured the flavor of Belgian Cherry Lambic. Absolutely delicious!! And one of my must-try recommendations.
Gravel Road: I admit that I am a bit salted caramel out. I have had it in confections and in many different ice creams and if not for Kirsten's recommendation and that fact that they were out of my other choice, I would have skipped it and missed out on an absolutely lovely iteration that takes salted caramel ice cream to new level. The large pieces of smoked almonds added a marvelous texture and noticeable flavor. They were neither small nor stale and frankly, it was outstanding.
Goat Cheese with Cognac Fig Almond: I love goat cheese. I've had fig goat's milk ice cream and fresh goat cheese with fig and I did love this ice cream version. The fig is not spread throughout so you do get a burst of fig flavor- possibly a little bit too intense in some bites if you aren't careful to spread it around. Nevertheless, it was delicious.
Kirsten's 50/50- Ugandan Vanilla, Ohio Heirloom Pumpkin & Mascarpone
Ohio Heirloom Pumpkin & Mascarpone: Yum. Yum, yum, yum! This was my second must-try. Not only does it have heirloom pumpkin, but also kabocha and other squashes as well. You could taste the delicate flavors that you can imagine could be in the best pumpkin/ squash pie ever- but I have never had that perfect sounding pie. Instead I had this amazing ice cream. As far as pumpkin ice cream, Double Rainbow Perfectly Pumpkin used to be my favorite but even it cannot compare to this. Dreyers/Edy's need not even apply.
Ugandan Vanilla: This was also very good but I must confess that I was seduced by the other more flavorful choices. I am not particularly a vanilla fan but this was very delicious.
Teresa's 50/50- Creme Fraiche with Amarena Cherries, Apple Cider Sorbet
Apple Cider Sorbet: This was a delightful fall sorbet with nutmeg and five spice complementing the apple cider. Again, it was almost effervescing in your mouth as the bright, crisp flavors danced on your tongue.
Creme Fraiche with Amarena Cherries: This creamy deliciousness had an amazing ribbon of cherries with barely a tease of lemon. These Italian candied cherries shamed the cones of cherries jubilee ice cream or maraschino cherries I have ever eaten. I didn't know cherries in ice cream could taste like this. Again, make sure every bite has this succulent swirl in it.
Wow. It's all I can say. I love ice cream and these were crafted in such a way that you could taste each of the flavors without overwhelming your palate. I loved the handwritten descriptions as well which explained the compositions. Perhaps I have had an ice cream like this before, in a fine restaurant... but there were 30 of these and I didn't have to pay for a 75 dollar meal to have it for dessert. The decor of the shop is pleasantly modern and like the ice cream, not overwhelmingly or plain in the least. The shop used compostable bowls and spoons as well- which was great!
One last thing that I didn't have room to try (besides all of the flavors) were these ice cream sandwiches based on French macaroons....next time!
I have to thank Kirsten for steering us away from the classic and more well-known Graeter's, to this hidden gem. Kirsten and I are dairy queens as we studied whey proteins together at UC Davis. Thanks, Kirsten!
And Teresa, thanks for being willing to go on this spontaneous ice cream adventure.
We all scream for Jeni's Ice Cream!