In addition to my chocolate problem, I have a concerted weakness for ice cream. I lamented the closure of Herrell’s in Harvard Square, a staple of my college days. However, I now have reason to rejoice in the arrival of Jeni’s ice cream in our store.
Before it actually hit our shelves, Jeni’s sent several pints of their frozen magic which we opened up in the kitchen and which staff (liberally!) sampled. As Liddabit’s chocolate bar, The Snacker, made me revisit and rethink my aversion to peanuts in my sweets, Jeni’s ice cream surprised me with the addictiveness of its non-chocolatey flavors. Chocolate (or something with chocolate chunks in it) tends to be my go-to ice cream flavor. With Jeni’s, however, it’s not quite so simple. If there were a fairytale written about ice cream, or if Edmund had been seduced by ice cream instead of Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or if Willy Wonka had made ice cream, I could easily imagine them using the flavors that Jeni’s has so imaginatively and deliciously concocted!
True to form, their chocolate ice cream was a big hit. However, the surprise for me (and overall winner) was the Riesling Poached Pear sorbet. In our 2009 Staff Survey, a fellow staff member described Muccichini’s Pere Confettura as “better than most pears.” When I put a spoonful of Jeni’s Pears sorbet in my mouth, I could have used exactly those words.
When we first floated the idea on Twitter and Facebook of bringing Jeni’s into the shop, we were amazed and overwhelmed at the response. It turns out that there are a lot of Jeni’s fans living in Boston! The other day, I went to get my haircut and, at the salon, I ended up in conversation with one such fan. It transpired that this gentleman’s girlfriend was from Ohio and whenever they went to visit her folks, they would drive one hour out of their way to go get Jeni’s. He told me he had been one of the Twitter followers who had thrilled at the news that Jeni’s was coming to our shop and he and his girlfriend were planning a toot to Cambridge just to pick some up.
So, who is Jeni and what is the story behind her ice cream? Jeni is in fact Jeni Britton Bauer, a resident of the state of Ohio and a pastry chef by training. While working in a French patisserie, she gradually developed the idea of focusing on ice cream, making American-style ice creams with an emphasis on the flavor of the ingredients rather than on sweetness. With her husband, Charly Bauer, Jeni founded her company in 2002. One year later, Charly’s brother, Tom, became a partner in the business. The company, based in Columbus, Ohio, remains family owned and operated with a small team of employees that handcrafts and supervises each batch.
What makes Jeni’s so special? As much as possible, Jeni’s uses Ohio raised produce to make their ice creams. When they source from abroad, they use responsibly-raised ingredients. During the summertime, trips to the Saturday market yield flats of fresh strawberries, crates of cucumbers and bushels of melons. Locally raised mint is washed and chopped by staff members before being steeped in cream.
All of Jeni’s ice cream is made with Ohio dairy from pasture-raised cows. More specifically, their milk and cream is sourced from Warren and Victoria Taylor’s Snowville Creamery, based on Bill Dix and Stacy Hall’s farm. The farm is sustainably managed and the cows graze in pastures, making the trek to the milking barn twice a day. The herd is a mixture of several breeds: Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Friesian and Jersey. Snowville milk is un-homogenized and they pasteurize the milk at the lowest possible temperature in order to retain as much sweet, clean flavor as possible. In 2003, Stacy and Bill won the 2003 Meigs Country Conservation Farmers of the Year award.
The Jeni’s flavors arriving today are: Black Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Riesling Poached Pear, Meyer Lemon Yogurt, Mango Lassi, Savannah Buttermint, Gravel Road and Brown Butter Brittle.