Thursday, August 12, 2010

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

Anytime I mention the yellow ice cream truck, aka Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, people sigh deeply and say, "I love their ice cream...its sooooo good."  I think they even close their eyes while they talk about it.  I can't help it, but I roll my eyes.  One of the yellow trucks is a few blocks away from my office, so I have stopped by twice.  I will admit the truck is super cute.  It is a pale yellow that is soft and sweet, and the illustrations on the side of the truck always makes me slow down and ponder whether I should get a scoop.  On my first visit, I chose strawberry ice cream.  It was the middle of June - strawberry season, and I had very high hopes.  The most obvious problem I had with the ice cream was that there were no chunks of strawberries - it was all one smooth, light pink scoop.  WHAT?  Hello - show case your seasonal ingredients!  The other issue was that it just wasn't creamy enough.  The ice cream had a an icy and grainy texture, which surprises me because on their website they state the finished product contains 18 percent butterfat and 30 percent overrun, which is typical to premium standards according to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking.  Overall, the strawberry ice cream had a nice, natural flavor, but I still walked back to work disappointed.
After I explained my first experience to friends, they were in shock.  Perhaps, I had chosen the wrong flavor?  In my opinion, there shouldn't be a wrong flavor, if there is - don't put it on the menu.  So a few weeks ago I went back in hope for the little yellow truck to redeem itself.  This time I chose an Earl Grey ice cream cone.  Okay, I know this is an untraditional flavor, but I wasn't interested in the hazelnut ice cream that everyone raves about.  The flavor was light, subtle, and quietly complex with hints of orange mixed with the tea.  Unfortunately, I still could not get past the icy texture.  This ice cream was even worse than the first.  There were actual small chunks of ice in every bite! 
Small strawberry ice cream cone - $3.95
So now that I have talked trash about Van Leeuwen's, I will give them props for using hormone-free milk and cream from farmers in Lewis County, New York.  Their disposable goods are 100 percent renewable too!  They use Bagasse, a fiber made from sugar cane husks for their cups and napkins, and they use corn husk for their drinking cups, spoons, and straws.  And on top of that, 1 percent of their profits go to Wildlife Direct, to protect the endangered Mountain Gorilla.  

So if you are in New York, I recommend going to the little yellow truck on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue and paying $3.95 for a small cone (which is actually quite big) and decide for yourself.  Get the hazelnut or coffee ice cream, but I would actually recommend just making your own.  Van Leeuwen's has nothing on David Lebovitz!

1 comment:

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