Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

I'd say I've been indulged in ice cream for most of my life, especially because of my childhood in Southern Connecticut. Having a lot of dairy farms and local creameries has made it extremely easy to get a scoop of something good at any given moment. So with that experience in mind, I'd consider myself a good judge of ice cream.

Of course, upon seeing the flavors at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, I had no doubt in my mind that I needed to try them. Blackstrap praline? Young Gouda with vodka and cranberries? Essential to my well-being. But the moral of this short story is, of course, to be careful what you wish for. Nine pints were whisked to my doorstep today and Keepitcoming and I spent an eventful evening tasting all the flavors.

I got the Foggy Mountain Collection, which seemed the most diverse, and three bonus pints of blackcurrant sorbet, Riesling poached pear sorbet, and dark chocolate peppermint ice cream. The Foggy Mountain Collection, comprised of Ohio-inspired flavors, consisted of six flavors: Blackstrap praline, young Gouda with vodka-plumped cranberries, Spicebush apple butter, sweet cream with Appalachian elderberries, sweet potato with torched marshmallows, and brown butter almond brittle.

The ice cream was delicious. Even the flavors we weren't really enthused about had the markings of high-quality, small batch ice cream. It was downright unctuous and creamy, with a rich, velvety texture. Good stuff.And then we had the flavors. Some were so good I gladly licked them off the countertop- the blackstrap praline was one of them, with a flavor identical to gooey, dark molasses with crunchy bits of pecan studded throughout. This is an ice cream you could eat for breakfast. This is an ice cream that begs for experimentation- with waffles. With toast. With bacon. Glistening, salty, crunchy strips of bacon with molasses ice cream- but I digress.
The Appalachian sweet cream and elderberry was a visually appealing, dizzying dish with nebulae of berries swirled around the sweet cream. I know it's often said that sweet cream is vanilla by another name, but this tastes just as sweet, if not better. It was wonderfully milky and sweet, cut by the jammy elberberries. It takes a lot to elevate something simple to a high level, and this was certainly achieved.

The Cinderella story of this selection was clearly the Spicebush apple butter. Expecting it to be identical to its pulpy inspiration, I wrote it off at first because I didn't think it tasted enough like apples to warrant notice. But upon further inspection, I came to realize that it really wasn't about the apples- the flavor lay in the spices. The ice cream itself had a ripened, cheesy flavor, but not in a bad way. It was mellow and made the perfect vessel for the spices, a blend of fresh peppercorns, cinnamon, and citrus fruits, a lemony flavor almost like a cheesecake base.

All of the other flavors were delicious, but didn't stir up as much enthusiasm like these- the sweet potato didn't really emulate the noble tuber outside of a somewhat generic blend of pumpkin pie spices, (though the chewy frozen marshmallows were a nice touch. Could have used more char, but I'm a fan of all things well-done and smoky.) the sorbets had a strange, frothy airiness to them more appropriately condoned to Valley girls, hair mousse, and Cool Whip than to sorbet, but were smoothly crystallized. The Riesling poached pear was deliciously identical to a ripe, juicy pear, but unfortunately lacked the Riesling note I so craved- and I'm a stickler for that. The brown butter almond brittle, like the others, clearly had the hallmarks of a high-craft ice cream, but was rather one-noted, and that note was marzipan. If you like that, you're in luck. If you're looking for more flavoral depth, go elsewhere.The last one that we tried was truly unique, and that was the young Gouda with vodka and cranberries. Again, lacking on the vodka, another note that I typically find easy to detect if present and prominent, but the Gouda was spot on, with a ripeness to the flavor and a bit of a tang, and the cranberries added a tasty sweetness to the overall flavor. If this was smokier, I'd have eaten the entire thing.

These are fantastic for gifts, food geeks, family members, or Christmas Eve parties/Christmas afterparties. And that's not even their entire range of flavors- for more, visit www.jenisicecreams.com and check them out. It's worth it if you've a discerning palate and an eye for the luxurious.
(Also, kudos for dry ice...lots of amusement for curious adults.)

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