We all had our heads down, up to our necks in to do lists for the online holiday shopping season. Spending the morning working the phones with publishers big and small, to promote our brands, all of which ranged from apparel to sporting goods to gourmet foods, was causing a weird kind of delirium that sat somewhere between hunger and a desire to escape. Then this big orange box arrived, allowing our team to satisfy both of those esoteric needs.
It was Jeni’s ice cream – courtesy of one of those publishers with whom we had been working the phone. Getting ice cream in November may seem out of place. But once we dipped our spoons into the variety of flavors, such as brown butter almond brittle, sweet corn and black raspberries, brambleberry crisp, darkest chocolate and so on, the escape had begun and that hunger was unexpectedly satiated.
“Gourmet” ice cream is nothing new. In almost every city you’ll find hipster flavors (mean that in the nicest possible way of course) like balsamic something or other or cayenne this and that. Those bells and whistles have their place. But ice cream is one of those foods where flash and glitz is always outweighed by ingredient sourcing, flavor quality, craftsman-(or woman)ship and just a dash of innovation.
Founded in 2002 by Jeni Bauer (a James Beard winning cookbook author), the company was ahead of the trend by using whole ingredients and dairy from pasture raised cows. Add in that dash of inspired flavoring and you have one of the original artisans of modern ice cream (i.e. not your mama’s Breyer’s). Jeni’s breaks their flavor discovery down in four ways:
- Temperature- the temperature in your mouth dropping from approx. 100 degrees to near zero so fast that it puts your senses on alert.
- Flavor- The sweetness comes first, then the tartness, bitterness or saltiness (if that’s in your flavor). Jeni’s boast the most flavorful butterfat (from the cream) in the world, which is excellent for scent absorption, in one of the best ways humans can absorb it: through your mouth.
- Texture & Body- Jeni’s uses dense buttercream, which Jeni’s call American hard body, meant to melt as you consume. And while most ice cream makers have a generic cream mix, Jeni’s builds the texture so it melts a specific way on your tongue.
- Finish- How long does the ice cream linger on your palate? This is what distinguishes the provenance of the cream’s ingredients. Jeni’s milk proteins are flat out better than emulsifiers. The more complex and lasting the finish, the higher the quality of the ice cream.
Like all great brand discoveries, I’ve never forgotten Jeni’s since that day in 2010. I’ve bought some for myself, recommended it to friends, sent it as a gift. When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, ice cream (sometimes Stroh’s, sometimes from the ice cream man, always delicious) was typically associated with something special.
The fact that Jeni’s “gets it”, recognizing customer loyalty by sending us a complimentary 6-pint sample of their newest flavors this week is another reason to give them props. Jeni’s is the rare company that surprises you with their quality and unparalleled service, in other words, something special! And oh by the way, we haven’t forgotten that publisher either.
In addition to their online shop, Jeni’s has locations in Cleveland, Columbus, Nashville, Chicago, LA, St. Louis, Atlanta and Charleston.