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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gourmet Ice Creams: A New Breed

If somebody asked me to list my favorite dessert items, ice cream probably wouldn’t make it into the top five.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good ice cream as much as the next person, particularly when presented as a counterpoint to a dense chocolate cake or other rich dessert.   It’s just that I wouldn’t go out of my way to order ice cream in a restaurant, or to buy it from a store.   But could this be simply because I haven’t had the right ice cream yet?

This month’s issue of Food & Wine Magazine includes a short note about three ice cream producers that immediately caught even my attention.   These companies are changing the very definition of gourmet ice cream, offering flavors – and charging prices for them – that make Haagen-Dazs seem like the Good Humor company of my youth.   Because the magazine description was very cursory, I felt compelled to do some further investigation of my own.

The first company is from right here in the Bay Area, Petaluma to be precise.   Laloo’s was founded less than a year ago by a former Hollywood executive, with the goal of creating "a creamy, indulgent ice cream using high quality ingredients."   All of the company’s offerings are made with goat’s milk, which is said to have lower fat and lower lactose levels than its bovine counterpart and which, according to Food & Wine, gives the ice cream a "pleasantly tangy" flavor.   Laloo’s ice creams are available in several flavors, including Vanilla Snowflake, Black Mission Fig, Deep Chocolate (made with Scharffenberger cacao), Strawberry Darling (strawberry with a balsamic vinegar swirl), Molasses Tipsycake (molasses with oatmeal cookie), Chevre Chiffon, Pumpkin Spice, and Chocolate Cabernet.

Laloo’s sells its products in a variety of stores around the Bay Area, as well as online.   Now, for the price: a pint of Laloo’s ice cream will cost you $8 plus shipping, with a 4-pint minimum for online/mail orders.   That translates into $32 per half gallon, or $64 per gallon pre-shipping – obviously, not for the light walleted.   Laloo’s hands out samples from time to time at locations around the Bay Area, and its website even includes a calendar of such events.
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There's more...
If you feel that Laloo’s is far too cheap for your lavish lifestyle, however, fear not; the other two companies mentioned in Food & Wine charge even more.   First up is Capogiro Gelato Artisans, a company founded by a husband and wife team in late 2002 after returning from a trip to Italy.   Located in Philadelphia, Capogiro uses only “local hand-picked produce and milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows” to produce seasonally-dictated gelatos and sorbettos “in small batches each morning.”   The company apparently offers over 250 distinct flavors to restaurants in the Northeast, and it sells over 100 different varieties in certain gourmet grocery stores – the precise selection changing with the seasons.   Some of Capogiro’s more unusual and interesting flavors include Blueberry Thyme, Orange Cardamom, Burnt Sugar, Mexican Chocolate (with ancho chile and chipotle powder), Rosemary Honey Goat Milk, Lime Cilantro, Strawberry Tarragon, Ginger Sesame Brittle, and Lemon Opal Basil.

Capogiro products are carried in certain Whole Foods stores on the East Coast, but the company also distributes them directly online.   Orders must be placed in six-pint increments, and the company has a number of “packages” pre-assembled in which the six selections are variations on a theme (e.g., Nuts, Chocolate, Tropical, Herbs & Spices, etc.).   A single six-pint order of gelatos or sorbettos will cost you an incredible $60, and shipping charges can add another $55.   That translates into $77 per half gallon, or $154 per gallon!

The final producer is Ecreamery - an Illinois-based company that traces its origins to a Chicago storefront opened in 2000, but which is now a subsidiary of a larger corporation with 20 years of experience in the ice cream industry.   One of Ecreamery’s major points of novelty is that it provides consumers an opportunity to custom-design their own ice cream flavors.   The customer begins by specifying the creaminess of the base mix to be used, selecting from 8% milk fat, Italian-style gelato base, “gourmet” 12% milk fat, or “super creamy” 14% milk fat.
Up to two flavors selected from Ecreamery’s rather extensive list are then blended into the cream, and one or more “toppings” (such as fruit or nuts) can be folded in at the end.   Some of the more atypical flavor choices offered include: Anise, Cardamom, Cantaloupe, Chocolate Merlot, Clove, Cola, Cucumber, Durian, Hot Pepper, Maiz, Ube (purple yam), and Avocado.   The company also sells some pre-fabricated flavors, including Avocado Coconut, Cucumber Dill Weed, Queso (cheddar cheese and vanilla), and Hot ‘n’ Sour.

It’s not clear whether Ecreamery distributes its pre-fabricated flavors through any retailers, but the company certainly sells all of its ice cream online.   Each order is made in a one-gallon batch, and a custom-designed one-flavor ice cream will cost you $80 before shipping.   If you opt for a second flavor to be mixed in, that will set you back an additional $10; each topping you select will add $5 more.   With express shipping charges running as high as $59, the grand total for a two-flavor, two-topping gallon of ice cream can easily reach $160!

So, in the end, is any of this ice cream really so delicious that one could justify spending more on a single gallon than some people spend for an entire grocery shopping trip?   I don’t know.   The one thing that's clear, however, is that these three companies believe there’s a market for such super premium ice creams, and that consumers will be willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money on their products.   Only time will tell whether they are right.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow thats pretty cool, but really expensive. I doubt i would buy any of it, but i bet it tastes really good!

October 02, 2006 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good information. Interesting what you say about Capogiro - I just got back from Italy, so I understand their enthusiasm about gelato. Unbelievable. The Ecreamery site was strange for me - I mean, it's obvious they've put a lot of work into the site and the ice cream; I just find it hard to perceive any serious activity level on the site. Another company that I tried recently, sort of like Ecreamery, is Morgan Hill Creamery (www.morganhillcreamery.com). Apparently, they are just south of San Jose, but I bought their ice cream online. I don't like their website, but if you're looking for gourmet ice cream (which is the topic of this blog), then you will surprise yourself and any guests with this stuff (try the Almond Joy or Bananas Foster!.

July 22, 2008 3:26 PM  

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