Summertime, and the sweet treats are freezing
Ever meet a person who doesn’t like ice cream? Me, neither. Ice cream is a great uniter of people. All religions, creeds, races, nationalities and ages agree … we are happy to indulge in a scoop, whether it be gelato, soy-based, frozen custard or the old-style creamy stuff.
Movie-makers would have us believe that every woman, when disappointed in love, turns to a tub of Häagen-Dazs for comfort. And who can forget (those of us who are old enough) the spectacle of comedian Eddie Murphy impersonating the spoiled kid whose ice cream fell onto the dirty ground?
As author Jim Fiebig puts it: “Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”
We took an informal survey of our staff (and a few other Milwaukeeans) wanting to know their favorite parlors, creameries, pints and flavors. With warmer months finally here, let’s celebrate our luck… someone invented ice cream.
When you live in Milwaukee, pretty much anything you need is on your doorstep. Unless what you need is fresh ice cream from a creamery made with all-natural organic ingredients from cows with names like Blossom. For that, you need to become a daytripper.
Blossom and her mom, Marlie, can be found at Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus, a short drive outside of Madison. You may have seen Sassy Cow milk in the cooler at the co-op, with its cheerful red tags, but these dairy farmers also produce ice cream, which they serve in their store. All Sassy Cow products are made with rBGH-free milk, and their cows are well-loved and cared for. Just ask Blossom. The ice cream comes in many flavors, including the intriguing Purple Cow. Find out more at www.sassycowcreamery.com or sign up for an Outpost-Sassy Cow field trip and come and see for yourself.
If it’s organic you’re looking for, it doesn’t get more natural than Sibby’s. Produced at the creamery on a Viroqua farm, Sibby’s Homestead Organic Ice Cream is made with only five ingredients and served up soft-serve in the Ozone Ice Cream Parlor in the public market on Main Street. To date, Sibby’s comes in just two flavors, chocolate and vanilla, but owner Suzanne “Sibby” Sebion hasn’t ruled out the option of more flavors and wider horizons. Forbes Traveler magazine recently stopped by and gave enthusiastic reviews, declaring Sibby’s “one of America’s best ice creams.”
A little closer to home, at the end of the railway line in East Troy, is J. Lauber’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. This is a place to come when you’re feeling nostalgic. With staff dressed in old-style soda jerk costumes, and penny-candy on the shelves, it’s a daytrip back in time. As one Outposter said: “We come here whenever we are in the area, and sometimes make a special trip from Milwaukee just for the ice cream. They have great old-fashioned sundaes like the tin roof, turtle, and grasshopper as well as old fashioned sodas.”
When commercial freezers for frozen custard became readily available, many families in the 1930s and 1940s started their own custard businesses. Some of them remain today, bearing the family name and enjoying status in their respective communities as local legends.
In Milwaukee, we have Leon’s Frozen Custard on 27th and Oklahoma; family-owned since 1942 and considered a landmark. Winner of Milwaukee Magazine’s “Best Of” award many times over, Leon’s claims to be the home of the world’s finest frozen custard. Daily offerings are vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan, with a fourth flavor showcased on weekends.
In May 1972, The Chocolate Factory opened its doors in Cedarburg. With the business design drawn on the back of a napkin, and the first menus hand-printed, its beginnings were not grand. But owners Mike Toffler and Peter Blommer now have seven locations in the area.
Toffler seems to enjoy his work, and who can blame him? “I see people coming up to the counter and they’re happy,” he says. “It’s not like they’re going to the bank!”
During the presidential campaign of 2008, Toffler felt lucky that the Republican tour bus pulled over in Cedarburg and the candidates stopped at his place for lunch. With a chuckle, he recounts how Cindy McCain insisted that her husband opt for the lower-fat sherbet, while vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin chose Moose Tracks; an appropriate choice for the governor of Alaska.
For the rest of us, The Chocolate Factory offers up to 26 flavors, and is road-testing a soy-based option.
New kid on the block
Many westside parents have been dragged by drooling children into the Baskin Robbins parlor for a sugar and cream fix, and I haven’t noticed any of them complaining. But now there is a slightly more elegant, grown-up option in the area. Cold Spoons Gelato graces Vliet St. with contemporary orange awnings and cool customers (literally) savoring scoops on sidewalk benches. Across the street from the restaurant scene’s relative newcomer, Meritage, this gelato parlor is a welcome addition to the Washington Heights neighborhood. Owners Sandy Murphy and Brett Swider make 25 flavors on site, including a soy-based vegan option.
Bay View’s capitol idea
If you live in this south side neighborhood, you’re in luck. Babe’s Ice Cream and Desserts on KK gets its pints and quarts from The Chocolate Shoppe in Madison and one Outpost staffer told me it’s Good! – with a capital G.
It certainly wins the vote in Madison. In 1962, Chuck and Nancy Deadman opened their Chocolate Candy and Ice Cream store, with 19 flavors of homemade good stuff. The ice cream became a Madison staple, popular with customers and restaurants alike, and the store eventually switched focus and became Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream.
Today, Chuck Jr. and brother Dave now run the business, which includes three retail stores in Madison and a manufacturing plant where they make a whopping 110 flavors.
Want some of the good stuff to take home? We can help with that. Outpost stores are outposts (naturally) for Castle Rock Creamery in Osseo, near Eau Claire. Castle Rock ice cream is organic, made with natural ingredients and we think it rocks.
A fifth-generation, sustainable, certified organic farm, Castle Rock blends organic cream, milk and other natural ingredients to make their quarts and half gallons, and they’re proud to say their contented cows lead relaxing lives, grazing on green pastures. The cows are not given hormones or antibiotics. If a cow gets sick, Castle Rock farmers say they treat her with homeopathic methods.
An age old recipe yields sweet cream, vanilla and molasses chocolate chip, with more flavors in the planning stage.
Obviously, Milwaukeeans have no shortage of places to go for a cone of ice cream, a scoop of custard, or a spoonful of gelato, and we could not have mentioned them all here. But these are the ones that received a nod from the foodies on our staff, and we’re delighted to have spent a moment just pondering the goodness of it all.
What’s your poison?
We asked a few well-known Milwaukeeans to name their favorite ice cream flavor and were delighted to receive responses from some very busy people. It seems there’s always time for ice cream.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
: Mint chocolate chip
Journal Sentinel Editor Marty Kaiser: Coffee
Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn: Dark chocolate (apparently difficult to find)
American Idol contestant Danny Gokey : Butter pecan
Pat McCurdy (musician): Mint chocolate chip
Paul Cebar (musician) : Cinnamon (Leon’s), Mango (Maharaja), Green tea (Nanakusa)