Friday, June 11, 2010

review: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

One of the members of the organization that I work for sends our staff the most excellent foodpresent ever twice a year: several pints of ice cream from Jeni's, a company out of Columbus, Ohio (his hometown) that ships their treats throughout the US for those of us unlucky enough to be out of range of their Ohio shops or the few schmancy markets they sell pints through.*

With a focus on local, seasonal, whimsical, and responsibly-raised ingredients, Jeni's makes 15 signature (standard catalog) flavors and also has an ever rotating, ever dreamy line of seasonal flavors. Which are so seasonal that in the past week that it's taken me to pull this post together, one has vanished from their sales list and the other is going to be switched out this Friday. So if those seasonal flavors interest you, consider ordering nowish! Some of Jeni's flavors seem more like experiments in oddity than earnest desserts, but I've never, ever had one that I regretted trying -- or one that I didn't go back for a second helping of.

Seasonal flavors, available for a limited time:

Savannah Buttermint is so creamily rich that it's more like a custard than an ice cream. But the sharp, perfect mint makes it refreshing and light on the tongue. Tiny flecks of frozen white chocolate provide that bit of crunch that I love in mint ice cream. For me, having liked mint chocolate chip best when I was a kid, this one is comforting, homey -- like iced tea sipped under fans on the front porch. I'd want to serve this one plain, in little glass ice cream dishes with sprigs of fresh-picked mint topping each perfect scoop. This one is possibly only available through today, 6/11/10, so make the ordering happen if you need to try it!

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt is as tart as a sorbet -- so tart that the creaminess doesn't even register as anything except smooth. The small, dense, near-gummilike blueberries provide a sweet respite from the lemon. I'll be craving this one the next time I'm hot. I feel like anything sweet it was paired with would be overpowered by the tartness, but I might try a bit with something simple like angel food cake, pound cake, or shortbread.

Rhubarb Rosé carries a whiff of booze up front and a full-mouthed winey funk at the back, sandwiching a bite of sweet cream & tangy rhubarb. Tiny bits of frozen rhubarb provide occasional, near-crunchy texture. The total effect is relatively mild and subtle -- I'm pretty sure this flavor could pass for strawberry if you weren't paying much attention. Probably best eaten on its own as so to appreciate the flavors -- unless you were going to serve it over a rhubarb crumble or pie. It's not one of my favorite flavors, but it'd be lovely as the finish to a summer back-porch picnic. Erm, next year... this flavor has disappeared already!

Standard catalog flavors, available year-round:

Salty Caramel tastes simply like the perfect bite of rich, roasty, lightly salted caramel -- just in colder, melty-er, creamier form. Though it's too plain for me on its own, a scoop of it would make a warm, chewy brownie (or a thick pour of hot fudge) pretty much the best thing ever.

Mackenzie Creamery Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries is sophisticated with its deep twinge of savory goaty flavor -- like cherry cheesecake all grown up. The cherries are dense and chewy, bright and tart. This one feels like a cheese course in a pint, or like something you'd find at a gastropub. I'd serve this on its own, or possibly in a glass of Guinness as a float.

Thai Chili (newly renamed Bangkok Peanut) is a divisive flavor -- though roasty peanut & fruity coconut are definitely dessertlike, their combination with the sharp chili heat that hits way at the back of each bite of this ice cream is so unusual for a sweet that it's either loved or hated. I love it. If you can forgive that it replicates Thai entrée sauces a little too closely, you'll love the custardy creaminess and fine texture from bits of coconut, too, and might become just a little addicted to cooling the tongue-burning aftertaste of this ice cream with another spoonful in a vicious delicious circle.

[I've tried a bunch of their other flavors in the past, but wanted to report only on what I've had recently -- if you're particularly curious about anything, just ask!]

A note about ordering: These ice creams aren't cheap, and shipping ice cream near midsummer is similarly not inexpensive. Prices start at $48 for your choice of 4 flavors, and shipping starts at $10 on top of that. (That works out to $14.50 per pint, assuming you're not in a more expensive shipping area. Cheaper-in-the-long-run options include $68 for your choice of 6 flavors plus shipping [$13 per pint] or $85 for 9 set flavors [$10.55 per pint].) So, this stuff is kind of a crazy treat. But crazy-wonderful.

* I almost forgot to mention! Here in Atlanta, Star Provisions is supposedly selling several of Jeni's standard-catalog flavors now -- if you go and look, let me know what you find!


Ryan said...

"I almost forgot to mention! Here in Atlanta, Star Provisions is supposedly selling several of Jeni's standard-catalog flavors now..."


the grammar monkey said...

Hurrah! Thanks for the confirmation!

Tim the cheese man said...

Our Jeni's selection at Star rotates regularly. I allow Jeni to select the flavors that we have in stock. So what ever is best at the moment is what I have in stock.

the grammar monkey said...

That's completely exciting... that means that y'all have some of the limited edition flavors sometimes, yes? 'Cause if you've got some of their Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries in stock, I might need to come in this weekend.

And hey, thanks for commenting, Tim! I love your work at Star Provisions.