Top Pick Of The Week

July 28, 2009

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Silver Moon Desserts

At Silver Moon Desserts, every flavor of ice cream and sorbet has real spirit. We mean:liquor or liqueur. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

WHAT IT IS: Some of the country’s finest artisan ice cream.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Made in small batches by dedicated ice cream artisans who want to deliver a memorable ice cream experience.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Very special flavors, very high quality and definitely worth sending for.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Sold locally and online. See individual reviews.

Best Ice Cream: We Scream For Jeni’s & Silver Moon

CAPSULE REPORT: July is National Ice Cream Month. We began the month with Ruby et Violette’s cookie dough ice creams; we’re ending it with two more all-stars: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio and Silver Moon Desserts in Los Gatos, California (Silicon Valley, south of San Francisco). Each is very distinctive and worth the treat of having it shipped to wherever you happen to be. Jeni’s focuses on local and organic seasonal ingredients, Silver Moon on liqueur-flavored ice cream and sorbet.

If sending away for ice cream sounds unusual to you, it’s no different than mail ordering Riviera pears from Harry & David in Oregon, chocolate from Larry Burdick in New Hampshire or USDA prime beef from Allen Brothers in Chicago. Sure, you can get a decent pear, box of chocolate or steak in your town, but when you want a special treat, get it from the best source possible.

So if you adore, luxuriate in, relish, revel in and savor ice cream as we do—or know someone who would rather get a gift of ice cream than, say, that box of pears or steak—read about two very special ice cream artisans—individuals or duos whose passion for the best ice cream led them to set up shop and make it themselves. Read the full review below.

THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.


Top Pick Ice Cream Toppers: Our Favorite Fudge & Caramel Sauces

Brownie Profiterole Cheesecake
Somebody’s Mother’s. We shouldn’t take sides, but this may be our favorite chocolate sauce—dark, milk and white versions. Smother us with Somebody’s Mother's—we’ll die happy. Robert Lambert Chocolate Sauces. This great food artisan is always cooking up something new in his line, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. Check out Robert Lambert. The King’s Cupboard. Chocolate and caramel sauces in regular and fancy flavors, plus an excellent sugar-free chocolate sauce. Certified kosher. Check out The King’s Cupboard.

Best Ice Cream: We Scream For Jeni’s & Silver Moon


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Introduction To Artisan Ice Cream

Artisan ice cream represents a tiny fraction of the premium ice cream market, made by small companies with an emphasis on craftsmanship and special flavors. It doesn’t aim to be the richest ice cream, impressing people who seek the most butterfat; in fact, extremely high butterfat content gets in the way of the fresh, delicate and complex flavors that artisans seek to deliver. Artisan ice cream is:

  • Made in small batches. Some people call this “handmade,” although unlike in the days before the invention of the ice cream machine (see the history of ice cream), no one is hand-whipping a bowl of sweetened, flavored cream, that has been set in ice to freeze it, with a whisk. Today, “handmade” refers to the craftsmanship of recipe development and the making of the custard on the stovetop, exercising close control on flavor and quality.

Strawberry Ice Cream
Pretty in pink. Photo courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

  • Made with the finest ingredients. Here, “quality ingredients” means “the best.” Artisan ice cream makers tend to focus on seasonal flavors, and twists on standard flavors (more about that in a moment). This means that, while there are house standards, at the end of each season—or even the end of a single month—exciting special flavors go bye-bye until next year.
  • Interpreted in imaginative flavors. Ice cream artisans are specialist pastry chefs. They seek to give customers twists on standard flavors—a more exciting pint than one could buy at a specialty food store. Beyond riffs on the basic chocolate and vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet, they seek to push the envelope a bit, while making flavors inspired by the season’s fruits, flowers and spices. Jeni’s makes Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Roasted Cherries, using the most sublime seasonal roasted cherries, and Sweet Roasted Corn Ice Cream With Blackberries. If these flavors sound too off the beaten path for you, one spoonful could turn them into your favorite flavor. Silver Moon Desserts makes Coffee With Brownie Bites ice cream, and a nice infusion of coffee liqueur. Praline Irish Cream is made with Irish cream liqueur.
  • Made with less sugar. The finest ice cream has a lower percentage of sugar, enabling you to taste the quality fruits, chocolate, real vanilla and other ingredients with which it is made. Less fine ice cream uses sugar to compensate for fruit that isn’t top quality at its seasonal ripest, lesser chocolate, vanilla extract instead of real vanilla beans, etc.

Can artisans go into mass production and still maintain standards? It can be done: Ciao Bella began as a tiny storefront in Manhattan’s Little Italy and managed to sell 5 million pints of gelato and sorbetto last year, in 2700 grocery outlets in all 50 states, Canada, Japan and the West Indies—plus thousands of gallons sold to fine restaurants. Obviously, these are not the exact artisan products made by the impassioned founder/glacier who stood over a stove, stirring the pot; but they are products that fine chefs aren’t above passing off as their own house-made!

—Karen Hochman

Continue To Page 2: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

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