Even ice cream is getting the farm-to-table treatment these days. While there is no shortage of highly processed, mass-produced junk out there, a fresh crop of ice cream artisans is going to extreme culinary lengths to stay seasonal when making their heavenly small-batch creations.
Now a household name in the region, Mitchell's Homemade has been the local pioneer of the artisan ice cream movement. As half of the brother-and-brother team, Mike Mitchell still is leading the charge.
"I am always thinking about seasonally fresh ingredients," he says. "I'm constantly talking to my farmers and growers and then find a good ice cream flavor that works well with it."
Mitchell's features a seasonal arsenal of 12 to 20 different flavors, with available selections changing every two weeks. Available now are flavors highlighting summer-sweet strawberries, fragrant lavender and beguiling coriander.
"We have sourced the most beautiful strawberries from Woolf Farms in East Rochester, Ohio," he notes. The fruit is utilized in both strawberry ice cream and the strawberry-rhubarb crisp. The rhubarb, by the way, is procured from an Amish farmer in Holmes County, while the wheat and oats are organically grown by Stutzman Farms.
The lavender is sourced from Mulberry Creek Organic Farms in Huron and is used in the lavender-honey ice cream. From the same farm comes the coriander, which inspired coriander flight sorbets, coming soon to a scoop shop near you. "We have orange, lime, grapefruit and cranberry," says Mitchell. "It just feels like summer."
Keith Logan, owner of Sweetie Fry in Cleveland Heights, loves using seasonally fresh fruit in his house-made ice creams. "Fresh is everything!" he exclaims, adding that his concept is all about fun, delicious and unexpected flavors.
Coming into season any day now is the sweet peach sorbet. "Peaches look beautiful in the grocery, but they are usually dry and have little flavor," he says. To get the best, Logan gets his peaches from Lorain County's Spiegelberg Orchard. "Peaches are a delicate fruit, so it pays to go to a local orchard."
Jessie Mason and girlfriend Helen Qin are the dynamic duo behind Mason's Creamery, a new Cleveland-based micro-creamery. Working out of a shared kitchen at the Cleveland Culinary Kitchen & Launch, the pair produces small batches of ice cream that they sell at area farmers markets and events like the Cleveland Flea.
The key to their early success, they say, is the insistence upon organic and local ingredients. "Fresh ingredients are very important to us," says Qin. "There are so many ingredients in foods that no one can pronounce. We don't want to contribute to the problem."
When asked, "What's fresh?" at Mason's, the answer is instant: cherries. The couple travels to Quarry Hills Orchards in Berlin Heights and hand picks 30 pounds of fresh fruit. Those cherries end up in cherry pie ice cream, which is churned along with a homemade graham cracker crust. They also offer a cherry moscato sorbet, made from moscato wine and cherries. "The alcohol in the wine makes for a smoother sorbet," says Qin.
These three great ice cream outfits represent only a small portion of the local ice cream movement. Visit Honey Hut, East Coast Custard, Sweet Moses and Handel's to taste summer-fresh flavors made from local ingredients. Make hitting them all part of your summer bucket list.