Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jeni's Spendid Ice Creams' Macaroons

Anyone who knows me knows I love Jeni's Spendid Ice Creams from Columbus, Ohio.  Some have even called me "fanatical" to my face.  Thus, it is only fitting that I devote some blog space to my beloved Jeni's.

Growing up, I have always loved ice cream, but I had the fortune of living in Columbus when Jeni Britton Bauer opened her first Jeni's shop inside the North Market in 2002.  I forget now how I came to discover this little gem, but I was immediately drawn to its unique and daring flavors.  Some of my favorites include the Thai Chili (now known as Bangkok Peanut), with peanut butter, honey, toasted coconut, and cayenne pepper; the Salty Caramel (need I say more?) and Coco Curry Cocoa (since discontinued), which was a chocolate-based ice cream with curry and coconut.  Where else can you get flavors like that??  Another thing I love about Jeni's is that a number of its flavors rotate based on the season.  Some of my summer favorites include Backyard Mint and Sweet Corn with Black Raspberries, while every winter I stock up on Dark Chocolate Peppermint.  Jeni is also constantly creating new flavors - like the relatively newer additions Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate, Brambleberry Crisp, and Brown Butter Almond Brittle that I've become hooked on - so there is never a lack of novelty.

Thanks to Jeni's, I have become a true ice cream snob.  I scoff at other brands of ice cream.  Ben & Jerry and Haagen Daaz are a waste of money and calories in my opinion.  Though I'm always open-minded and willing to try "local favorites" that people have recommended - like Gifford's and Moorenko's in DC and Dave & Andy's and Oh Yeah in Pittsburgh - I have never been satisfied.

So what is it about Jeni's that warrants its spot on Bon Appetit magazine's list of Top 10 ice cream in the country?  In addition to its creative flavors, Jeni's ice cream is very creamy - creamier than other brands.  I have begun to notice that other ice cream brands are just too watery or too soft.  Also, equally important is the fact that Jeni's uses fresh and natural ingredients.  The cream comes in its freshest form straight from Snowville Creamery, a farm located just two hours away.  Many other seasonal ingredients are also sourced locally.  The ingredients list contains nothing you can't pronounce so the ice cream tastes exactly how it should taste.  Pistachio and Honey tastes like real pistachios and honey, and Backyard Mint tastes like fresh mint from the farmer's market - and no icky green food coloring either.

When you combine high quality ingredients and exotic flavors in pleasantly surprising combinations, you have a winning concept that has gone from one little stand inside the North Market to (as of this writing) eight additional shops in Ohio and one just about to open next week in Nashville, Tennessee, in just a few short years.  In addition, in the past couple of years Jeni's has begun to partner with local businesses spanning 31 states across the country to sell pints of their goodies.  In Pittsburgh, you can find pints of Jeni's at Whole Foods in East Liberty and McGinnis Sisters in Adams Township (that location only), though I'm still holding out hope that Jeni's might someday decide to open up a standalone shop in Pittsburgh.  Nothing beats being able to sample the different flavors and having many more options than what Whole Foods and McGinnis Sisters happen to stock.  This is why I still order most of my Jeni's ice cream online and have it shipped to my door, packed in dry ice.

One Jeni's product you can't get at one of their retail partners is their macaroon ice cream sandwiches: Jeni's ice cream sandwiched between two soft, chewy, and flavorful almond-based macaroon cookies.  For the longest time, you could only get these macaroons at Jeni's shops in Columbus.  I remember once calling the shipping department and asking Tom Bauer (Jeni's brother-in-law and business partner) if they can ship the macaroons, but the response was a "sorry, we can't."  He said they didn't have a way to ship the macaroons that maintains their texture.  That was a few years ago.  Fast forward to around March of this year, and the ice cream gods finally answered my prayers - Jeni's began offering macaroons for mail order!

Of course, it took me no time to place my first macaroon order, which came in a collection of four different flavors Jeni called "Bakeshop."  They didn't last long in my freezer.  

Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches from Jeni's Ice Creams
The Bakeshop Macaroons from back in the spring.
Clockwise from bottom: Cashew Banana Curry, Orchid
, Salty Caramel with Smoked Almond, Pistachio

I was particularly delighted to see the Cashew Curry Banana Macaroon in the collection as I have been craving it since the last time I had something similar (only without the cashew) back in 2007 or 2008, during a visit to Columbus.  It was the main reason I had called Jeni's asking about getting the macaroons shipped.  I absolutely love the combination of curry and banana together!

Jeni's Cashew Banana Curry Macaroon
Cashew Curry Banana Macaroon

Since Jeni's started making the macaroons available for mail order, the season has changed and so has the macaroon collection.  The banana ice cream is no longer available, now replaced by the more seasonal strawberry.  I ordered the Macaroon 4-pack along with four additional pints of ice cream, though I will focus on the macaroons in this post.  Jeni's ships its products in these cube-ish insulated boxes lined with a thick layer of dry ice.  The ice cream pints are rock solid and would actually need to "thaw" a bit in the freezer before you can enjoy it.  The macaroons come in an additional box which presumably is Jeni's secret to avoiding overfreezing the macaroon cookies:

Box of Macaroons from Jeni's
The macaroons come in a little box.

Macaroon Packaging
What's in the box

The current iteration of Jeni's macaroon collection, from top to bottom, is as follows:  Salty Caramel with Smoked Almonds Macaroon, Strawberry Buttermilk Macaroon, Pistachio Macaroon, and Orchid Vanilla Macaroon.

The Leaning Tower of Jeni's Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches
This is what I call "The Leaning Tower of
Jeni's Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches" :)

Another shot of all four flavors:

Jeni's Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches
The Upright Tower of Jeni's Macaroon
Ice Cream Sandwiches?

And now, let me now introduce the four flavors individually.  The Pistachio Macaroon is made with a rich Pistachio and Honey ice cream.  If you like pistachios, you will love this ice cream, and you will definitely love this macaroon!  And because Jeni's doesn't use artificial coloring, the moss-greenness of the macaroons are achieved by using Matcha green tea powder and turmeric!

Pistachio Macaroon
Pistachio Macaroon
Pistachio-almond macaroons with Pistachio & Honey ice cream

Orchid Vanilla Macaroon is an interesting one, with a dollop of black currant jam atop Ugandan Vanilla Bean ice cream, adding a bit of fruity tartness to this macaroon.  Purple coloring made possible by beet powder, black carrot powder, and beta-carotene powder.

Orchid Vanilla Macaroon
Orchid Vanilla Macaroon
Ugandan Vanilla Bean ice cream, black currant jam, purple macaroons

The Strawberry Buttermilk Macaroon is the new addition to the macaroon collection, with their very delicious Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream that's only available in the summer months when strawberries are in season.  The pink coloring comes from red beet powder and beta-carotene.

Strawberry Buttermilk Macaroon
Strawberry Buttermilk Macaroon
Pink macaroons with Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream

I saved the best for last.  My favorite flavor of the collection is the Salty Caramel with Smoked Almonds Macaroon.  The Salty Caramel ice cream is one of Jeni's most popular flavors, for good reason, and it is one of my all-time favorites as well.  This macaroon also features chopped smoked almonds and it is soooo delicious!

Salty Caramel with Smoked Almonds Macaroon
Salty Caramel with Smoked Almonds Macaroon

Don't tell R. I ate two of these in a single sitting! (I'm joking.  He reads my blog so I just spilled my own "secret.")  I thought I was only going to have one and next thing I know, I was standing in front of the freezer, debating which flavor to devour next.  These things are so damn addictive I'd be amazed if they last through the weekend!  But of course, I do have grand plans of making Jeni's ice cream at home this weekend, so these macaroons might have to compete against homemade Jeni's for my affection.  (Yeah right, who am I kidding??)

Jeni's, Columbus is so lucky to have you, and I am so lucky to have the internet and UPS!