Ice cream shops are summer destinations, with lovers of the scoop and cone gladly suffering through long drives in hot cars.
Aficionados up for taking a little longer trek to sample uniquely Newfoundland flavours might be interested in hitting the highway and heading overseas — to Fogo Island.
A parlour in Joe Batt’s Arm is offering tubs of gourmet ice cream; flavours like partridgeberry jam tart, strawberry rhubarb sorbet, juniper berry coconut and molasses raisin bread.
“With chunks of molasses raisin bread in it,” Nicole Decker-Torraville is quick to point out.
She’s the Nicole in Nicole’s Growlers, the ice creamery selling said flavours and about a dozen others this summer. (Growlers are small chunks of iceberg common along the northeast coast in spring.)
The assorted flavours of Fogo Island have been around since chef Michelle LeBlanc created them a few years ago.
Chef says its all about the flavour … Continued from page A1
She was brought to the island as a consulting chef by the Shorefast Foundation, which is trying to create cultural and economic resilience there.
The registered charity charged her with concocting the ice cream recipes using local ingredients and helping set up a place to sell them in an old merchant’s store in Joe Batt’s Arm.
“I did some basic research — about eight months’ worth,” laughs LeBlanc, now co-owner of Chinched Bistro in downtown St. John’s.
She approached it the same way she does anything she cooks.
“It was all about flavour combinations, because ice cream is essentially a blank slate.”
LeBlanc began with the many local berries, with the goal of showcasing the flavour.
“At one point, people were making fun of me. I was buying every berry on Fogo Island. I was buying every berry I could get my hands on.”
One of the first mixtures involved crumbling a partridgeberry jam tart (made by Decker-Torraville’s mother) and dropping the pieces in an ice cream base.
It would become one of the most popular flavours.
LeBlanc whipped up a lot more ice cream, using ingredients such as Purity Jam Jams, marshberries, molasses raisin bread and chocolate from the Newfoundland Chocolate Co.
Each recipe is different, she says, since they don’t even share a standard base.
It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, with some definite perks.
“I ate the caramel ice cream for meals,” she chuckles. “It was my favourite. I ate much too much caramel ice cream.”
About nine months after she started mixing things up, the doors to the shop opened for the summer.
The recipes were met with an enthusiastic response, with Sunday lineups stretching out the door and onto the road.
LeBlanc spent the next fall and winter developing ice cream with a longer shelf life.
“Ideally they’d be transportable, so they could ship them off the island,” she said.
“The idea was that there’d be a production facility.”
She left Fogo Island to set up Chinched before they “crossed that hurdle.”
Meanwhile, the ice cream shop — Growlers — opened again last summer and enjoyed another successful year.
Shorefast, however, didn’t really want to be in the ice cream business and intended all along to have someone take it over once it was up and running.
Growlers was a natural fit for Decker-Torraville.
She operates the nearby Nicole’s Café, which she describes as “comfortable” dining.
She agreed to try it for a year and leased the shop. She received the recipes in April and tried her first batches.
The labour involved surprised her — caramel ice cream, for example, takes five and a half hours to make, by hand.
“I didn’t believe it,” Decker-Torraville says. “Five and half hours! You make that with love and you stir it and stir it until it’s so thick.”
But the effort required didn’t scare her off and she’s getting ready to open for the summer June 21.
“Now that I’ve got the recipes down pat, I’m OK,” Decker-Torraville says.