Today I was in for a sweet treat—literally. I got the chance to have an insider’s loo
k (scoop?) at what it’s like behind the counter of The Bent Spoon in Princeton New Jersey. I entered in through the back of the store, to a man in the midst of making chocolate ice cream. It was here that I looked all around me—different flavor ideas and their ingredients, recipe cards, ice-cream making contraptions of all kinds, food scales, double boilers, giant storage containers… the works. It was only a matter of time before Gabby came in to meet me, and she promptly introduced me to my helper of the day, Kristin. Squeezing through the crowded kitchen space she led me out to the store front and I got to work. This wasn’t your typical daily toil, unless you consider taste testing all 24 current flavors something particularly demanding or something you do every day.
We started with the mellow-er flavors: vanilla bean, sour cream, ricotta, mascarpone, and olive oil were a few. Then we moved on to sorbets: rhubarb, raspberry lemon, blood orange, and kiwifruit. We tried some more exotic flavors, like goat’s milk coffee and caramel, chocolate earl gray, and cardamom ginger. There was even some flavors that were dairy free, but tasted just as rich: a dark chocolate sorbet, and a coconut-milk based ice cream. I’ll be sure to stop back in the winter for some mushroom hot chocolate!
Gabby brought me outside to discuss what it is like to run the place, and some of the barriers she faces doing so, including the sheer size of work room they have and the cost that comes with making small batch ice cream fresh every day. It is this, along with the seasonality of the ingredients and their local sources, that makes for the irreplaceable essence of the store. By knowing exactly where every component of her ice cream comes from, putting a premium on relationships she has with the local farms instead of prices, this not only ensures a quality product but also one that she can truly feel good about making.
It is plain to see that this is no ordinary ice cream shop, and it is based on no ordinary values. Talking with Gabby, seeing everything that goes into the place, and knowing that everything that goes into the gelato-like frozen treats is from local and sustainable sources, inspires me to strive to recreate my product with these values in mind.