Friday, September 25, 2009

Van Leeuwen Truck - Artisans Scream for Ice Cream

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream - Various locations around Manhattan

I've been keeping a close eye on this gourmand ice cream truck, and when it acquired a new location near my office, I became intrigued. The lemony-yellow truck just screams of fun and delight--so when Leann, Vicky, Gina and I found out they'd be giving out free ice cream at yesterday's Lucky Boutique Crawl, we had a clear and unflinching mission to accomplish - to taste it.

Some Background...
Before I get into our experience and the flavors we chose to devour, I want to give a bit of context as to why this ice cream truck is different from others.

In a nutshell (pun intended), their philosophy is "fresh. local. pure. simple." They use fresh, local-sourced ingredients that are environmentally friendly and body friendly - meaning that you won't find any chemicals or preservatives in these cones.

They're so proud of this philosophy, that they display it on the outside of their truck for everyone see "we make our ice cream with fresh, hormone free milk and cream from local farms, cane sugar and eggs. Our flavors come from the finest small producers all over the world."

The Experience
When we walked up to the truck, long lines were already forming. It was such a nice, mild night that we happily waited along with 50+ enthusiastic women and maybe 1 equally delighted man. The line was progressing quickly and after about 10 minutes, we reached our turn.

The truck was serviced by two guys, dressed in casual, hipster garb and longish, scraggly hair. One of them acted a little too cool for school but we just went with it. I asked them for a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of chocolate ice cream in a cup. My friends also tried strawberry and hazelnut flavors.

The Ice Cream
The best part about this ice cream was the consistency - creamy and decadent but not so much that it was impossible to finish. On the contrary, it went down easily and melted at a good pace - when I reached the end, I got a nice semi-liquidy concoction that I mixed together. It was delightful to taste the chocolate/pistachio mix--although the chocolate was the more prominent flavor, there was a nutty finish at the end.

Between the pistachio and the chocolate, I'd recommend the latter. It was incredibly intense but not overly sweet. Made with Michel Cluizel chocolate, you immediately tasted the purity of this product as opposed to mass produced chocolate made with preservatives.

The pistachio was more gentle, with a buttery aftertaste that was quite pleasing. One thing missing were the actual pistachio chunks but I think that purity and creamy texture is what Van Leeuwen was striving for - and that they got.

Another stand-out was the hazelnut that was also buttery and smooth but had a tangier aftertaste. Coupled with a scoop of gentle wild strawberry ice cream, it brought out a pronounced flavor on your tongue. I'd recommend getting the hazelnut with a mild flavor or on its own for this exact reason - to make it stand out.

Unfortunately, Van Leeuwen ran out of their most popular flavor, the Giandujia, which combines chocolate and hazelnut. I think this presents a perfect excuse for my next visit.

Other Products
Besides the amazing ice cream, Van Leeuwen also serves Chicago based, Intelligentsia coffee. I tried it when I was there last spring and absolutely loved it. Note to self - it's a big step up from Starbucks.

Where to Find Them
You can follow Van Leeuwen on Twitter to see where their trucks are roaming. They also have a couple of distributors in which you could buy their stuff by the pint (look on their site under Locations & Stockists). One of them is LIC's very own Food Cellar.

3 Mouth Watering Mmmms

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