I scream, you scream: Where to score sweet, frozen treats in Vail and beyond
Ice cream 101
In order to appreciate the subtle nuances of ice cream, let’s get some terminology straight: ice cream and gelato are not the same thing. Yes, they’re both sweet, creamy and come in many delicious flavors, but gelato is more than just an Italian version of ice cream — there are several characteristics that distinguish it from ice cream. Think of it as one of your crazy cousins: your parents insist that you’re family but you’re sure there’s something missing on that side of the family.
In the case of gelato, what’s missing is some fat, air and temperature. Ice cream is made with cream and, to be classified as ice cream (instead of ice milk, which we won’t even deign to include in this piece), must have a fat content of at least 10 percent. Gelato, on the other hand, is made with mostly milk, so it’s lower in fat. Ice cream recipes also call for egg yolks; gelato uses fewer yolks, if it has any at all.
The lack of air in gelato is also noticeable, though it may not seem so at first. Think about texture: ice cream tends to be lighter and fluffier than gelato, due to the fact that it’s churned quickly to let in the air and increase the volume. Gelato is slow-churned, which results in a denser product. It’s also because of this lower fat and air recipe that gelato can be served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream — it won’t melt as quickly.
Which leads us to sorbet, sorbetto and sherbert. Sorbet and sorbetto are essentially the same thing, but with a different accent: sorbet is French, sorbetto is Italian. Often offered interchangeably with ice cream and gelato, sorbet is essentially fruit and water, with no milk, cream or eggs. The more fruit in the mix, the softer the result. Sherbert is also fruit based, but may include some dairy products, which contributes to its more opaque appearance.
There’s nothing like the feeling of racing an ice cream cone to evoke the true feeling of summertime: the inexorable slide of the ice cream, a few dribbles at a time, that slowly necessitates an all out dash to lick and erode the scoop, ending in victory with sticky mouth and hands and a feeling of unparalleled contentment.
Luckily, we’re spoiled for choices here in the Vail Valley. Whenever that craving for sweet summer sustenance hits, there’s an ice cream or gelato or sorbet that will suffice. However, uniformity is not a problem — each business offers a unique perspective on this chilly treat and new businesses are opening around the area.
Find your fix
From well-established businesses to the new kids on the block, there is a solution for your ice cream cravings in the Vail Valley. For those truly committed connoisseurs, a tour might be in order: from east to west, here’s where to get your ice cream (and gelato and sorbet and soft serve) fix.
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Start in East Vail at Sims Market to pick up a pint of Scoop Vail. Tim McCole started this small batch ice cream company in August 2013 and has been churning out — and delivering — pints of his hand-crafted ice cream ever since. In addition to his classic flavors of Vail-nilla, Chocolate Frost, Mogul Milk Chocolate Chip and Mud Season, he has also created a few new flavors including Moosey’s First Tracks (a tribute to his uncle who sparked his ice cream idea) and a summertime flavor: Golfer’s Delight.
“It’s an Arnold Palmer-esque flavor: half lemon and half tea,” McCole explained. “It’s packaged side-by-side in the pint; I recommend getting a half-spoonful of each as you’re taking a bite.”
McCole said that he originally made this unusual combination for a golf party last summer; the guests wanted a “golf-flavored” ice cream and this was the result.
You can also find McCole scooping up a root beer float flavor of ice cream at the Minturn Market on Saturdays through Sept. 6.
Moving on to Vail, stop by the Marble Slab Creamery on Meadow Drive. This experience is all about the toppings — or mix-ins, in this case — which are incorporated into the supple ice cream on a chilled marble slab. There is no limit to the flavors you can create with the mix-ins, though the Creamery does have suggestions for combinations, such as the Cherries Jubilee, which is sweet cream ice cream with cherries and graham crackers. There is also a Marble Slab Creamery location in Edwards.
Also in Vail Village is Joe’s Famous Deli and Homemade Ice Cream. A landmark in Vail for the past 14 years, owner Joe Joyce has been perfecting his ice cream and sorbet recipes since the beginning.
“It has taken a long time to get to the quality that we’re at now,” Joyce said. “I think it really comes down to the ingredients and how they’re handled. We use all Colorado dairy, Ghirardelli chocolate, all of our sorbets are made with fresh berries — no concentrates. It’s a lot of work, but we love it.”
During the summer, Joe’s Famous Deli serves up to 300 gallons of ice cream a week. It’s made fresh five days a week and he’s always experimenting with different flavors. Try the blueberry cheesecake, which is made like real cheesecake before being turned into ice cream.
Rimini, with locations in both Lionshead Village and Beaver Creek Village, specializes in gelato and sorbetto. Every element of the place evokes the feeling of an authentic Italian gelateria, from the small cafe tables to the aroma of freshly brewed espresso to the luscious mounds of gelato poised behind the glass. Each flavor is identified by a small hint, from one perfect strawberry to a ribbon of Swiss chocolate adorning the top.
Kaleidoscope of flavors
Head west to Minturn to try one of the newest options for ice cream. Elizabeth Horvitz opened Zibby’s Ice Cream on Main Street in June. With an ever-rotating kaleidoscope of flavors, each visit to Zibby’s offers a new opportunity to taste and explore. Incorporating everything from cereal to roasted waffles to candied bacon, Horvitz makes every batch by hand and is constantly inventing new flavors.
“I listen to my friends and family. I see what they like and I think about favorite flavors I had when I was growing up,” Horvitz said. “I always try to keep the flavors changing. People walk in and they say, ‘you don’t have chocolate?’ and I’m thinking in my head, ‘if you want chocolate, go to the grocery store.’”
Horvitz makes a bucket of each flavor (each bucket yields about 25 servings) and when it’s gone, a new flavor is rotated in.
While the flavors may be constantly changing, Horvitz will remain at the forefront of the experience.
“I come from a small town in New Hampshire. I was used to going into any store, crossing any sidewalk, riding my bike and knowing everyone and everyone knew me,” she said. “I want to get to know every customer from the area and get to know their name. If I see a local kid in an article in the newspaper, I’ll paste it on the wall. I want them to feel like Zibby’s is theirs.”
An edible rainbow
In Avon, KIWI International Delights and Coffee is serving up ice cream, gelato and sorbet but in flavors that are rarely seen outside of the produce aisle in the grocery store — if even there.
Owner and ice cream inventor Martha Trujillo draws inspiration from her travels as well as from her native Mexico in creating flavors that range from dragon fruit to cilantro to sweet red pepper.
“I love to cook and what I do in my kitchen is what I do with my ice cream,” Trujillo said. “I like to try flavors and try to invent. I’m never following recipes. I like to open the fridge and use whatever I have in the fridge.”
Gazing into the case at KIWI is like looking at an edible rainbow, the sorbets glowing like jewels; the fruit and veggie pops are like bricks plucked from the Technicolor world of Oz.
“In Mexico, you have a little bit of the different flavors, like mole ice cream. A lot of the recipes that I have here, I open the fridge and I say, ‘why not?’ I say ‘tomato sorbet’ and people look at me like I’m crazy. Then people stop by and love it,” Trujillo said. “I like to do different things and I don’t like to feel like I’m in a box. I like to be different and offer options to people.”
“I was impressed by the selection and number of interesting flavors,” said Merrill Mann, who lives in Edwards. “I also like the fact that they have ice cream, gelato and sorbet — and a lot of it. I had the ginger and it was awesome.”
Throughout the valley, there are ice cream options galore, with gelato and sorbet to boot.
Start at one end and sample your way through the flavors.