Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Ice Cream

It's October, it's cold in Seattle, and I'm looking forward to ice cream.

Wait. What?

It's one of those odd seasonal things. I absolutely love pumpkin ice cream -- if it's made well, of course -- and yet that flavor typically doesn't come out until the fall, when the weather is, at best, brisk. Pumpkin lattes, sure, makes sense. Pumpkin ice cream, not so much.

But what can I do, it's one of those things that I just love to eat. I've found over the years that pumpkin enhances just about every dessert. Its flavor is subtle but unmistakable. When real pumpkin is used -- and not some kind of imitation flavoring -- it blends with the other ingredients in a way that creates a lot of depth without being overpowering.

My first experience with pumpkin ice cream was about 6 years ago. At the behest of a friend, I'd gone to one of those places where you work with a group of other people to cook meals that you then freeze and take home, which lasts however many days or weeks. At the end of the session they gave us each a pint of Olympic Mountain pumpkin ice cream with our meals, and I was extremely skeptical. First, they were giving them away, so how good could it be? Plus, pumpkin ice cream? The idea seemed very strange to me at the time.

I was hooked from the first spoonful. How had I gone without this all these years? How could I have never known the most wonderful ice cream of all? I wasn't the only one who had that reaction -- my friend said it was so good she polished off her pint in one sitting (being a hoarder, I allowed myself to eat only a bit at a time, so that it would last).

The problem was, Olympic Mountain, a gourmet ice cream, could not be bought at the local grocery store. The only way to get their ice cream was by going to restaurants that served it, or by random happenstance as had happened to me. And they didn't have a Web site! It took me some time and determination, but I finally found a phone number for them. I called and convinced them to let me buy a gallon of their pumpkin ice cream. They were located a couple of hours from me, but I told them that I would meet their delivery truck at one of the restaurants it was delivering to -- and I did. I did this twice, so enamored was I of their pumpkin ice cream (which I could not find anywhere else).

Little did I know there was a little gem called Theno's Dairy right down Redmond-Woodinville Road, that serves fresh and natural gourmet ice cream. The other day I set off for home after work, and I had seen that the freeways were horrendous. I turned on my GPS, told it to avoid highways, and followed its instructions. About 5 miles later, surrounded by farmland (or at least it looked it to me), I saw a low-tech sign announcing that pumpkin ice cream was now available. Intrigued, I turned into the parking lot. The place was a bit dilapidated, but the ice cream looked good and there were other patrons that trickled in and out at a steady stream. After some consideration I grabbed one of their pre-packed half gallons of pumpkin ice cream -- it was only $6.99 so was worth the risk even if it turned out to be imitation flavored dreck.

The only problem with Theno's is that it's closer to my work place than my home, and given that it's ice cream, distance matters. It was a bit melted when I finally got home, but not terribly so. I carved out a couple of scoops, and tasted it.


Here was an ice cream that rivaled Olympic Mountain's pumpkin, and it was so much more attainable! The ice cream had a richness of flavor that I found unusual, and appealing.

Thank you, Theno's. Now I don't have to be the weird girl who stalks ice cream delivery trucks to restaurants.

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