This post comes courtesy of Jenn Yee, a member of the Williams-Sonoma culinary team.
As we come up to the last week of our month-long demonstration series in partnership with SF Chefs, here is a look at our ice cream demonstration with San Francisco’s Smitten Ice Cream and Humphry Slocombe.
Say hello to “Kelvin,” a machine that dispenses liquid nitrogen and has a mixer with double helix-shaped beaters.
It sounds like something that belongs in a lab, but Kelvin actually resides in a little shop called Smitten Ice Cream in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley and churns out made-to-order ice cream every day.
Attendees at the Ice Cream demonstration had a taste of fresh mint with cacao nib praline.
Smitten owner and creator of “Kelvin,” Robyn Sue Goldman, graduated from Penn State Ice Cream School six years ago. Unsatisfied with the quality of ice cream due to preservatives and stabilizers that keep it in good condition from factory to store, she set out to “get closer to the cow” and make the freshest ice cream possible. All the ingredients are gathered the morning of and churned on site. At the shop, there is a chalkboard menu with ingredient magnets that show all the ice cream’s components. Never more than 4-5 items listed, the board highlights the goal to have good quality, pure and fresh flavors.
Smitten Ice Cream owner Robyn Sue Goldman and Kelvin.
Not only is Smitten Ice Cream fresh, it is incredibly creamy and smooth from the use of liquid nitrogen which has a freezing temperature of -321 degrees F. This extremely low temperature helps to form smaller ice crystals which gives the ice cream the signature texture.
Robyn, Kelvin, and the RadioFlyer ice cream wagon.
Smitten Ice Cream was first introduced in 2009, about the time the food truck trend started flourishing in the city. Rather than a truck, Robyn set out with a bright red RadioFlyer wagon, Kelvin, a battery pack and a 10-gallon liquid nitrogen tank. She churned batches till she ran out. Six months later, Hayes Valley became a permanent home that technically could be mobile if need be. In keeping with her scrappy and resourceful style, Robyn had the shop made out of an old shipping container. The front of the shop has large glass windows so everyone can see the four Kelvins at work.
Robyn and Eliza at the demo.
Smitten Ice Cream’s favorite flavors:
Robyn (left): Blood Orange with Pistachio Shortbread
Eliza (right): Rhubarb
Humphry Slocomb owners Sean Vahey and Jake Godby–with 31 ice cream cone tattoos on his arm.
A little further south in the city is the Mission District’s Humphry Slocombe. There’s no fancy equipment in their shop, but their flavors are anything but ordinary. Locals line up for Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Balsamic Caramel and their most popular flavor, Secret Breakfast, which has bourbon and cornflakes. The daring can go for Salted Licorice, Strawberry Candied Jalapeno and Jesus Juice (red wine and cola).
Just like the ice cream, the name is quirky and unique. While reading their new book, I discovered that the shop was to be named Danger Jake, but it suggested something more like a villain from a cartoon. So Jake and Sean selected a favorite show, the BBC’s Are You Being Served?, and combined the names of two characters, Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe. Late in December of 2008, Humphry Slocombe was open for business.
At Humphry Slocombe, there is just one machine, running 24 hours a day and churning one flavor at a time. The daily menu has 10+ flavors to pick from. For the demonstration, Jake made dulce de leche ice cream. Sean couldn’t help but sample it and described it as “especially velvety in texture.” Dulce de leche can be made by submerging condensed milk in simmering water–but don’t forget about it. According to Jake, an early experience with unwatched homemade dulce de leche on the stove resulted in a giant explosion. Attendees at Williams-Sonoma eagerly devoured cups of the freshly churned batch.
Known for their crazy flavors, Sean and Jake answered many questions about how they came to be. “I’m a big Harry Potter nerd,” Sean confessed. This inspired a Butter Beer flavor that involves taking their brown butter ice cream and adding beer. When asked what the most interesting one to develop was, Sean and Jake agreed it was Boccalone proscuitto. “[Boccalone co-founder] Chris Cosentino came by with a bag of bones and said to make something with it,” Jake explained. And the flavor that lost the most money? Black Truffle and Foie Gras, which comes in the form of an ice cream sandwich with two ginger cookies.
Humphry Slocombe’s favorite flavors:
Jake: Kumquat Poppy seed
Sean: Salted Licorice, Foie Gras, Proscuitto
Wanting to share their love of ice cream and some of the secrets behind the flavors, Sean and Jake released a book this past spring and will be visiting our Union Square store for a demonstration and signing Saturday, August 25th at 2pm.
2790 A Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Smitten Ice Cream
432 Octavia Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
For more SF Chefs demonstrations leading up to the grand tastings August 3-5th in Union Square, check out the Events page at sfchefsfoodwine.com.
About the author: Jenn Yee is a part of the Williams-Sonoma Union Square culinary team. The store is her dream kitchen. The Food Hall is her favorite section and can talk endlessly about baking mixes and bakeware. When not at work her every moment, not surprisingly, is still very much about food. She’s honing her skills at pastry school, attending food events, meeting chefs and vendors and out in search of the best pastries and desserts. She dreams of Pierre Herme macarons and Gerard Mulot croissants. www.deliciouslynoted.com.