Ice cream anchors more weekend plans than I’d like to admit. This past weekend, it was MilkMade’s new tasting room in Carroll Gardens.
MilkMade Ice Cream showed up on my radar last year, when I stumbled onto their drool-inducing Tumblr. Flavors like Coney Island Crunch—malted vanilla pilsner ice cream with a caramel swirl and pretzel bits—made me sad to learn that MilkMade isn’t available in stores or in a scoop shop. That’s because it’s an ice-cream-of-the-month club, a concept that’s both brilliant (craft ice cream delivered to your doorstep!) and terrifying (craft ice cream delivered to your doorstep.). Memberships costs $30 a month and gets you two pints, each one a completely new flavor. June 2015 flavors are numbers 131 and 132 (June Gloom and A Midsummer’s Night Scream), so if you’ve been a member since MilkMade’s 2009 beginnings, it’s possible you’ve sampled 132 different flavors. Sometimes it pays to be an early adopter.
When E.S. sent me a link with the news that MilkMade was opening it’s first ever tasting room in Brooklyn, I promptly put an ice cream field trip on the calendar. As the day approached, we (E.S., and K.C. and I) decided to make the trip part of a craft-themed day: craft ice cream, craft beer, and crafts.
We started with the crafts, at the Renegade Craft Fair Pop-Up in Williamsburg. According to E.S., the crafter among us, RCF is the Cadillac of craft fairs. There were some top-shelf letterpresses, ceramicists, and jewelry makers, but I think the free Magbooth was my favorite thing. I finally stopped by Rough Trade afterward, too.
When we moved on to Carroll Gardens, the walk to MilkMade started feeling very familiar. I realized I had been to the tasting room before… in August 2014, when it was Hay Rosie. According to the helpful lady behind the counter, Hay Rosie had a short-lived but successful run churning out craft ice cream at 204 Sackett Street, and the attention brought the founder, Stef Ferrari, a book deal and TV appearances. It’s hard to write and promote a book and run a small-batch artisan ice cream operation at the same time, so Ferrari went on hiatus. Around the same time she closed Hay Rosie’s tasting room, MilkMade was looking to open one, so the space didn’t stay dark long.
There were eight flavors in the freezer case, five of which were described as “favorites”—flavors that MilkMade subscribers kept begging founder Diana Hardeman and her Milkmaids to bring back (there are apparently no repeats among the 132 flavors thus far released). The five favorites are:
- Amagansett Sea Salted Caramel – caramel ice cream with sea salt
- Grady’s Manhattan – Grady’s cold brew coffee with whiskey
- Fingerlakes PB&J – peanut butter ice cream with a grape jelly swirl
- Rock Rock Rockaway Road: marzipan ice cream with chocolate pieces and marshmallow swirl
- Chinatown Chocolate: chocolate ice cream with Chinese five-spice powder
The three rotating flavors that day (6/20/15) were Blueberry Scratchcake, Fine Vanilla, and Red Velvet Cake.
I opted for the salted caramel (of course) and the PB&J. The texture of the salted caramel was extra soft and melty, smooth, with a rich caramel flavor. I was bowled over until half-way through the scoop, when a mild burn crept up my throat from all the sugar. This is extremely sweet ice cream. I like my ice cream on the rich side, but the sugar level set my teeth on edge.
Unfortunately, the PB&J didn’t rate a “one of the best” designation either. The flavor was intensely peanut-buttery, but the texture was grainy with tiny peanut pieces, and the jam swirl was crystallized.
Overall a bit of a disappointment, but worth going at least once if one of the rotating flavors catches your fancy. I think that’s what the real appeal of MilkMade’s ice cream subscription is: the novelty of the flavors and their limited run (ice cream is the most ephemeral collector’s item). Given the variability of the ice creams that MilkMade is turning out, hits and misses are inevitable.
High on sugar, we completed the craft trifecta by grabbing some craft beer (Gun Hill Brewing, Revolution Red Rye) at Buschenschank down the street. I’m ready for another craft-themed weekend soon, possibly anchored by Brooklyn Bell’s the Local. This little Crown Heights shop has been making small-batch ice cream since summer 2014, but I had never heard of it until last week. It’s next on my list in the eternal search for the best ice cream.
MilkMade Tasting Room
204 Sackett Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231