This New Philly Ice Cream Is Everything You Love About Ben & Jerry’s, But Better
Pints from 1-900-ICE-CREAM, the latest from the chef behind Boku Supper Club, are making us love mix-ins again.
When it comes to ice cream, Ryan Fitzgerald thinks there are two kinds of people in the world: Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s.
The former is great to pair with another pastry dish, like good vanilla ice cream with apple pie. But the latter?
“You just need a scoop,” he says. “No other stuff.”
That’s the philosophy driving 1-900-ICE-CREAM, the latest project from the Boku Supper Club founder. Studded and striped with made-from-scratch mix-ins like candied Meyer lemon or chunks of birthday cake, each bite of Fitzgerald’s ever-changing slate of flavors contains all the elements of a high-end dessert.
The self-taught chef behind the exclusive dinner series collaborates with guest line cooks from Philly’s top restaurants to develop menus for each monthly service, but he needed an easy-to-serve dessert that would stand up to the savory courses in complexity. He settled on an ice cream sandwich, cut at a jaunty angle, plated prettily, and dressed up with a drizzle of something sweet.
“People started going crazy for the ice cream,” he says. Diners wanted more.
Since selling ice cream sandwiches one by one didn’t make economic sense (though you’re welcome to order a tray of 16 starting at $80), Fitzgerald started working on pints. Within a month of selling the $10 tubs of ice cream, he’d saved up enough to buy a $10,000 machine to make much more. He used the first name for the enterprise that came to mind — a throwback to ’90s phone sex lines — and never looked back.
Fitzgerald might take a technical approach to the Philadelphia-style recipes he develops — omitting eggs makes for a lower-fat product, which lets the flavors shine — but his product is as fun, indulgent, and comforting as your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor. It’s just a lot more quality.
“In terms of flavor, everything under the sun has been done, but I can innovate on formula and execution,” he says.
Strawberry Dream Poofs is Millennial-pink strawberry ice cream shot through with strawberry jam, marshmallow cream “poofs,” and crunchy bits of shortbread. French Pastry Department is a raspberry ice cream in pale mauve with chunks of moist red velvet cake, a bright swirl of raspberry jam, and and crispy shards of white chocolate feuilletine.
To make God Mode, Fitzgerald broke down the tasting notes of ReAnimator Coffee’s Italian-style Foundation espresso blend — caramel, almonds, cocoa, plum — and turned to those flavors for mix-ins. The end product is a cold-steeped coffee ice cream with a plum caramel swirl and bits of candied roasted almond-cacao nib crunch.
Once a flavor is developed, Fitzgerald draws a picture of it, then posts the week’s selections to 1-900-ICE-CREAM’s Instagram stories. Customers order pints online for pickup at Boku. Fitzgerald makes his mix-ins from scratch on Monday and his ice cream bases — each flavor specifically calibrated to maintain a specific ratio of fat, sugar, and water — on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he spins them together. Customers pick up at the Boku gallery (an undisclosed location in Fairmount) on Thursday and Friday.
Fitzgerald has plans to expand 1-900-ICE-CREAM. He’s using soon-to-open Liberty Kitchen’s shared commissary space while working on a production facility of his own at 10th and Spring Garden. At the same time, he’s balancing the desire to grow with the meticulous approach that made his ice cream so popular.
“I’m a micro-business builder — I’m afraid of scale and I’m a control freak,” Fitzgerald says. “I don’t want to lose integrity of the product.”
And because he’ll only give Boku Supper Club his all, this means he’ll soon be winding that down, too.
In the gallery space, there’s a board on which diners can stick their wine corks at the end of each supper club. Fitzgerald says he’s got space for about 200 more before Boku is done — and when that happens, he’ll throw himself into ice cream full time.
“The end of Boku is imminent,” he says. “But the book isn’t over — the chapter is done.”