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Jeni's Ice Cream -- now at Formaggio Kitchen

Boston_Otter Apr 18, 2010 10:29 AM

I just discovered that Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge has started stocking icecream from Jeni's of Columbus Ohio. At $12/pint it's not cheap, but it's some of the best ice cream I've had anywhere. They don't carry Jeni's signature Salty Caramel, but they had the Gravel Road (salty caramel with ground almonds) that might be even better. Definitely worth a try.

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Formaggio Kitchen
244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

  1. f
    FoodDabbler May 15, 2010 12:38 PM

    Against my better inclinations, and the interests of solvency, I got myself three of Jeni's flavors today: poached pear and riesling, salty caramel, and dark chocolate. At $13 a pint, I was prepared to detest them all, and wanting to at least dislike them, but I'm sorry to report that they were all good. The pear/riesling had a clean taste, with a clear note of pear at first, and a lingering riesling finish. The texture was slightly rough, but without the grittiness that some pear sorbets have. The salty caramel was not heavily salty, but the caramel was astonishingly intense. Even after I swallowed the ice cream, there was a long lingering caramel taste at the back of my tongue. I can't remember having another ice cream like it. The dark chocolate was also intense, but the texture was too dense and heavy for my taste. The container describes it accurately as fudgelike, and it is a bit like eating cold fudge made with exceptionally good chocolate. None of the three flavors was overly sweet, a plus in my book.

    The thirteen dollar question, though, is if the ice cream is worth the price. There's other exceptional ice cream to be had in the Boston area, as several posters have observed. It's an impossible question to answer, akin to trying to decide if an excellent $30 bottle of wine is twice as good as a good $15 bottle. Sometimes greater depth and complexity are worth $15, sometimes they are not. And sometimes (quite often, actually, with wine) you can find
    a $15 bottle that holds its own against the $30. For myself, I've just had (two weeks ago) some superb gelati from il laboratio del gelato in New York at $8/pint, and I'd choose it over Jeni's. The salted caramel gelato I'd had was more a caramel swirl than Jeni's all-caramel, but to me it had a better balance of salt and caramel. I suspect, though, that Jeni's long caramel finish, like a long, haunting goodbye kiss, will be worth the occasional splurge to me. The dark chocolate gelato in New York beats Jeni's in my estimation. The chocolate is almost as intense and the mouthfeel more agreeable to me than Jeni's fudge. I don't have a direct sorbet comparison, but I did have an astonishing orange-hibiscus sorbetto in New York that I'd choose over Jeni's excellent pear-riesling. It's a matchup of champions, and I know I'm comparing ice cream to gelati, but to me Jeni's comes in a close second.

    8 Replies
    1. re: FoodDabbler
      StriperGuy May 15, 2010 02:09 PM

      Nice post!

      1. re: FoodDabbler
        f
        FoodDabbler May 15, 2010 06:17 PM

        I had a second helping of the three flavors after dinner, sharing them this time with others. The salt in the salty caramel seemed more pronounced to me this time around. More importantly, I realized that it's the salt that carries and sustains the remarkably long finish of the ice cream. It's a more pronounced version of an effect I'm familiar with from certain reduced-milk Indian desserts (basundi, rabri, kheer, kulfi, etc.). A touch of salt is added at the end to sustain a long flavor. This salted caramel is like that, only much, much more so. The chocolate didn't win me over this time, either. My wife cut hers with Breyer's vanilla. The pear-riesling was a hit once more with me, and popular with the others as well. The initial note of pear is very clear and strong. It's a pear singing in your mouth.

        1. re: FoodDabbler
          Boston_Otter May 16, 2010 02:55 PM

          I'm a chocolate fan, but Jeni's chocolate is a bit too intense/thick for me, which seems bizarre (the more intense the better, right?), but there it is. Personally, I love their smoked chocolate flavor that pops up time to time.. it's their deep dark chocolate cut with lapsang souchong tea, and it's just what that flavor needs.

          1. re: Boston_Otter
            f
            FoodDabbler May 16, 2010 02:58 PM

            It's the thick part I didn't care for in the chocolate, not the intense. You could almost chew the ice cream. Similarly (but less so) for the pistachio.

          2. re: FoodDabbler
            The Chowhound Team May 18, 2010 05:05 AM

            We've moved the posts discussing the real cost of food to the General Chowhounding Topics board, and you can join that discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/708655 .

            1. re: The Chowhound Team
              f
              FoodDabbler May 18, 2010 05:23 AM

              Thanks. It's useful to know where they are.

              I note that my post commenting on Jeni's pistachio-honey ice cream has vanished in this process. Let repeat the gist of it here: I found the pistachio flavor strong and clear, but the texture, like that of the dark chocolate, overly dense. It was almost a frozen pistachio-marzipan. People who like thick ice creams will like it. People who prefer a less dense mouthfeel (without sacrificing flavor) will not. Among local ice creams, Christina's often has clear flavors without being overly rich. I personally prefer that style.

            2. re: FoodDabbler
              r
              raleighboy May 18, 2010 05:52 AM

              I recently bought 4 pints for my mom- savannah buttermint, the buckeye state, goat cheese and roasted cherries, and queen city cayenne. I tasted and loved them all, but its definitely not something I'd do on a regular basis. But for special occasions, sure.

              1. re: raleighboy
                l
                lexyboo Jun 18, 2010 06:32 AM

                I am from Columbus, living in RI now. Just went home in April and the first thing I did was run to Jeni's! The guy at the counter was soo nice he let me taste about EVERY flavor. I THEN had a small scoop of gravel road, gooey cake and brown butter almond brittle. The gravel road has always been my fav, have even mail ordred it, but the brown butter may be my new fav! Can't say enough about how wonderful this ice cream is!!!!

            3. StriperGuy Apr 20, 2010 11:40 AM

              Just to put things in perspective I was in Rancatore's in Belmont recently and their superb ice cream was $9 A QUART. I had a truly amazing Khulfi cone...

              9 Replies
              1. re: StriperGuy
                q
                quirkydeb Apr 20, 2010 04:02 PM

                Yup. After being used to Jeni's prices, my jaw dropped at how affordable Toscanini's is!

                1. re: StriperGuy
                  rlh May 11, 2010 07:49 AM

                  Agreed - their khulfi is the best I know of anyone and one of their very best flavors!

                  1. re: rlh
                    tatsu May 12, 2010 11:01 AM

                    I like Christina's Kulfi the best.

                    I saw this ice cream at Verrill Farm yesterday. Anyone try it? http://www.shawfarm.com/icecream.htm

                    Also anyone try Alden's? It kind of cheap but looks decent.

                    -----
                    Verrill Farm
                    11 Wheeler Rd, Concord, MA, MA 01742

                    1. re: tatsu
                      f
                      FoodDabbler May 13, 2010 12:24 PM

                      I hate to pour hot water on this kulfi parade, especially containing as it does chowhounds I admire and respect, but nothing that you get commercially in the Boston area is genuine kulfi. Real Kulfi is an icecream-like product made from reduced milk that's frozen in metallic cones by placing them (the filled cones) in an earthenware pot containing ice and rock salt, then rocking the pot back and forth. The texture is denser and harder than icecream. It's a rich concoction and is frequently eaten with cornstarch noodles called falooda. They cut the richness. Kulfi can be flavored with saffron, or *finely* ground almonds or pistachios. My favorite, though, is the plain "malai kulfi" (literally cream kulfi), with just the faintest hint of cardamom. The predominant taste is that of the caramelized milk.

                      Kulfi is not the overly cardamomy, overly nutty substance that masquerades under that name in the Boston area. And calling it Khulfi (as some places do) is akin to calling Gandhi Ghandi. I've seen it done, but it's plain wrong.

                      1. re: FoodDabbler
                        StriperGuy May 13, 2010 12:40 PM

                        Good to know. Hmmmm who wants to start making a batch of real home made (now correctly spelled) Kulfi?

                        1. re: StriperGuy
                          f
                          FoodDabbler May 13, 2010 12:48 PM

                          If you cultivate me, who knows what might happen? I even have a dozen of the correct metal kulfi cones. True kulfi is not always to Western tastes, however. I've had "food people" over, including some of the top brass from places such as Formaggio Kitchen, and they did not always care for it. If you've had the milk jam at Sofra, then you can imagine kulfi -- it's a thinner (the milk reduction is stopped long before the jammy stage), frozen version.

                          -----
                          Formaggio Kitchen
                          244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                          Sofra
                          1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                          1. re: FoodDabbler
                            StriperGuy May 13, 2010 01:08 PM

                            I actually think I had this in NY once and loved it. Got it at some Indian grocery store. It looked a bit like this below, the one I had was cardamom flavored and only one color.

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulfi

                        2. re: FoodDabbler
                          Bob Dobalina May 13, 2010 12:47 PM

                          Thanks for the info - Will you volunteer to tell the frowny gal at Christina's that she don't know kulfi....? I don't dare.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina
                            f
                            FoodDabbler May 13, 2010 01:02 PM

                            I have too much to lose by antagonizing anyone at Christina's. Fresh rose season is here.

                  2. d
                    Diane in Bexley Apr 20, 2010 11:02 AM

                    I am chuckling at this post as I live in Columbus, Ohio and will be traveling to Boston (Waltham) next month for DD's college graduation. Your post makes me think I should pack pints in a large cooler and set up a roadside stand just outside Logan. An you are correct, the Salty Caramel is to die for.

                    Very fortunate to live in a small in town suburb where Jeni's, Graeter's and Johnson's are all within walking distance.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Diane in Bexley
                      Bob Dobalina Apr 20, 2010 11:04 AM

                      Does it cost $12/pint in Columbus too?

                      If not, you could seriously undercut the Boston-area competition. :)

                      1. re: Diane in Bexley
                        s
                        sallyt Apr 20, 2010 11:04 AM

                        I've never had Jeni's, but I would easily pay $12 for a pint of Graeter's chocolate chip. Diane, you are so lucky!

                        1. re: sallyt
                          d
                          Diane in Bexley Apr 20, 2010 11:43 AM

                          Wow! If only I had known, my DD is finishing up 4 years at Brandeis ($$$). We could have paid for her tuition with bootlegged ice cream, it appears. At $8/pint (maybe I could have negotiated a wholesale price), we would have at least covered airfare and hotel. But battling the TSA with ice cream, not sure we could have gotten past security! Not sure how much is Graeter's, but Johnson's, a local homemade ice cream is $4-5/pint.

                        2. re: Diane in Bexley
                          Boston_Otter Apr 20, 2010 01:26 PM

                          I've occasionally been tempted to mail-order some Graeter's, but their mail-order costs make it even more expensive than Jeni's. Their black raspberry chip is amazing. Yes, folks, improbably Columbus Ohio has some of the best ice cream in the US :)

                          1. re: Boston_Otter
                            c
                            CambridgeFoodie May 11, 2010 07:27 AM

                            Graeter's is apparently in the process of expanding to national distribution.

                        3. s
                          six dower Apr 19, 2010 04:37 PM

                          I tried the Gravel Road today. Please run to get this ice cream.....I ate the entire pint in the car!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: six dower
                            opinionatedchef Apr 19, 2010 05:21 PM

                            uh oh, I'm in trouble now!!

                          2. StriperGuy Apr 18, 2010 01:00 PM

                            With all the amazing ice cream in Boston, much of it made locally, how can any ice cream be that much better? The ingredients are pretty straight forward, and $12 a pint. Just more foodie butterfly collecting. Seriously, Boston has some of the best ice cream in the world and we need to pay $12 a pint for ice cream from Ohio?

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: StriperGuy
                              Boston_Otter Apr 18, 2010 01:14 PM

                              Boston does indeed have very good ice cream. As a former Columbus-ite who fell in love with Jeni's when it was just a small food stall downtown, it's been amazing to watch the word spread about her awesome icecream. It's a matter of taste, of course, and it's obvious your mind's made up before even tasting the stuff, but I'm happy I can now get my hometown icecream here in Boston.

                              1. re: Boston_Otter
                                StriperGuy Apr 18, 2010 01:22 PM

                                Heck, you've tried it, I haven't, is it THAT good that it is worth $12 a pint?

                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                  h
                                  hillarylauren Apr 18, 2010 03:43 PM

                                  I ordered the variety six-pack by mail for a friend one Christmas a few years ago. The ice cream was good and the flavors were interesting (I think we loved three of the flavors, liked one and thought two were ok) and it was fun to send a random food find by mail ($78 for six pints including shipping) but I didn't think it was anything truly special. I personally like Toscanini's better. And $12 seems steep to me.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy
                                    Boston_Otter Apr 18, 2010 07:23 PM

                                    It depends on the flavor. Many of their flavors are tasty and/or fascinating (they did a seasonal line of cheese-flavored ice creams last year, and this summer are doing some flower-flavored ones) but aren't worth buying a pint. The Salty Caramel, however, I feel is worth $12. I've had skeptical friends try the stuff and declare it to be the best ice cream they'd ever eaten. It's dense, nearly gelato-like, so a pint goes a long way. YMMV, of course.

                                    1. re: Boston_Otter
                                      StriperGuy Apr 18, 2010 07:29 PM

                                      Cool, thanks.

                                      1. re: Boston_Otter
                                        q
                                        quirkydeb Apr 19, 2010 11:06 AM

                                        Woohoo! Thank you for the news, Boston Otter! You made my day!

                                        I'm from Columbus and I agree with Boston Otter that it varies from flavor to flavor. The coffee is not super-sweet, but actually tastes like a cup of strong brewed coffee. The pistachio tastes like the nuts, themselves, rather than pistachio flavoring. Many flavors are far less sweet than other ice cream makers, so sour cherry, cassis, and apricot were actually quite tart. I suspect we won't get special flavors like buttered brioche with apricot jam, curried cream with chocolate & cashews, or butternut squash with pecan pralines (NOT the butterCUP squash, which was blah), for which I would gladly pay $12. OK, maybe not gladly, but willingly.

                                        I am a little worried about the texture. I think the textures changed over the years. It was silkier when it was made at the market that sold it than when they branched out and were moving it from the kitchen to the ice cream shops. So we'll see how it travels to Cambridge.

                                        I've been happy with Toscanini's flavors/textures/price since I moved here. Jeni's pints are $7-11 at the Ohio shops, so I was especially happy with how (relatively) affordable Toscanini's are (although they've gone up too!). I will probably save Jeni's for when I feel homesick or want to share a taste of Columbus.

                                        1. re: quirkydeb
                                          Boston_Otter Apr 20, 2010 08:41 AM

                                          Here's the flavors Formaggio currently carries:
                                          Black Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Riesling Poached Pear, Meyer Lemon Yogurt, Mango Lassi, Savannah Buttermint, Gravel Road and Brown Butter Brittle.

                                          I wish they'd carry the Smoked Chocolate (dark chocolate and lapsang souchong tea ice cream), and I just heard about Jeni's new seasonal flavor: BUCKEYE. How much more Columbus-y can you get? Maybe it'll come in a scarlet-and-grey pint container ;)

                                          I agree with quirkydeb, though, that the texture of their icecream isn't as smooth as what you get fresh in their Columbus kitchen. Still....

                                          1. re: Boston_Otter
                                            s
                                            somuchdessert May 19, 2010 01:26 PM

                                            Does anyone have any feedback on the flavors that Formaggio doesn't carry? After recently enjoying the decadence known as Savannah Buttermint, I had to look up Jeni's other offerings online. If you say these are worth it, I just might have to splurge and order:
                                            - Cherry Lambic
                                            - Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries
                                            - Queen City Cayenne
                                            Thanks in advance!

                                            1. re: somuchdessert
                                              f
                                              FoodDabbler May 19, 2010 02:30 PM

                                              I don't want to encourage your habit, but I cannot cut down your cherry lambic. Formaggio Kitchen had it on Sunday.

                                              -----
                                              Formaggio Kitchen
                                              244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                        2. re: Boston_Otter
                                          q
                                          quirkydeb May 6, 2010 09:24 AM

                                          I love Jeni's ice cream, but I just bought my first pint at Formaggio, and I'm afraid it's going to have to be my last. It was $13 (12.95), not $12! I don't know why that extra buck put me over the edge, but it did. I'll be very surprised if people are willing to buy it at that price, especially if they haven't had it before. I'll truly enjoy this pint of Savannah Buttermint and then go back to Toscanini's & making my own.

                                          1. re: quirkydeb
                                            Pia May 10, 2010 02:20 PM

                                            Agree -- I tried a pint of the Gravel Road (tastes like brown butter, almonds, caramel -- like a very sophisticated butter pecan) and was very impressed, but as others have mentioned, we have fantastic ice cream right here for much cheaper. I'll put Jeni's right up there with Tosci's and Christina's, and I love the different flavor choices, but it's not worth the premium. Glad I tried it once, though.

                                            1. re: Pia
                                              Boston_Otter May 11, 2010 06:40 AM

                                              I'd agree that compared to the price of Tosci's, etc, $13 a pint is a large premium. For me, though, I'd compare it to other gourmet treats such as cupcakes from Kickass or other such things, and I get much more enjoyment out of a $13 pint of Jeni's than three small, dry, bite-size cupcakes for the same cost.

                                            2. re: quirkydeb
                                              FinnFPM May 10, 2010 05:12 PM

                                              There's one major part of this discussion missing, which is how the actual dairy in the ice cream is sourced. This obviously means different things to different people, but the dairy industry is essentially a gigantic machine; if you're at all concerned with where your meat comes from, you should be just as concerned with where your dairy comes from.

                                              Jeni's sources all of its dairy from a single, 100% grass-fed herd in Ohio -- Snowville Creamery, to be specific. This very much increases the price of their product, but it also increases the quality, and supports sustainable, local (to Ohioans) dairy, to say nothing of their other ingredients, of which almost all are local to Ohio.

                                              Toscanini's, on the other hand, sources their dairy from H.P. Hood, and most or all of their non-dairy food ingredients from Perkins Foodservice. Don't get me wrong: Hood and Perkins are both headquartered locally and provide jobs to thousands, which is great, but sustainability is not part of their model or their ethos. It's worth noting that Hood has been actively dropping its contracts with local organic milk providers, in order to keep up with the rising cost of organic labeling and production. This is partially the USDA's fault.

                                              It's about what you want to support, really: sustainable or local. I'm not going to try and say that one is better than the other, but let's not compare the two based purely on dollars. To do so does a disservice to food in general. Though I'm enjoying the metaphor, there's much more going on here than "foodie butterfly collecting."

                                              1. re: quirkydeb
                                                q
                                                quirkydeb May 17, 2010 08:22 AM

                                                The Buttermint was SO good. Buttery and pepperminty, as I guess it should be. I hoped it wouldn't be as good as I remembered, but it was. My husband even asked for seconds. Texture could be lusher and and smoother, but I've been making my own custard ice cream, so I could just be more used to that eggy mouthfeel.

                                      2. Pia Apr 18, 2010 12:25 PM

                                        Great tip, thank you! Once in a while, when I hear someone raving about Jeni's ice cream, I think about mail-ordering it, but it seems way too indulgent (especially when Toscanini's et al. are right here). $12 a pint is still pretty indulgent, but seems worth it one time to satisfy my curiosity.

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