We've known for a while now that Brooklyn is the borough for fancy ice cream. Blue Marble and Van Leeuwen serve hormone-free dairy while Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is famous for its eight classic flavors made in small batches.
Now there's a new purveyor on the block: Ample Hills Creamery in Prospect Heights, New York City's first ice cream parlor that makes its signature sweets totally from scratch on-site.
After a few delays, the shop is scheduled to debut early next week. (Call ahead to be sure it's open: 718-670-3346.) We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the parlor last month, and we're still screaming for the ice cream.
Founded by Brian Smith, a former sci-fi writer and father of two, Ample Hills ice cream debuted at Celebrate Brooklyn! last year. Sold from a pushcart, the funky flavors so wowed concertgoers, Smith decided to open a year-round outpost on Vanderbilt Avenue.
Unlike other NYC parlors, Smith makes his ice cream from scratch at the store. Most shops buy a premade dairy mix, then add flavoring, but Smith cooks the milk, eggs, cream and sugar in a vat pasteurizer, which, according to the Department of Agriculture, makes Ample Hills a dairy plant—the only one in New York City.
By making his own mix, Smith doesn't have to use the same base for every flavor. Plus, it's literally the freshest ice cream in town. All ingredients come from upstate New York spots like Battenkill Valley and Feather Ridge Farm. Customers can also enjoy a front-row view of the ice-cream-making process via a big kitchen window and nearby signs that explain every step. The 24 adventurous flavors include Sunday Brunch (cinnamon infused custard ice cream with pieces of vanilla French toast), maple-bacon and four different takes on chocolate.
The parlor is very inviting so you don't have to just grab your scoop and run. There are booths, tables and stools; free WiFi; Irving Farm espresso and brew-by-cup coffee; and a children's play space with ice-cream themed books and toys.
Ample Hills also plans to host parties. In addition to learning how the sweet stuff is made, the kids will get to assist by pedaling a one-of-a-kind stationary bike that powers a hand-crank ice-cream maker. The birthday child will choose the flavor, and all of the kids can take turns churning.
Smith took the name Ample Hills from Walt Whitman's poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, which explores the connections between people through time: "What is it, then, between us? What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us? Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not. I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine." In the spirit of the ode, Smith says he hopes that his parlor will become a gathering place for local families as their kids grow up.
Ample Hills Creamery is located at 632 Vanderbilt Avenue between Prospect and Park Places, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, 718-670-3346.
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