You scream! I scream! We all scream for ice cream!
This rich and creamy dessert has become a present-day staple in many United States household freezers. Until around 1800, when insulated houses were invented, ice cream was a rare and exotic treat, reserved mainly for the elite. Historically, no one has been awarded the “inventor of ice cream,” but many references report evidence of ice cream among the early presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. A recipe for vanilla ice cream, written in President Jefferson’s handwriting, was found as well as culinary tools such as ice molds and two pewter ice cream pots of Thomas Jefferson’s at Mount Vernon.
In 1851, Baltimore milk dealer Jacob Fussell opened an ice cream factory to make use of his unsold milk. The factory’s success was the pivotal beginning of the mass production of ice cream. The late 1800s brought the introduction of the traditional ice cream parlor and soda fountain, which converged to make a new creation — the ice cream float! Then, the multitude of technological advancements throughout the Industrial Revolution, such as refrigeration, steam power, and automobiles, made it possible for ice cream to be distributed to grocery store shelves starting in the 1930s.
This frozen treat became so popular during this time that it was offered as a morale-booster to U.S. troops during World War II. The increase in prepackaged ice cream sales within supermarkets diminished the novelty of ice cream parlors, so many of them closed their doors. In more recent times, artisanal ice cream shops have been emerging. Here are a few of our favorite Texas finds.
Lick Honest Ice Creams | Austin & San Antonio
Co-founders Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier both grew up in small towns, making homemade ice cream. These rural roots provided a strong foundation for the inspiration of Lick Honest Ice Creams, which opened its doors in 2011. Now the company has three Austin-based stores, one shop in San Antonio at the Pearl, and an ice cream truck called the Scoop Truck. Sobotik explained the passionate reasoning behind starting this charming local creamery. “The inspiration behind Lick Honest Ice Creams was to celebrate the seasons, flavors, and farmers of Texas through ice creams that are made honestly. To us, that means making ice creams with ingredients that come directly from local farmers and food artisans and making every single thing that goes into our ice creams from scratch.” This is carried out meticulously in the everyday operations at Lick. Even the base of each ice cream is their own recipe and made fresh for them weekly at the dairy.
The store carries seasonal flavors, based on seasonal availability from the farms. Essentially, the result is an ice cream creation of a farmer’s market! A favorite among these seasonal flavors is Sweet Cream and Strawberry, available during, you guessed it, strawberry season. Along with the seasonal flavors, their portfolio of everyday flavors is just as exquisite. A few of these include Caramel Salt Lick; Goat Cheese, Thyme, and Honey; and Texas Sheet Cake. Lick Honest ice cream can be found in select supermarkets in and around Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.
Sobotik summarized, “We really feel that we can make the planet a better place through ice cream, one lick at a time.”
Heritage Creamery | Waco
Independently owned and locally operated, Heritage Creamery is situated right across the street from the Baylor University campus, and next door to Common Grounds, a locally famous coffee shop. Heritage Creamery’s mission is to “provide locally and responsibly sourced, delicious, frozen treats for the community.” Along with the frozen, creamy goodness at Heritage are the incredible chocolate chip cookies. It is actually with a family chocolate chip cookie recipe that the dream for Heritage was born. At Heritage, customers can get scoops and cones, as well as ice cream sandwiches — any flavor ice cream with any two cookies. Shakes and floats are also on the menu, as well as ice cream by the pint.
Everything at Heritage Creamery is made from scratch, in-house. “One of the best ways that we can SERVE our community is to BUY from our community,” General Manager Scott Spain-Smith said. It is in this vein of community support that Heritage partners with several local businesses. All of the milk that they use is of superior quality and comes from Mill-King Market and Creamery in McGregor. Additionally, they partner with Heart of Texas Farms for eggs and seasonal produce. To create some of the adult-only ice cream flavors, Heritage partners with Balcones Distilling, a local distillery, to create flavors such as Mojito (made like the cocktail with lime, mint, and rum from Balcones), Rumble Butterscotch, and Whiskey Peach.
Everything at Heritage is made from scratch, in-house. “One of the best ways that we can SERVE our community is to BUY from our community,” General Manager Scott Spain-Smith said. It is in this vein of community support that Heritage partners with several local businesses. All of the milk that they use is of superior quality and comes from Mill-King Market and Creamery in McGregor. Additionally, they partner with Heart of Texas Farms for eggs and seasonal produce. To create some of the adult-only ice cream flavors, Heritage partners with Balcones Distilling, a local distillery, to create flavors such as Mojito (made like the cocktail with lime, mint, and rum from Balcones), Rumble Butterscotch, and Whiskey Peach.
Heritage also has two options to bring ice cream to you, via a mobile freezer or a retro ice cream van. Another way to bring Heritage to your event is by a custom-ordered cookie cake!
Fat Cat Creamery | Houston
After a realization that Houston Heights did not have a local ice cream shop, Sarah Johnston decided to take it upon herself to change that. She began experimenting in her kitchen and initially started a tiny wholesale and catering business. After expanding a bit Johnston began using a shared commercial kitchen, grinding away after her day job. Johnston then decided to take her business one stop further and opened her doors in the Heights in December 2013, two and a half years after making her initial declaration of Houston Height’s need for an ice cream shop.
Fat Cat makes all of their ice cream completely from scratch using Texas milk, cream, eggs, and sugar. “We’re committed to using local ingredients wherever we can — our eggs come directly from local farms, and we have seasonal, local produce delivered weekly,” Johnston said. Eggs, for example, are delivered twice weekly from Ole Dad Farms. After hand- cracking all of the eggs necessary for their ice cream and baked goods, Fat Cat follows through on its commitment to sustainability by selling the leftover egg whites to locals. Additionally, their ice cream pints and single-serve packages are made from leftover wheat straw and are compostable. Their spoons are also made of environmentally-friendly materials such as bio-plastics and cornstarch.
When it comes to flavors, Fat Cat does not disappoint. Their offerings include signature, year-round flavors such as Cat’s Meow Mexican Vanilla, Milk Chocolate Stout (using Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout), and Waterloo Strawberry Buttermilk (using Waterloo No. 9 Texas gin). Fat Cat also offers seasonal flavors, averaging four to six new flavors each month, created by their ice cream chef and production manager. Historically, some favorite fall flavors have been Caramel Corn, Raspberry Jam and Biscuits, and Cream Milk and Cookies. Fat Cat can also be found at several Houston establishments sold by the pint and by the scoop.
Sweet Firefly | Richardson
Two local Richardson moms, Angie Conard and Patti Otte, had a dream of starting an ice cream shop “to create a space where generations of family members could gather to share happy times together,” Otte stated. This sweet shop caters not only to families, but also to the University of Texas at Dallas students, local business people, and visitors from across the Metroplex. The duo formed a partnership and opened the doors to Sweet Firefly in 2011.
Located in the II Creeks shopping center, they are a bit “off the beaten path,” but word of mouth and glowing reviews has kept a steady customer base over the past eight years. The Sweet Firefly team makes its own premium, gourmet artisan ice cream by hand. Churning off-site since opening, the shop recently expanded into a new creamery and is now able to create their sweet, creamy product in-house. They boast 22 flavors, fourteen of which are consistently available and eight rotate weekly. Seasonal flavors make special appearances as well. Their best-selling flavor is a delectable Sea Salt Caramel, with Bourbon Vanilla making a close second. A few other favorite flavors are Oreo Cookie Crunch, Cinnamon, and Coffee Toffee. A sure-fire favorite with the kids is the bright blue Kooky Monster.
Sweet Firefly tends to each aspect of their business with love and care. Otte pointed to examples of this: “From choosing the most amazing team members to pouring hours of training into them to ensure their success, from hiring the best ice cream makers and using premium products . . . every decision we make and every action we take is made thoughtfully with the goal of producing an unforgettable experience.”
This quaint shop has a light and happy feel and is adorned with sweet sentiments to offer additional pleasantries to the customer experience. One wall is inscribed with a sweet sentiment about fireflies, ending with “We’re glad you’re here, and we hope you’ll be inspired to look for ‘fireflies’ and spread your own joy and light when you leave this happy place.” It is hard to leave this upbeat atmosphere without a smile on your face, which accomplishes their mission, which Otte stated is to “Spread joy… one scoop at a time.”