VanillaWe set out to create a vanilla flavor with a truly homemade taste. Because industrially produced vanilla extracts are the status quo in the ice cream supply industry, this was no easy task. We tried many of these extracts; many were great, but none were awe-inspiring. So we kept experimenting. When striving to make the best, sacrifices cannot be made. After months of searching, we discovered a rare breed: organic bourbon and Tahitian vanilla orchids grown in Papua New Guinea. The plump pod fruits (beans) are cured in the sun to concentrate flavor. They are then aged in vodka in oak barrels for four months at an ambient temperature. After this, we grind the beans and vodka into a paste. Having whole beans in our product is very important. Many ice cream companies put bean specks in their product, which are vanilla beans that have been completely exhausted of flavor through an industrial extraction process. In these products, the presence of the specks is purely for aesthetic; in ours it is for flavor. Extracts, which are used by all major ice cream brands, contain only the essential oils from vanilla. There is far more flavor to vanilla than its essential oils. After the aging process, we grind the beans, allowing the delicate flavored pod pulp to come through. The final product has a delicate, complex and mellow flavor.
ChocolateFor our chocolate ice cream we chose Michel Cluizel Chocolate. We made our decision after tasting products from many top chocolate producers. Simply put, Michel Cluizel was the most extraordinary chocolate that we had ever tasted. This small, family-run French company is committed to producing the highest quality chocolate. They have discovered the world’s most remarkable plantations, and process their cocoa without the use of soy lecithin, a common commercial agent. And, since, 1997 Michel Cluizel has been committed to developing durable relationships with renowned planters in the spirit of fair trade. Unlike most cocoa processors, Michel Cluizel grinds whole vanilla beans into their mills with the cocoa beans. This is a far superior practice than using an extract.
PistachioOn the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, multi-generation Italian growers harvest the finest pistachios on earth. These pistachios account for less than 1% of the world’s production. They have a rich green color and an extraordinary flavor, and are the only pistachios in the world to have been certified by The International Slow Food Institute. This variety of pistachio grows in the rugged lands of Bronte, in southern Italy, and nowhere else in Europe. It is only here that the pistachios acquire such a brilliant emerald green color and such an intense, resinous and full fragrance. Perched on the steep roads between the Etna volcano and the Park of Nebrodi, Bronte’s livelihood depends on pistachios: the people of Bronte grow them, sell them and turn them into sweets, creams and sauces. The trees are not fertilized, nor are they watered, for there is very little water in that area. They require minimal attention and are pruned only a couple of times to remove the dead branches and the shoots in the “fallow” years. The pistachio tree produces its nuts one year and rests the following year. It is during the latter period that the farmers remove the few buds that have sprouted on the branches; the plant stores all its energy and literally explodes with fruit during the following season. After a two-year wait, the harvest is a crucial time. Between the end of August and the beginning of September, the town is empty, with everyone working in the “loci” (the local name for the pistachio orchards): women, children and even the elderly. The operation is almost acrobatic. Balanced on blocks of lava, people hold onto the branches with one hand and with the other pick the pistachio nuts, one by one, dropping them into a canvas bag tied around their necks. In a day’s work, they manage to pick 20 kilos of pistachios at the most. On flat lands a sheet can be spread out under the tree to make it easier to gather the nuts. The pistachio from Bronte cannot compete in price with the less tasty, although decidedly less expensive, fruits from Iran, Turkey and America. For this reason, leading confectionery and cold meats producers in Italy – who originally purchased their pistachios from Sicily- no longer use these premium pistachios. The flavor of these pistachios is smoky, and has a depth unmatched by the other varieties.
HazelnutPiedmont Hazelnuts are simply the best on earth. We have partnered with a hazelnut processing facility in Italy that not only produces the best tasting hazelnuts we’ve tried, but also operates in an ecologically friendly manner, by generating electricity at the plant using the hazelnut shells. The Peidmont Hazelnuts, or “LE NOCCIOLE PIEMONTE” are origin certified by the Italian government. They have a smoky and buttery flavor with a wonderfully complex and lasting finish. To flavor our ice cream, we grind these nuts into a paste and then fold in a second batch of hazelnuts – one that has been roasted – to add to the complexity of the mix.
GingerWe create this flavor with pure ginger juice, candied ginger pulp and pieces of candied ginger. We source the candied ginger from a producer who uses baby fiber-free ginger and candies it in closed kettles. Using closed kettles is very important as it creates an end product with an unparalleled intensity. Our ginger ice cream is creamy and sweet with just the right amount of heat.
EspressoOur coffee ice cream is made with Fair Trade Certified coffee beans from Columbia. It grows in the moist, temperate foothills of the Andes, where the combination of high altitude and moist climate makes for an especially rich flavor.
Currants and Cream
Currants and CreamA very popular flavor in Scandinavia, red currant is rarely seen stateside. We found a small farm in the Hudson Valley that grows tiny red currants with a wonderfully tart flavor. We mix these with fresh cream and add a touch of our Oak Barrel Aged Vanilla to create a very light flavor.
StrawberryStrawberry is a classic in ice cream flavors, but is too often ruined by artificial colorings and flavorings or “natural flavorings” that come from sources other than strawberries. These are unpleasant but necessary ingredients when insufficient quantities of strawberries or bland-tasting strawberries are used. At Van Leeuwen we do it right. By using generous quantities of sun-sweetened strawberries, we create the freshest flavored strawberry ice cream possible. Our strawberries are small, juicy, and red and have a true, pure strawberry flavor.
For this American favorite with add Organic Peppermint extract from Oregon to our custard, along with rough cut little chunks of 72% Askinosie chocolate. These smaller chips melt perfectly as you enjoy your scoop, creating the perfect mint and chocolate flavor explosion!
For this spicy flavor we hand crush quills of ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka and steep them in our custard. We then add just the right amount of ground cinnamon for an extra bite and added texture. Ceylon Cinnamon unlike its sister Cassia is a softer, barkier quill and has a more complex and floral flavor.
For this flavor we blend a light chocolate custard made with Michel Cluizel 99% Infini noir chocolate with Piedmont hazelnut paste. This classic Italian flavor gets it’s name from the Venetian carnival character “Gianduja”, he represents the region where these delicious nuts are grown. How do you pronounce it? John-doo-ya.
Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey Tea
We steep giant teabags filled with Organic Rishi Earl Grey Tea leaves in our custard for this Van Leeuwen favorite. The strong tea and subtle bergamot citrus oil lend themselves perfectly to ice cream. Paired with our Strawberry ice cream, the result is heavenly.
This rich flavor is sweetened with nothing more than the sugar from palm trees in Bali, Indonesia. The trees are tapped in the same way as maple tress and there sap reduced to a deep, caramel-esque tasting sugar. A similar flavor to Dulce De Leche.
Special Flavors(on rotation)
- Sticky Black Rice
- Salted Caramel with Buffalo Trace Bourbon
- Sticky Black Rice
- Ricotta with Candied Lemon
- Nectarine Sorbet
- Peach Melba