For those of you who hail from, or have visited, Southeastern Ohio, you know the famed heat and humidity of the Miami River Valley. If you haven’t had the pleasure, just imagine sitting in your car’s steamy insides for an afternoon of summer sun. Our hometown, Canterbury, has heat lightning, daily afternoon thunderstorms, white picket fences, and, of course, slugs. And if ever a town needed an ice cream truck, ours did. So, when my eldest brother Chaucer bought an off-white mini school bus from a local Methodist church, we brothers were just about in business. It was a bear to start, but my brother Reeve is handy with tools, and while he made her run, bros Franklin and Miller tore out the seats and put in a bank of coolers. My last brother, Cook, and I procured treats to place therein: Bomb Pops, Dreamsicles, Drumsticks, Frozen Charleston Chews—if you can imagine it as a cool summer treat, we had it in our selection. But, to be honest, it pales in comparison to what Willy Street Co-op has today.
Now, I wrote before that the Co-op would get more than it bargained for in this article, and I wasn’t foolin’. You see, every year, my brothers and I make a pilgrimage back home to see Ma, and this years’ trip landed right before my deadline. So, packing up an old cooler with treats from the Co-op’s frozen dessert section, I headed home...to consult with the experts. They knew I was coming; they knew what I had in the trunk, and they were waiting at the gate: six reviews for the price of one.
Our first taste test was actually more of a comparison of two new non-dairy ice creams. We tried them, initially, with groans and skepticism; however, the taste and texture so reminded us of “the real stuff,” that we were immediately won over. We sampled Turtle Mountain’s Purely Decadent Coconut Ice Cream (Vanilla), and when we could finally pull ourselves away, Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss (Cherry Amaretto). Both use coconut milk as a base for what is almost indistinguishable from regular dairy ice cream. The texture of both is genuine, creamy, and quite rich—they even melt correctly. And, while brother Reeve says, “Moooove over dairy ice cream. I’m going coco-NUTS for this stuff!” only the slightest hint of coconut is present in either flavor or brand we sampled. Oh, and the vanilla went just fine with Ma’s pecan pie. Miller pointed out that since they didn’t rely on milk, the ecological impact of a single pint would be far less than traditionally made ice cream. What’s more, they are both vegan too! Then Chaucer, (whose name could just as easily have been Thomas), insisted on seeing the label when I told him that these coconut milk ice creams have only about 65 percent of the calories of traditional dairy ice creams. Both brands are seriously worth a try.
Next, I pulled two dairy ice creams out of the cooler. “Not cool,” said Cook. “You hid the good stuff, eh Geoff? Ice cold,” added Franklin. “Chill out guys,” I retorted. Turns out I had held out, for the Co-op’s new Green & Black’s Organic Ice Cream proved quite amazing. “Green & Black’s...aren’t they the chocolate bar people?” asked Miller. Indeed they are, and their trademark approach of simplicity in their chocolate bars is carried over in their new ice cream line. They start with fresh, organic sweet cream and whip it together with vanilla beans or some of their famous, dark, bittersweet chocolate. The result is a simple, but rich ice cream that is well balanced without being too sweet. While Reeve and Cook reported “Delicious!” and “Satisfying,” Miller asked for more of the coconut milk vanilla ice cream for a side by side. “It’s out back in the hammock,” croaked Ma, waving a crooked thumb towards the screen door overlooking the wrap-around porch. “Pa!” we all shouted, rushing outside. Too late! Pa’s old coonhound Friar, appeared to be using his tongue to write the alphabet on the inside of the cardboard pint, and the angle of Pa’s hat told us he was fast asleep. “Well, what else you got, Geoffrey?” laughed Franklin.
Moving back inside, I showed them two kinds of organic frozen fruit bars the Co-op carries made by Natural Choice. I’d only brought strawberry and raspberry, but we also stock orange, coconut, and (to Cook’s chagrin), mango. “You know I love mango, why didn’t you bri-” he said as I stuffed a raspberry bar into his open mouth. “Nevmphermindph,” he finished. The rest of the boys tore into the two flavors I’d brought. Each is made of organic fruit, has little additional sugar, and melts at just the right rate. “These taste fresh...like the homemade fruit bars Ma used to make,” chimed Miller and Reeve in unison (they’re twins). “We’ll see about that,” snapped Ma as she slipped one into her apron and retreated into the coolness of the porch. Our final family tally voted raspberry the winner, and Ma admitted, “these may approach mah recipe.” I’ll take that as a vote of confidence.
We tried quite a few more products, and while I haven’t the space to write about them all, I do want to mention something that got rave reviews back home, and is a little bit off the beaten path. The Co-op carries Kulfi Bars, a delicious frozen dessert bar that originates in India. It is a flat Popsicle-style bar that is dairy-based, but the milk is frozen solidly, not whipped like ice cream. The result is an extra dense, creamy dessert that melts extremely slowly (great for the 90-plus temps back home). The Co-op carries strawberry, mango, pistachio, and malai cream and almonds. We sampled the pistachio (one of my personal favorite flavors) and it is really delicious. Reeve added—to general groans—, “I’m nuts for Kulfi...pistachio NUTS!”
We ate the Co-op’s delicious frozen treats well into the night, including many that closely resemble those we used to carry in the school bus. Again, too many to write about or even list here...but swing by the frozen dessert case located in the northwest corner of the store -and see the selection for yourself. Try a few, and you too will be telling stories about ’em to friends and family. Sure, you may not go on a full-out pilgrimage of your own, but check out the Co-op’s selection and you’ll find healthy, tasty desserts that will satisfy your sweet tooth and pass any taste test of your own...and that’s a tale worth telling.
(*While a few of the preceeding details may prove to be just shy of truthful, rest assured that the balance—the product reviews—are as genuine as the words from which they are crafted.)