UPDATE: Jeni’s will reopen June 20 at 5pm after closing on June 12 due to findings of Listeria in the production plant. Jeni’s partners at Smith Dairy will be making Jeni’s ice cream in their kitchens while Jeni’s solves the Listeria problem in their own production kitchen.
Pour out a cup of mochi balls for the impending decline of the student-beloved froyo craze. A new trend in desserts is emerging, and this one actually features sugar, fat, Ugandan vanilla, and even sun-popped corn. At last, real ice cream has entered center stage.
Disclaimer: Jeni’s will actually serve some frozen yogurt flavors, made with biodynamic yogurt, fresh fruit, and cream. This is the good stuff, not the mediocre self-serve yogurt made from mixes. Three cheers for real ingredients and serious creativity.
The new Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Central West End is located across from Gringo and is opening TONIGHT, June 4th. If you show up between 7-11 pm tonight you’ll get a free scoop of one of ten unique flavors, including the best seller Salty Caramel. I went to the VIP opening last night and sampled every flavor, so besides Salty Caramel I recommend the Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, and Pistachio Honey, but honestly all of the options are exceptional.
One of the currently featured sundaes is Caramel Corn, which includes a strangely delicious Sun-Popped Corn ice cream with Salty Caramel Sauce and Virginia peanuts. The shop also offers a special St. Louis-inspired Gooey Butter sundae, with Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream, Honey Butterscotch Sauce, and Salty Caramel Sauce.
I chatted with Jeni Britton Bauer herself (and got star struck) about how she comes up with each unique recipe. “My ideas for flavors come from history and art and flavor, lots of what’s going on around. If there is a Matisse museum exhibit I’ll make a flavor with the colors he painted with,” Britton Baeur explained. She studied art history in college until she dropped out to pursue her first ice cream business, and is still heavily influenced by her artistic background. “Art history was useful to get to undertand people, and what you do first and foremost as an entrepreneur is understand people,” she added.
Britton Baeur emphasizes the quality of her products above all else. All of the Jeni’s ice cream served in eight cities and shipped nationally is produced in a highly technical kitchen in Ohio, where she sources fresh dairy from nearby farmers. Other ingredients, such as their Ugandan vanilla beans, are purchased through direct trade with Fair Trade collaboration. A Missourian bean-to-bar chocolate producer, Askinosie Chocolate, provides the highest quality cocoa for Jeni’s ice creams and sauces.
Jeni’s has also been certified by the Bee Lab Citizen Science project, which uses new technology and Open Design to improve the practice of beekeeping. Britton Baeur said, “We believe businesses can make political change, including everything from paying living wages, direct trade, Fair Trade, working with women, composting… everything.”
Culinary ventures that focus on ethical and quality sourcing methods, just like Jeni’s, are crucial for sustainable food production in this country. “We’re a people company,” she added. “It’s going to define the twenty first century, how business can change communities for the good.”
The St. Louis expansion was put on hold in April when the company voluntarily recalled and destroyed over half a million pounds of ice cream due to traces of Listeria, but production is now safely back on track. The grand opening tonight will surely be a crowded event and a successful launch for the new shop. Pints of Jeni’s will also be sold in select Straub’s, Dierberg’s, Whole Foods, Local Harvest Grocery and other markets.
If you are in St. Louis, get in line early tonight to be one of 50 customers to receive a free newly redesigned Flavor Mug. The Central West End location will be open every day from 11am to 11pm, and I assure you I will be there for most of those hours.