Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A trip to the ice cream mecca of... Columbus, Ohio? Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

This past weekend my husband and I drove to Columbus, Ohio for a family wedding which absolutely required a stop at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams - arguably the best ice cream shop in the country. I had heard about Jeni's a few years ago from my friend and teaching colleague who has a severe allergy to MSG and therefore must always be meticulous about ingredients due to the hidden places MSG resides in our food supply without our even knowing it. When she told me that not only could she eat at Jeni's, but that they had the best ice cream she had ever tasted, I knew it was something I had to check out.

I've actually had Jeni's ice cream before because Plum Market in Ann Arbor sells their ice cream for $10 a pint (Yes, you read that measurement correctly. Not $10 for a half-gallon, a pint). I decided to splurge one day and give the Queen City Cayenne a try (chocolate ice cream with a hint of cayenne pepper) and it was a revelation. The texture was perfect and the heat was just enough to tickle the back of your throat.

Seeing as how Jeni's has a bunch of different and unusual flavors, I was excited at the prospect of visiting their actual shop and getting to sample as many as I wanted without having to shell out $10 a pop. So we decided to leave Michigan a couple hours early on Saturday in order to make a Jeni's pit stop before the ceremony at 2:30.

There are actually a few Jeni's locations in the Columbus area, the one closest to the ceremony was in Dublin, and from the nondescript outside (right below an orthodontist's office), no one would expect the party in your mouth you will experience once you walk in the door.
I'm thinking this nondescript exterior is more of a Dublin town rule than something Jeni herself decided on
Once inside, the first thing the girls behind the counter ask is if you want to try some samples, to which I enthusiastically concurred. The first flavor I tried was the wildberry lavender, which tasted exactly the way you would expect it to taste: sweet and creamy and floral. The other flavor I was eager to try was their goat cheese and roasted red cherries, just out of wild curiosity. I am not a fan of goat cheese, I personally think it tastes way too gamey for my liking, the aftertaste akin to sucking on dirty feet, not that I know what dirty feet taste like, but it's what I imagine it would taste like. ;) So I was surprised when there wasn't a hint of gaminess in it, just creamy, sweet and decadent.

In my review of Jenni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, despite my dislike for using cream cheese in all of her at-home bases (which given my discerning palate, I think messes with the pureness of the flavor you're trying to achieve), I have to give Jeni props for all of the experimenting she has done with trying to get just the right creamy texture for her ice creams. Jeni's in-store ice creams do not use cream cheese, instead relying tapioca starch to achieve the right texture, which does not affect the flavor the way the at-home cream cheese base does.

I was extremely impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the girls working behind the counter, even going to far as to let me sample from their ice cream sandwiches, which is a much bigger profit loss than a small spoonful of ice cream. Grateful for their generosity at allowing me to sample the sandwiches, and being smitten with the one I tried, I decided I needed to order an orchid vanilla macaroon ice cream sandwich so I could have it all to myself.

This ice cream sandwich was a revelation y'all. I know I keep throwing that word around lately, but I don't even know how else to describe it. Ugandan vanilla ice cream between two almond macaroons, smothered in black currant jam.
I can still taste it right now: orchid vanilla macaroon ice cream sandwich
My husband ordered a cone with a scoop of the brown butter and almond brittle along with the roasted strawberry and buttermilk. Both of these flavors were delicious, but I was in love with the roasted strawberry and buttermilk for one simple reason: it actually tasted like strawberries. It was almost sorbet-like in its flavor and texture, that's how perfectly Jeni's got the essence of strawberry. My whole life I have never liked strawberry ice cream because it always tastes fake. I have yet to experience a strawberry ice cream in my life that didn't taste more like milk and strawberry flavoring than actual strawberries. Jeni's completely changed my mind in my belief that I don't like strawberry ice cream.
Left: views of some of the more unusual flavors Right: my husband's brown butter and almond brittle cone coupled with roasted strawberry buttermilk

After this delicious sweet detour, I've decided that I'd even be willing to spend the ridiculous amount of money it costs to ship Jeni's ice cream to my house. Luckily I can just go to Plum Market in Ann Arbor and spend $10 for a pint every time I'm feeling a hankering, but nothing will ever replicate the experience of making the trip to this ice cream mecca. Well, maybe if I can get my hands on one of those orchid vanilla macaroon ice cream sandwiches at Plum Market...

If you ever find yourself in the Columbus area, do yourself a favor and seek out one of their nine locations (one is actually in the Cleveland area and there are two in Tennessee as well). Your taste buds will thank you.


  1. Thanks for the nice post, Beth.

    The secret to our Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk is, of course, using real strawberries, roasting them—which concentrates the flavor—and then blending them in grass-grazed sweet cream.

    We didn't roast the strawberries last year... and, oh, man, can you tell the difference. The flavor is way more intense this time around.

    Thanks again for the love!

  2. Reading this made me drool so hard. I've only been to Columbus once but...I might need to make a trip for the ice cream alone (the ice cream sandwich! AHHH it sounds delicious).

    1. You can always have it shipped to your house for an exorbitant amount of money (but it is SO worth it!)

  3. Oh my gosh this ice cream looks amazing! And I thought that Blue Bell was expensive at $6.50 for a half gallon. It went on sale the other day for $3.00 and I had to buy several cases just because I couldn't resist. ;)

    I think that another Weekend Cooking gal (Christine) has one of Jeni's ice cream books. I'll need to check it out.

  4. Oh wow! I bet my parents can get this in northern Ohio. I may have to splurge on a pint next time we're there.

  5. Great post! My sister-in-law lives in Columbus, I'm going to ask her if she's been to Jeni's.

  6. Cayenne pepper in ice cream - great idea!

    Hope you are having a nice week. My Weekend Cooking contribution was a salmon pizza.

  7. I'd be most happy to find myself in Columbus sampling Jeni's icecream. Those flavours sound yummy.

  8. Been living here a few years and I take all my out of town guests to Jeni's! You bet when you try an ice cream it will taste like the title and not some artificial tasting product. The one thing I love about Jeni's and the people who go there is you will normally find a long line because rest assure everyone will try gads of flavors and nobody in line or behind the counter cares because when it is your turn you will want to try all the flavors too!