Food & Drink

Food Stuff

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Where do new ice cream flavors come from?

Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream, made in Oak Park, holds an annual Flavor Selection Day to determine its four new flavors.

There were more than three dozen contenders this year, and the lucky winners are …

Wait! Forget the lucky winners. The lucky judges are the owners of dipping parlors, as they’re called in the industry, and their families. And a few lucky members of the press.

I learned a few shocking things at Flavor Selection Day.

First, a person can tire of chocolate. Second, a person can tire of ice cream. Third, both those feelings go away within 24 hours.

Terrillyn Walls, owner of the Idyl Inn in Grosse Ile, took the judging very seriously. I came upon her as she pored over her ballot, and asked which flavors she was voting for.

"Cotton Candy Twist, Grandma’s Apple Pie, and Peanut Butter S’Mores," she said.

Cotton Candy Twist, which tastes like its namesake, was strictly a business decision; Walls thinks it will appeal to the kid market.

Ashby’s Sterling ice cream is made by Tom Davis and Sons, a dairy in Oak Park. ("Dairy" is another industry term; the Davis family doesn’t own cows.) While it has more butterfat than other premium brands – 14 percent – nobody at Flavor Selection Day moans about the fat content, and nobody at Tom Davis and Sons apologizes for it. (There are no fat-free, sugar-free variations.)

Ashby’s Sterling is distributed throughout the Midwest and Southeast. Locally it is sold at Meijer and at various ice cream parlors.

"I knew I had to offer a quality brand," Walls told me. "And their ice cream is so good."

The Idyl Inn sells 75 gallons a week, scoop by scoop, during the summer months. Big sellers are Moose Tracks, Raspberry Chip Cheesecake and Turtle Sundae, all of which have won national awards.

When I tried to find out this year’s winners, I couldn’t pry the answer out of dairyman Jim Davis.

"They never tell me," he said. "I have a big mouth, I’d blabber it all over."

"So will I," I admitted.

I got the answers anyway, and you heard it here first: Grandma’s Apple Pie (pieces of shortbread and brown sugar swirl in apple-flavored ice cream), Dusty Road (vanilla malt ice cream with chewy caramel swirl and chocolate malt balls), Peanut Butter S’Mores (marshmallow ice cream with peanut butter swirl and chocolate-covered graham crackers) and Cotton Candy Twist (bright blue cotton candy swirled with pink cotton candy nougat).

It’s going to be a good summer on Gross Ile

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