Reunited and it feels so good!
I, along with everyone in the craft ice cream scene, collectively wept when Jackie and Brian Cuscuna had to declare bankruptcy and sell their beloved Brooklyn-based company Ample Hills. Ample Hills was one of the first shops to ship their ice cream to my door and I immediately fell in love with their combination of dense rich custard and high quality house made mix-ins. Ample Hills lives on under new ownership — I’ve ordered, and it’s not the same. It’s not awful, but it’s far from the premium product I fell in love with five years ago.
Thankfully for all of us serious scoopers, Jackie and Brian don’t have a single ounce of quit in their bodies. In the summer of 2021 they launched The Social Ice Cream Parlor, an experience they spoke about in depth on their excellent podcast As The Ice Cream Churns. Their story is absolutely wild — from inking a deal with Disney and making exclusive Star Wars and Marvel ice cream’s to expanding quicker than they could financially support to eventually being crushed by bankruptcy with a final finishing blow from the pandemic we have all endured the last two years.
The Social strips everything back to the basics. Brian is making the ice cream and hand packing the pints while Jackie tackles the ins and outs of the business and social media. They have ample seating to encourage hanging out over a scoop and have added old fashioned cake donuts to the menu that they make fresh in house every morning. It’s a family affair and a love affair, and the passion shows in the product that came delivered to my door in San Francisco all the way from Brooklyn, NY. “The Old Ballgame Popcorn & Peanut Brittle” is popcorn-infused ice cream with house made peanut butter peanut brittle.
Many of the people and ideologies from Ample Hills carried over into The Social, but one major element has changed: eggs. Most of Ample Hills’ iconic flavors were a custard base, meaning they utilized egg yolks in the core recipe; and The Social got rid of the yolks entirely. I loved the original Ample Hills recipe, I even have the cookbook, but this new base is just as dense, rich, and phenomenally creamy as I remember from vintage AH.
Egg yolks are an amazing vehicle for mouthfeel and texture but their extra fat can also muddy the flavor. The lack of egg yolks in this base pays dividends for the popcorn flavor. It’s buttery and slightly salty with a little bit of caramel flavor poking through and a toasted flavor that permeates throughout. I absolutely love the texture of The Social’s ice cream, it feels traditional and elevated at the same time. Maybe it’s the 70s style swooping rainbow logo that reminds me of progression rock pioneers Yes but this ice cream feels so classic that I could see myself enjoying it in a parlor before I was born.
The peanut butter peanut brittle is the lone mix-in and it is executed perfectly. Peanut butter brittle is a touch different than your average caramelized-sugar variety and the foundation is more creamy and nutty than purely sweet. There are whole peanuts embedded within which have a softer crunch than the dense intense chomp of the brittle’s base. Even though this is the only mix-in, the brittle bleeds a bit into the base and creates a mild caramel-like swirl that pools around the brittle in a very endearing way. I’ll call it brittle blood, and the brittle blood is delicious, bringing a little more extra texture to a pint that truly tastes like digging into a box of Cracker Jacks. There’s something instantly nostalgic about these flavors colliding in ice cream form. For anyone who likes a sweet and salty treat it’s a simple and well-executed duo that’s sure to hit your tastebuds like a home run in the ninth inning.
Found at: Goldbelly ($99 for 6 pints)