Despite my deep affection for sweets, I balk at paying $10 for a pint -- a pint -- of ice cream. That's what I told my Ohio friends who insisted I give Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams a chance.
Jeni Britton Bauer is the darling of Columbus foodies, having almost 10 years ago launched a line of hand-made ice creams in exotic flavors. Success -- and a string of retail shops -- have since followed.
Recently while in Columbus, I visited a Jeni's shop, where one can more easily and cheaply indulge in the quite astonishing flavors: Reisling poached pear sorbet, goat cheese and cherries, Bangkok peanut, wildberry lavender and Queen City cayenne. A five-dollar bill gets one three small scoops, or a "trio"; another buck, and it's a "quartet."
I honored Jeni's commitment to local by choosing from the seasonal "Ohio I Love" board: rhubarb lime cardamom, strawberry buttermilk and lemon-blueberry. All were sinfully creamy and packed with big chunks of fruit. I was particularly impressed with the rhubarb ice cream, in which threads of the gooey yellow-greenish fruit snaked through the pale ice cream like stringy, lumpy off-color caramel sauce. (Let's face it: Cooked rhubarb is not attractive, and it takes chutzpah to serve the booger-like fruit so brazenly.) A second visit found me loving the more savory selections: signature salty caramel, Ugandan vanilla bean and bourbon buttered pecan.
It's almost worth a three-hour drive to sample them all, but Pittsburgh is in the golden "local" circle. More than a dozen varieties of Jeni's hand-labeled pints can be found at Market District, McGinnis Sister and Whole Foods. It's a delicious use of a $10 bill.