I was on the road again this week for work, this time to Atlanta, and I managed to escape briefly one evening for an excursion to Jeni’s Ice Cream
The original Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream was founded a little over 16 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, by Jeni Britton Bauer. Today, with over 33 locations in 10 cities and pre-packed pints in more than 3,000 stores nationwide, Jeni’s story is an inspiring one, with all the makings of one of those great start-up stories we love so much here in Silicon Valley. Here’s a recent article from Forbes
profiling Jeni and her journey.
Their Westside Provisions District
shop is an unexpected gem, at least for an out-of-towner whose Atlanta experience had largely been limited to my company’s office in Buckhead
. Chic and swanky, this little neighborhood straddles two sides of a rail track, connected by a romantically lit footbridge. Brick industrial buildings have been renovated to house an array of high end furniture and decor shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and, of course, Jeni’s.
Oh, the smell when you walk in! Prepare to be overcome by the amazing aroma of freshly baked waffle cones. This takes me straight back to my Ice Cream Man
days, where I spent a couple of summers behind hot waffle irons and spinning cones. My work uniform perpetually smelled of that baked batter. I am now reminded of this every time I open my suitcase, since the shirt I wore soaked up that smell and got packed into my luggage.
Eager, drooling customers are offered waffle cone samples to munch on while they wait patiently in a slowly-advancing line. As you approach the ice cream case you’ll see why it’s such a wait: the options are abundant and complicated. Like a fancy restaurant waiter rattling off the extravagant ingredients in your dinner dish, the staff are taught to recite a complicated description of each flavor, which frankly felt a bit contrived for a preppy ice cream joint. With every customer sampling multiple flavors apiece, the whole recitation process can take a while.
After sampling several and contributing more than my fair share to the wait time for the customers behind me (sorry, everybody!), I settle on the trio sampler with Creme Puff, Pumpkin 5-Spice, and Brambleberry Crisp.
- Pumpkin 5-Spice – more spice than pumpkin, this flavor was overpowered by a bold mix of ginger, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and white pepper. While it was a lovely creamy smooth texture and smelled wonderful, it left me wanting for more of that familiar fall pumpkin flavor. A whole spicy scoop was simply too overpowering for me to finish.
- Brambleberry Crisp – by far the best of the bunch, this flavor had rich ribbons of lovely jam and ample chunks of baked crisp punctuating a neutral vanilla. It was rich and sweet, but not overly so.
- Cream Puff – supposedly a personal favorite of Jeni’s, this flavor is described as a “bright, candy-like vanilla custard with a pinch of sea salt” and toasted pastry flakes. I didn’t get much sea salt, possibly because I was so distracted by the pastry flakes. It was such an unusual consistency: rough, grainy, almost like cottage cheese. The overall flavor was good, but I’m a bit weirded out by the texture.
As with my previous stop at Salt & Straw, I give Jeni’s lots of credit for originality. You don’t come here for standard ice cream-fare; you come for the adventure.
I will admit that while waiting in line I had just enough time convince myself (but not quite long enough to talk myself out of) buying Jeni’s Splended Ice Creams at Home book. So even though it may not be a regular stop in my standard scoop shop rotation, I was totally inspired to boldly experiment a bit more on my own. Expect some experiments with my own spin on Jeni’s flavors sometime down the road!
Total score: 3.6 scoops