Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
632 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
Yes, the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck lacks a catchy jingle, but that doesn't mean don't I get excited every time I see its yellow façade parked on the street. But alas, the food truck's very purpose is to be mobile, meaning that unless you constantly check your Twitter account you can't be quite sure if you'll see one or not. Then one day owner Ben Van Leeuwen opened up a brick-and-mortar ice cream shop in Greenpoint and Twitterless sweet tooths everywhere rejoiced. Regardless of where it's served, the product is still the same—ice cream made with fresh milk and cream coaxed from pasture-raised cows, plus egg yolks and pure cane sugar. Other ingredients are painstakingly sourced to the point of comedy. Read the following in the voice of J. Peterman from Seinfeld for maximum amusement: Pistachios plucked from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, organic Tahitian vanilla orchids grown in Papa New Guinea and aged in oak barrels, Piedmont hazelnuts origin-certified by the Italian government and processed in a facility powered by hazelnut shells.
Is it all a bit over the top? Must we introduce the concepts of aging and terroir to what was once a simple childhood treat? A single taste will convince you yes. This is absurdly creamy stuff, soft as silk but firm to the touch. Flavors pop out at you immediately. That means don't order the ginger ice cream unless you really, really like ginger; subtlety is not this shop's forte. The nuts, fruit and coffee they add always tastes authentic because they are authentic—no extracts, artificial flavoring or skimping is allowed.
The narrow shop itself has a clean and casual country-chic vibe, with little flowers poking out of glass vases, a tiny counter lined with pastries and a layer of white paint coating the brick walls and pressed-tin ceiling. Van Leeuwen made a smart move by offering coffee from Intelligentsia and baked goods such as cheddar dill scones and ricotta pound cake, making sure business is brisk during the mornings and cold winter months when frozen treats really aren't on people's minds—although, after a few tastes of this ice cream, those times will be few and far between.