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Hello Halo

March 10, 2014

There’s a little Szechuan restaurant that I really like just outside of Princeton. I was trying to get there at least once a month at the beginning of this sabbatical. The dishes on the menu aren’t available anywhere in the Capital Region, and I imagine one would have to drive up to New York City to find its equivalent.

Still, I can’t say I’m going to miss the place terribly when I’m gone.

How do you find what’s truly best about an area? After all, there are always going to be plenty of great spots. Sure, some may be a little bit harder to find than others. But I like to ask people, “If you moved away from here, what’s the one place that you would really miss the most?”

Well, as the remaining days of the sabbatical tick away, I’m starting to think about what I will long for when I’m back in Albany. One might think it’s the regional specialties like pork roll or Trenton tomato pie. But it’s not. These unique local foods are interesting cultural artifacts to be loved and preserved However, I think you have to grow up eating them to ever truly miss them.

No. I’m going to miss a local version of a food that’s so ubiquitous it’s practically everywhere.

One wouldn’t necessarily peg Princeton as an ice cream town. It’s not like Vermont where the milk runs like water. And speaking of running, everyone in this town seems hell bent on staying in shape. Runners abound and there’s a popular Lululemon on the main drag.

But right around the corner from the fancy pants yoga shop is a fancy pants ice cream parlor. Around the corner from that one is another well loved scoop shop that includes an ice cream patisserie. And down the street is a third shop that specializes in blending toppings into their hard homemade ice cream.

The Bent Spoon gets all the press. Their hot chocolate is exceptional, but truth be told their small batch ice cream is hit or miss. Even if Halo Pub’s ice cream wasn’t half the price, it would still be better. In fact, it is so good that when I move back to New York, I may have to find some dry ice in order to bring some back with me.

I’m going to miss this stuff fiercely. In many ways, it’s everything that I want in an ice cream.

To make great ice cream you have to start with great milk and cream. As it turns out, the Halo Pub is an offshoot of Halo Farm. It’s a dairy, so they are making ice cream from their own milk. Yes, they work with partner dairies too. However they have control of the milk throughout the process. What is rare and amazing is that they choose the more time intensive process of slow, lower heat pasteurization, to preserve more or the milk’s flavor.

On top of this they don’t add stabilizers, colors, artificial flavors, gums, or preservatives. And what you are left with is a clean, intensely flavored, dense, almost chewy, ice cream.

I couldn’t figure out how Halo Pub could sell generous sized scoops of the stuff in their Princeton shop for two bucks a pop. But when you go to the farm’s store (which is the only other place to buy Halo’s products), full pints are just two dollars each when you buy three. It’s a staggering value.

What’s even more staggering is that in a taste test between Haagen Dazs vanilla and Halo Farm’s Tahitian vanilla, the Halo Farm ice cream came out ahead. Is every flavor a winner? No.

But their coffee ice cream with chocolate covered almonds is my absolute favorite. For a while I thought the plain coffee was better. After all, without any inclusions there’s more ice cream in every pint. However the coffee with dark chocolate covered almonds is a roasty, toasty trifecta: coffee beans, cocoa beans and tree nuts. Smooth, crunchy, bitter, sweet, fruity, nutty, floral, and just a little bit salty.

It’s made simply from fresh milk, fresh cream, skim milk, pure cane sugar, arabica coffee, almonds, chocolate, yolk of egg, bourbon vanilla and salt. Flavors without inclusions have even fewer ingredients. Some rely on “natural flavors” which I’m not crazy about. But coffee is made from coffee. And vanilla is made from vanilla. And all of it is made from great dairy.

Despite pretending to eat healthier and having lapsed on my daily visits to the fitness center, I’m continuing to make Halo Farm’s ice cream a regular part of my diet. In part, it’s because I know that when I’m gone I will have to say goodbye to this local legend.

I can only hope that someone at Stewart’s decides to take a roadtrip down to Trenton and tries to figure out how Halo Farm does it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2014 9:36 am

    Sounds really good. Have you tried Jeni’s ice cream? Discovered this nectar at the Fancy Food Show. It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted by a county mile… and it’s $10 per pint! I expect you can get it at your local Whole Foods. Would be interesting to do a taste off against Halo…

  2. Amanda permalink
    April 2, 2014 7:32 am

    I’ll stop bombarding you on Twitter and comment here. Please tell me you and your family have been out to Halo by the farmers market and watched the bottling process. I remember loving it as a kid (and lets be real, when I’ve gone out there as an adult too)

    • April 2, 2014 9:50 am

      Most definitely. In fact, it’s in the regular rotation of errands. Pints of Halo ice cream are a staple for us now. So I’ll drive down on a Friday or Saturday and take advantage of the Trenton Farmers Market too. That’s where they sell lard chips, Amish butter, and the best “Boston custard” donuts around.

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