When Islanders think of Vineyard ice cream, most immediately envision the long lines and generic selections of the more commercial Mad Martha’s or Scoops. But one entrepreneurial Islander is well on her way to changing this mindset since she began selling her own homemade, all-natural and organic ice cream this summer.
Karen Colombo, a year-round resident of Vineyard Haven, began making her own ice cream 12 years ago simply as a hobby. Over time, her homemade ice cream — coined Favorite Brand Ice Cream — had become so popular amongst her family and friends that she decided to sell it commercially. Her methods for making the ice cream differ greatly from those perfunctory tactics used by many major-league ice cream stores and companies today.
“I make it all from scratch,” she explains. “And I don’t choose ingredients based on price — I choose what’s good.”
Her techniques have evolved since she began pursuing the hobby. For example, she initially did her own milking. Now that things have ramped up, she buys all-natural and locally-sourced milk, eggs and cream. She decided to name her ice cream Favorite Brand because she chooses all of her personal favorite products as ingredients. Ms. Colombo also goes an extra step to create a natural taste for each flavor — the flavors come directly from the real product, not chemicals or syrups. “I use real, organic raspberries for the raspberry ice cream, and real coffee beans for the coffee flavor,” Ms. Colombo says.
The art of ice cream making was not easy to master. “My first batch was terrible,” she laughs. Over time, with feedback from her ice cream-loving friends, she perfected the recipe she has today. “It’s really just a scientific process — all about monitoring the timing and temperatures,” she says.
Her procedure now revolves around the use of a commercial machine, producing 24 quarts per batch at her Vineyard Haven home/ice cream factory.
The hardest thing about producing high quality ice cream on the Island, she says, is acquiring the ingredients. Quality ingredients are expensive — which is why a pint of Favorite Brand costs around $7.
Favorite Brand Ice Cream currently comes in five flavors: chocolate, vanilla, coffee, raspberry, and ginger-nut. Once the summer demand begins to decline, she plans to expand her business. “I want to try some new flavors, like mint chocolate chunk,” she says. “I also hope to introduce ice cream cakes for birthday and dinner parties, and to create some sorbet flavors as well.” Additionally, Ms. Colombo looks forward to experimenting with coconut milk, with an eye toward creating a product containing no dairy — an ideal treat for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. And although Ms. Colombo currently produces all of the ice cream herself, she plans to employ a few workers for future summers to help her with the process, as she anticipates demand to increase with each successive year.
Ms. Colombo currently sells her ice cream at Cronig’s Market, Fiddlehead Farm on State Road in West Tisbury and the Tisbury Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays. But does she aspire to compete with the likes of Mad Martha’s or Scoops? “I’m pretty happy selling wholesale,” she says. She also notes that her ice cream is more of a gourmet product than the ice cream of many Island establishments. In the eyes of Ms. Colombo and her loyal customers, Favorite Brand Ice Cream is special, different from the down-Island ice cream shops — in the same way that Chilmark Chocolates differs from Ben and Bill’s.
Look for Favorite Brand Ice Cream around the Island — but if you’re going to visit her stand at the Farmer’s Market, be sure to arrive on time, as her ice cream tends to sell out fast.