Small Bites

He screams: Jesse Griffith holds a cone of goat cheese and cherry ice cream from the Ultimate Ice Cream Company on Charlotte Street. Photo by Chris Wood

It’s hot!

But plenty of local chefs are making it easier to bear the heat this summer. Not content with simply making homemade ice cream, local frozen-treat artisans are turning out rather unique flavors this year. Here are just a few:

Hop to it!

Having a hard time getting your kids to eat their vegetables? The Hop Ice Cream Café is here to help.

Self-proclaimed “ice cream ninja” Ashley Garrison developed a sweet-beet ice cream using roasted beets from fellow Merrimon Avenue eatery, HomeGrown. The Hop also has a surprisingly popular spinach ice cream with a raspberry swirl.

With a serving of vegetables in each scoop, what’s not to love for the parents? But do the kids dig it, too?

"It sells faster than chocolate chip," says Ashley's husband, Greg. "The kids love it because it's green and has the red swirl in it. You wouldn't know it had spinach in it if I didn't tell you. It's not earthy."

The Hop also sells a carrot-ginger ice cream, made with a vegan coconut-milk base. "It's good," says Greg. "We juice five pounds of organic carrots and use some of the pulp mixed with fresh chopped ginger." He adds that he's found one local farmer growing a particularly fleshy variety of ginger that the shop will soon incorporate.

"We've also made a lemon balm sorbet with the actual herb, where we puree the herb with some sugar and a little water," says Greg. Ashley is also developing a salted licorice ice cream made with the actual licorice plant. "We're waiting for the plant to mature before we make that. It will probably be another month before the plant is ready," he says.

"Lavender is flowering right now, so we'll be steeping the cream in that soon," he adds. The Hop also makes a vegan lavender almond milk ice cream.

Blueberry, mulberry, blackberry and raspberry season is on its way, says Greg, so we can expect fresh berry sorbet and ice cream from The Hop soon. Ashley’s latest creation is chocolate ice cream mixed with pop-rocks, those mouth-tingling confections from childhood.

Looking for an even healthier sweet treat than spinach ice cream? The Hop makes a Buchi Kombucha sorbet with the local kombucha company's “Fire,” a ginger-cayenne flavored fermented tea. "It will clean you out if you have a sinus thing,” says Greg. “It's great. Even though it's more expensive, we sell it regularly."

August is a big month for The Hop: the ice cream shop will celebrate its 33rd birthday (as well as the 3-year anniversary of the Garrisons taking over the company). Keep an eye out for a big celebration, Garrison says.

The Hop has two locations: 721 Haywood Road in West Asheville and one at 640 Merrimon Ave. suite 103. For more information, visit thehopicecreamcafe.com.

The Ultimate!


Ultimate Ice Cream Company
opens its new kiosk this week in the alley next to Bouchon. The selection will include several traditional flavors and two or three of their more unique creations.

The Ultimate’s maple-bacon, by the way, is spectacular, with bacon that stays amazingly crisp. "We cook it until it's about 75 percent there," says owner Kevin Barnes. "Then we pour off the grease, douse it with brown sugar and put it back in the oven. It caramelizes that way. It's a simple way to candy bacon. We cook it to where it would almost be too crisp for you to have for breakfast, because we know the potential is there for it to get soft in the ice cream."

Barnes says that the shop has recently developed a feta, toasted pine nut and black pepper ice cream, a flavor combination that he picked up from the Gypsy Queen herself, Suzy Phillips. Barnes says that he may soon provide the ice cream for Phillips to serve out of her Lebanese food truck.

"That was something that she suggested to me maybe two years ago," says Barnes.

Ultimate also serves a Wild Turkey bourbon ice cream, which Barnes says is kind of boozy. "You get that back of the tongue zing from the alcohol," he says. "We have to keep it in a cold part of the freezer so it doesn't get too soft from the alcohol in it."

Do you need an ID to eat it? It's not that strong, he says. "But I kind of like to ride the edge with it."

Other flavors include cherry-goat cheese and goat-cheese fig. Barnes plans to play around with some more savory flavors, like a "deconstructed" curry and some smoky and spicy preparations. But even those are becoming more common, says Barnes. "You kind of have to push the bar farther and farther these days. Right now, even bacon is becoming a common flavor."

Ultimate Ice Cream has two full-scale locations (1070 Tunnel Road and 197 Charlotte Str.). The new kiosk is located at 62 1/8 N. Lexington. For more information, call 296-1234 or 258-1515.

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