Some of the best summer memories involve ice cream, and yoghurt has advanced to a key lunchbox snack. In the Garden Route, the local artisan dairy scene has elevated playful science to an exciting niche with unexpected tastes and experimental flavours.
WORDS Grethe Mattheus PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré
“Ice cream is like a time machine,” says Paul West, whose philosophy it is that memories are linked to taste. Through his extraordinary flavoured ice cream, he is passionate about creating not only new memories, but sharing moments when a taste sensation takes a customer back in time.
After going to chef school at the age of 47, Paul and Su West bought Ice Palazzo in Plettenberg Bay in 2009 and ventured into an unknown new career. “The day you stop learning is the day you die,” says Paul.
I feel a bit like Charlie entering Willy Wonka’s factory as he tells of the weird and wonderful flavours that have seen the light in his kitchen. From a cherry and cinnamon apocalypse fire ball flavour, as a tongue-in-cheek ode to doomsday prophesies, to horseradish sorbet or brandy and coke, and cones filled with hot-cross bun or Christmas cake flavours that celebrate the festive season – the passion folded into each batch is contagious.
Working with local chefs, Paul takes every opportunity to redefine what should, or should not, be served as ice cream. “One of the craziest flavours I have experimented with was avocado ice cream. I then candied shrimp and made a shrimp infused butterscotch sauce. When the other chefs saw it, they said, ‘Paul, what have you done?’, but it tasted amazing. The only thing was, we could not decide whether it was a starter, main or dessert,” he laughs.
In addition to their shop in Main Street, Ice Palazzo ice cream is served at The Heads Café in Knysna, Pomodoro in Wilderness, Beacon Island Hotel and Summer Sands in Plettenberg Bay. They also make ice cream cakes and desserts for special occasions, and have a mobile unit for functions and events.
Try their tiger’s tail red orange and liquorice, vanilla, mango sorbet, or jack and black (Jack Daniels and chocolate). Effort is put into the detail of catering to a variety of tastes. Banters and diabetics can choose from five different diet-friendly flavours and in peak season they serve a 100% vegan sorbet, made from a non-GMO soya-based product. Paul is a firm believer in small businesses supporting each other and 80% of their products consist of ingredients from local suppliers, including milk, cream and butter from grass-fed and hormone- free Garden Route cows. They also make many of their flavour elements, such as brownies, honeycomb and salted toffee sauce on-site.
An uncompromising devotion to quality and the joy of serving others motivated Rudolph and Elizabeth Brown to start Elizabeth Brown’s Ice Cream Cafe in the Garden Route Mall in 2004. The shop has since been taken over by Jené and Francois Griesel, and the Browns now work from a factory shop in George Industria.
Rudolph’s experience selling soft serve and gelato at festivals and functions across the province for many years laid the foundation for their vision in a time when there were no local models to learn from. In the early years of the business, a supplier crisis before peak season forced them to make their gelato from scratch. “You need to be able to innovate quickly. Our final product was better than any imported base mixture and we now proudly source Jersey milk, strawberries, blueberries and other ingredients locally. Our approach is hands-on and it includes sometimes getting up at 4am to collect fresh milk from the farm,” he continues. Elizabeth believes these quality touches make an exceptional artisan product. “We are always playing to create new flavours and some of our most tasty triumphs have been Speculaas and Halva flavours.”
The couple recently introduced a new house brand designed for the food service and home use, with plans to distribute to quality shops and restaurants. “We have a great team of people and are excited about building the brand and continuing to explore new markets,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Brown’s Ice Cream Café factory shop has an Italian ice cream bicycle for special occasions, and offers gelato, soft serve and ice cream cakes for functions and events.
Jené and Francois share in this labour of love and the couple’s passion for food and beautiful presentation led to them taking over the Elizabeth Brown’s Artisan Ice Cream & Coffee kiosk in the Garden Route Mall in November 2015. “We believe the fact that the ice cream is produced in small batches, which ensures quality and freshness, and that there are more than 40 flavours rotating in the kiosk, means that we always try and offer a new experience to our customers. During this past year we were really surprised at the loyalty of our regulars, even in winter,” says Jené.
The kiosk’s fridge regularly displays limited editions and is known for signature creations like Ferrero Rocher and nostalgic milk tart flavour. Jené recommends one of her favourite dinner party desserts: pairing a glass of Grenache with their liquorice ice cream, topped with berries, chocolate crumble, crème fraîche and mint.
Janis Lister and her son Matthew brought their love of down-to-earth ice cream all the way from Coffee Bay to settle in Sedgefield in 2014. Since then they have been delivering wholesome classics at yearly events like the Karoo to Coast, Celtic Festival and Knysna Rowing Regatta. The colourful shop, Monkey’s Raindance, which also showcases the bright wares of Matthew’s happy clothing range, brings a smile to your face even before you start tasting the homemade creations.
Made with love in their kitchen in Elandskraal, they allow the bounty of local produce to inspire new flavours and an abundant fig harvest has led to this summer’s star, blue cheese and fig flavour.
They believe in a traditional approach, using farm fresh eggs and milk, and their range includes banting passion fruit, banana bread and a punchy lemon. With only five domestic ice cream machines in their production line, they work around the clock to keep up with demand and are one of the hidden gems of Sedgefield.
Monkey’s Raindance is available to cater for events, functions and special occasions.
Try a scoop of lemon paired with a scoop of honeycomb – it tastes just like lemon meringue!
A bowl of Milkwood Dairy’s rich Greek yogurt is simply delicious and an absolute indulgence. Newcomers to the Garden Route’s dairy treasure chest, farmer and foodie friends Georgie Muller and Tarryn Hampson started Milkwood Dairy products in February 2016 to address their own need for wholesome and natural options.
With milk supplied from the Mullers’ Milkwood Farm, the two families oversee the complete value added process, from calf to shelf. Milkwood Farm started in 1957 with only 17 cows. They have since grown to one of the oldest closed-herd Friesland farms in the country and they know each pasture-fed cow by name – literally.
Starting in their kitchen and sharing samples with friends, the two have had positive feedback since day one and the business has flourished. Their products are completely natural, with no stabilisers, thickeners, artificial flavours or preservatives, all of which sets their products apart. The live yogurt culture is added to hormone-free milk, fresh from the farm, and given enough time to thicken naturally.
Their super creamy Greek yogurt is a product of a lengthened straining period, which ensures it has a higher protein and lower sugar content. They are excited about consumers becoming more educated about the food they eat, and as they grow their business their strong values will remain the anchor in any new product development. “We are looking at twist products like adding a honey twirl or locally sourced blueberries to our existing range, maybe even frozen yogurt, but those are more long-term plans,” they both agree.
The Milkwood range includes plain full cream yogurt, Greek yogurt, labneh and kefir.
Buy their products at Nature’s Corner, Red Barn (online or at the Outeniqua Farmers’ Market), Hetta’s Home Food, Farm Fresh Direct and thriVe in Wilderness.
CONTACT Elizabeth Brown’s Ice Cream Café
Rudolph and Elizabeth Brown
14 Commercial Close, George
084 571 9596