A new local ice cream is born in Pittsburgh's Strip District

With all of our new food charms, Pittsburgh still is relatively light in the local ice cream department. But a vendor at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District, Family Farms Creamery, has just started to change that.

This past week, the stand -- the dairy off-shoot of its neighbor, Clarion River Organics -- made and sold its first batches of local ice cream. The base came from Beaver County's Brunton Dairy, famous for its chocolate milk (that the stand also sells). And as will be the case as much as possible, the first three flavors starred other local ingredients:

• Clarion River Blackberry Swirl was made with frozen berries from the co-operative purveyor of organic produce.

• Creamsicle Cookie Crunch was made with cookies from fellow Public Market vendor Fabulous Homemade Cookies.

• Landlocked Vanilla Bean was made with vanilla extract made by steeping vanilla beans in local Wigle Whiskey's Landlocked, a rum-like spirit made with Pennsylvania buckwheat honey.

Creamery manager Larry Neskey, who was happily giving out tastes, says these give you a taste of what's to come.

"We're just experimenting here," he said on Sunday afternoon, ringing up a sale of two more pints, which sell for $6 each. He said he'd sold almost every single one.

He made more when the stand and the market reopened on Wednesday, using a small machine that at most can make 5 gallons at a time. "It's like a microbrewery of ice cream," he said with a grin -- in part because the place is going to be very experimental.

This week's new three flavors are made with Fabulous walnut-chocolate chip cookies, with Caffe D'Amore coffee as well as with Riverview Dairy goat milk and The Olive Tap fig balsamic vinegar.

To start, the stand was selling only pre-packed pint containers. For an additional $12, you could get a nifty Zak insulated plastic container to keep it frozen solid all the way home.

Any day now, the stand is expecting to get a freezer so it can start selling scoops, but the place still will put its own spin on that: Having looked at the ingredients of regular ice cream cones and deemed them "not edible," Mr. Neskey says he'd like to do all house-made waffle cones, using spelt flour.

They plan to launch a "community-supported ice cream," or CSI, subscription as an add-on to Clarion River's community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription, whereby subscribers can get ice cream with their bags of produce.

Another interesting twist: The creamery is purchasing the bike owned by Peddlin' Pierogies, the former mobile pierogies sellers, to which they plan to attach a mobile freezer so they also can "pedal" ice cream at the farmers markets where Family Farms/Clarion River vend, such as the Market Square Farmers Market, Downtown, and other places.

The ice cream is to be available at some other outlets, such as the East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze, but Mr. Neskey says you'll probably have to venture in to the Public Market's new home in the 2400 block of Penn Avenue to get first tries of the "crazy experimental flavors." He may have been joking about Avocado Almond.

Learn more at familyfarmscreamery.com and pittsburghpublicmarket.org.

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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