It’s an Endurance Test!

Piano bicycle We have just about survived the carnival atmosphere that is Dingle over the bank holiday weekend, serving thousands of customers. It’s still going to be very busy for the next few weeks, and then it will all be over.

It’s impossible to prepare for the height of the summer, and anyone in the ice cream business will, I’m sure, be able to relate to the mayham. Even so, running ice cream shops in August becomes a kind of endurance test that might only be compared the pre-Christmas rush in other retail businesses.

Line out door

Most of the time it’s smooth, even with the craziness, but inevitably things go wrong. The compressor on the scooping cabinet in Killarney broke, a staff member went home sick, another sprained their ankle.

That’s when you are truly tested, and yet, somehow it all seems to work out in the end. The days are long and intense, but there is also a great rush from the sheer volume of it.

When you have a queue out the door much of the time and had two record-breaking days over the weekend, it’s hard to be anything but happy, no matter how tired you are.

You close up late up night, think about all the hard work you’ve done preparing for this, think about the care that has gone into the product and the hard work of the team around you, and then you take a deep breath and open the doors again in the morning…

And there, waiting, is the another queue of customers, expectant, waiting for you to bring on the ice cream and make them happy…

Bank Holiday Madness

Cat in Boat Although my parents cat, Folly, has time to laze around on the boat, we’ve been completely manic here in the world of ice cream. The August Bank Holiday is this weekend, and the shops are packed with people. Please forgive my lack of blogging, but I’m in the thick of things trying to keep it all going!

Strawberry Cake and Cadbury Recall

Strawberry Cake Our baker Wiebke is back in Dingle full time and seems to have reached a superwoman stage to her pregnancy. She is churning out her fabulous cakes, such as the strawberry cake above, and they are devoured by happy customers in the shops just about as quickly as we put them out! I will have to see if I can get her to part with some of her recipes and techniques for my readers here, but she is quite secretive…

In other news, I was given a copy of the Guardian over the weekend, and there on the front page was an article about the Cadbury recall due to Salmonella in their product. What amazes me is that I haven’t heard anything about it here in Ireland, although the FSAI does have a mention of it on their site. Maybe I missed it in the mainstream press, but it sure seems a big story. Salmonella is a nasty bug, and the tolerance for it should be zero. (Cadbury claims the amounts were small, but according to the Guardian article, it seems that some people did indeed get sick).

What’s really astonishing is that the company knew about it since January but only disclosed it in June (seemingly after pressure on their lab from the British FSA). There have been more than a million bars recalled, and there are 30 more Cadburys products being tested.

There’s also a bit about it on Candy blog.

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Bank Holiday and Ice Cream

Mint Scoop I looked over my last posts, and I couldn’t help noticing that there was very little ice cream in them, so I’ve decided that at least I should post a few photos of the tasty stuff. It’s in great demand at the moment with the sun blazing down and the tourists streaming into Kerry, and if you’re heading this way, maybe it will get your taste buds going…

Chocolate ConeI’ll add a recipe over the weekend if at all possible. With the bank holiday weekend, the shops will be very busy, especially in this fine weather, and it could be that I’ll be too busy scooping and running around keeping the whole thing ticking over.

I’ve talked earlier about the Leica digital camera that I bought, and it was the best 700 euro investment I’ve made in a while.

It’s amazing to be able to produce reasonable images for a variety of purposes, from menus to posters, etc.

With a bit of photo paper and a laminator, it’s easy enough to do a variety of basic marketing applications, and it’s great not to have to go through the expense of bringing in a photographer for every shot.

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Speed Dating for Business

I am a bit shaky today after a long drive back last night from Dublin, the last part of it in the dense fog, and it was well past 1:00am when I arrived home. We really are in the back of beyond here in Dingle.  

The Bord Bia’s Specialty Food Forum was interesting – all the food producers had the same-sized little booths, and had schedules set up with fifteen minutes to meet with various Irish and UK buyers in a business version of speed dating. Luckily my brother is the good talker, so I mostly handed out ice cream and let him take care of things.

Bord BiaAs we don’t have much interest in the big multiples at this point, it was mostly a case of listening and learning, and I think we did learn a lot. I came away with the deep conviction that our own shops are really where the short-term future lies for us, and I really would like to open another!

Anyway, it’s easy to be critical of the government agencies, but I think this is an example of fresh thinking on the part of Bord Bia, and I commend them for it.

There were many food friends there, such as Fothergills, Mortons, Urru, Ivan’s, Anderson’s to name just a few, and some new to ones to discover (at least for me, for most of them are well-discovered by this point!) including Ummera, who do fabulous smoked goods and also have a blog. Conor O’Neill wrote about them some time ago.

There was a big gala dinner and party at the end of it all, but the road home beckoned, and it’s good to be back in Dingle. It looks like Monday we will take our first delivery of Kerry Cow milk, so there’s much to do back here!

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Special Diets

Raspberry Sorbet

We are being asked by more and more people in our shops about whether our ice cream is suitable for people on a range of diets including coeliacs and the lactose-intolerant. So, I thought I’d say a few words about ice cream and special diets.

I don’t think that most coeliacs realise that most ice cream is gluten-free (unless it has biscuits in it, and of course it’s important to read the label!). All of our ice cream is gluten-free except two made with cookies and our tiramisu, which we only do occasionally.

There is also a wonderful Viennese cake, the Sachertorte, which is traditionally gluten-free (almond flour is used). I’ll put a recipe for it up here soon.

People who are lactose-intolerant and like their frozen desserts should look for sorbet. Sorbet is generally made with water, sugar, and fruit, and although Nero is purported to have invented it, you shouldn’t hold that against this delicious dessert! Our raspberry sorbet (photo above) is one of our best-loved bestsellers. Some people add egg whites to sorbet, but we’ve never been in favour of it since it can make the sorbet seem even sweeter and much less fresh-tasting.

Although sorbet can be high in calories, it’s generally fat-free as well.

Finally, there is the difficult case of diabetes. We’ve tried for a long time to come up with a reduced- or no-sugar ice cream, without much luck. Ice cream needs a certain amount of solids that is usually provided by sugar, and we’ve not found a viable substitute (we’ve even tried tapioca). Of course, we have a few self-imposed restraints – it has to taste great, and we don’t have much interest in using anything that is not natural.

The Diabetes Federation of Ireland has told us that the current thinking is that diabetics should monitor their sugar intake and be wary of products claiming to be “suitable for diabetics.” Still, that takes a bit of the fun out of it, and human nature being what it is, we would love to come up with something that diabetics can enjoy without too much worry.

Any suggestions are welcome!

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Great Taste Awards

Great Taste Awards The Great Taste Awards, put on by the UK Guild of Fine Retailers, are being held this year in Dublin for the first time ever. Although we have won gold and silver medals in the past for flavours ranging from vanilla to mango lassi, we’ve decided to enter again to honor the fact that it is being held on Irish soil.

Pulling Ice Cream

The question, of course, is what flavours to enter. They have categories for Vanilla and Chocolate, which are quite straightforward, but they also have nut, sorbet, and miscellaneous categories.

For the miscellaneous category, we have made a long list that includes Green Tea and Ginger, Honey Lavender (I gave the recipe here), Brown Bread with Baileys (or whiskey, or just plain brown bread), or possibly Chai Latte, or Honey Chai.

For the nut, we’ve already won a gold medal for Praline and a silver for Peanut, so perhaps Pistachio with Rose, or maybe go back to peanut and add homemade chocolate chunks.

For the sorbet, we’re thinking about Raspberry and Lime, which is a nice combination.

Any thoughts or comments?

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The End of Lent

Easter eggs

It’s all happy days and celebrations here in the world of ice cream with the end of Lent, which ended at 12 noon today. (I must say that I always thought it ended tomorrow, but my Aunt Carol, not being one for undue suffering, set me straight.)

In any case, Chocolate is back, coffee is back, indulgence is back.

The shops are packed, and the smiles are large.

Happy Easter!

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