Jeni Britton Bauer can’t help but express herself through the flavors she creates at the award-winning artisanal ice cream company she founded in 2002. “I’m making ice creams from my perspective,” she tells Eater Upsell hosts Greg Morabito and Helen Rosner on a recent episode. For example, the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ spring 2017 collection “We’re Not From Here. You Belong Here” was designed to “[explore] what it takes to change your perception in a single instant.”
But, the spring collection doesn’t include Britton Bauer’s most interesting ice cream flavor. That distinction goes to Absinthe + Meringues, which isn’t only an unusual flavor combination, but also metaphorically demonstrated the fall of the bourgeoisie, sparked by Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”
In 2013, Jeni’s marked the 100th anniversary of the day Stravinsky’s music and accompanying ballet performance inspired a riot in Paris. “The piece of music really turned off the rich people and the bohemians loved it,” Britton Bauer says. “It was very different. Stravinsky was like that.” She explains how Jeni’s absinthe-scented ice cream with meringue kisses reflected the historical event:
“The absinthe is sort of the poet, the bohemian, the freethinker, the moving forward, and the meringue is like the rules, and the rules can't change. And so we actually hand-piped thousands of meringue kisses, teeny tiny ones. And what happens in the ice cream is, over a few days, they disappear. Which is exactly what happened in real life. I mean, until [this] November.”
Britton Bauer didn’t expect her customers to listen to Stravinsky as they ate the ice cream, but, she says, “I do think that when we have that kind of intent and motivation behind it, we make better ice cream.” And while the ice cream maker acknowledges that she’s made “the craziest ice creams,” to do so, she says she actually engages in “in the box thinking.”
“I think one of the telltale signs of a really good ice cream, a necessary ice cream, an ice cream the world actually needs, is that it does have some kind of nostalgia to it,” Britton Bauer says. “If you're outside of the box, you're irrelevant. If we can't connect it somehow to something that we know, then there's no connection to anybody,” she adds.
Hear the complete interview with Jeni Britton Bauer as she discusses making ice cream for 21st-century freezers, coming out ahead after Jeni’s 2015 listeria outbreak, and running an ethically minded business. Subscribe to the Eater Upsell on iTunes, or listen on Soundcloud. You can also get the entire archive of episodes right here on Eater.