What Is Real? Ice Cream

Cold Comfort

In Edgerton Park last Friday, before a performance of Elm Shakespeare Company’s The Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet, theatergoers were settling down with their lawn chairs and pizzas. Next to the reflective surface of the park’s Brewster Fountain, a wedding party was taking pictures.

Through the slowly gathering crowd rode Netta Hadari. His conveyance stood out: an Icicle Tricycle—a bicycle attached to a rolling white cooler. In moments, he had set up What Is Real? Ice Cream, his mobile ice cream shop, complete with an umbrella for shade and signs displaying the flavors of the day. Despite the cool, early-fall temperature, a crowd of buyers lined up before Hadari had even begun scooping.

Unlike the play about to go on, Hadari’s romance with ice cream hasn’t been star-crossed. Since the launch of What Is Real? less than three months ago, Hadari has been vending at events across the city, bringing his frozen desserts, made with local ingredients, to curious New Haveners. The idea for the business was planted about two years ago, when one of Hadari’s friends raved about his homemade ice cream and told him he should sell it. Hadari spent the time leading up to launch balancing research and development with his career as a violinist and teacher of music, which he does at Brass City Charter School in Waterbury.

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But ice cream makes the extra effort worth it. “I think it brings people together. With a good pint of ice cream in the house it somehow entices people to come sit around the dining room table and talk,” he says.

There was plenty of opportunity for gathering around ice cream while he was perfecting his flavors, which range from the traditional to the more exotic. “I had a number of taste tests at my home. I invited friends over to taste the ice cream and give me feedback,” he says. The difficulty was in creating an ice cream recipe using no stabilizers, the additives that help most commercial ice creams keep their shape and texture. Though Hadari did test a commercially formulated ice cream mix, he decided in the end to stick to his guns, only including ingredients whose names he could easily pronounce. “I wanted something that was creamy but has that complex flavor—that has a beginning, middle and end,” he explains. The milk and cream Hadari uses are from Farmer’s Cow, with farms throughout eastern Connecticut, while the eggs come from Soffer Farm in Branford.

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One large scoop of ice cream is $4, with every additional scoop after that costing $3. But Hadari also offers what he calls “The Trifecta:” a $5 sampler of three flavors of your choice in one cup. The flavors offered that evening were Sun-Kissed Strawberry, Killa Vanilla, Coffeelicious and Bombay Butter Pecan, four of the six flavors Hadari says he’s perfected.

Hadari scooped me up a Trifecta of vanilla, coffee and butter pecan, and the first thing I noticed was the luxuriant texture. Thanks to egg yolks, it was much thicker and more pudding-like than a typical parlor scoop. A spoon dug into it came away with a thick tendril of ice cream attached, like taffy that was both soft and cold.

The flavors were bright and almost jumped off the spoon. The Killa Vanilla had floral undertone, reminding me that vanilla is sourced from a type of orchid, which made a ubiquitous flavor seem exotic. The Coffeelicious was rich and toasty, dotted with granules of actual coffee. It’s tastiness made up for the fact that it might have been what kept me up late.

But my favorite of the three was the Bombay Butter Pecan. Standard butter pecan is one of my favorites, but Hadari’s version adds a spicy twist of curry powder to its ribbons of candied and diced nuts, with the curry kept mild enough to make it exciting and not heretical.

September will be Hadari’s last month of the year vending What is Real?—he says he’ll be serving at Cityseed’s Plazapalooza on September 22, among other events—and he’s planning on spending the winter doing research and development. Local restaurants have been asking to serve his ice cream, which would require a special license, and he’s also considering providing his services for private events such as weddings. Finally, in a twist worthy of Shakespeare, his young daughters have recently developed lactose intolerance, hastening his development of lactose- and dairy-free options.

After September, most of is will have to wait until spring to enjoy What Is Real?. As Juliet said to Romeo at Edgerton Park that evening, “Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow.”

What Is Real? Ice Cream
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Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank.

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