Ice cream made in the Yampa Valley now available locally
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The steady whir a commercial ice cream maker fills the air in
side the commissary kitchen at Dry Creek Park in Hayden.
Chef Jessi Watson does not seem to notice the noise as he works alongside personal chef Sarah Brumley mixing up the base for strawberry ice cream, and breaking up sheets of cookie dough that will be used to make the hand-crafted Cookie Dough one of Yampa Valley Ice Cream’s unique flavors. Many of those flavors are Watson’s own creations.
“I’m always thinking about different things,” Watson said. “A lot of times I think about desserts, or candies or something like that and wonder if that flavor would make a good. ice cream.”
Last summer Watson, who is a pastry chef by trade, made a Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream because that flavor had been his favorite cereal as a kid. He has also crafted ice creams using beer from Storm Peak and a Maple bourbon ice cream using whiskey from the Steamboat Whiskey Company. He is currently fine-tuning sugar cookie based ice with cream called Unicorn Tracks that promises to be one of the Yampa Valley Ice Cream Co. most colorful creations and he is hoping to explore several other flavors including Peanut Butter Banana Toast in the future. His mind is also consumed with a number of flavors he is hoping to create for popsicles—another product created by the Yampa Valley Ice Cream Co.
“The Farmers Market was a great place to kind of see what people like,” Watson said of the different flavors. “I also like to bounce ideas off of other chefs and Jay (Hirschfeld). Jay has got a really good mind for great ideas.”
Jay Hirschfeld, who owns 41North, and Watson have been their from the start started during the summer of 2019. Inspired by local ice cream contest Hirschfeld wanted to explore how ice cream fit into his mission of fueling efforts to create, and make better use of locally produced food. Watson, Hirschfeld said, has a passion for ice cream.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” Hirschfeld said. “We’re selling it through 41North, and then looking for more wholesale orders. We are also hoping to experiment with retail. I would say ice cream is definitely a popular item. People just seem to love it.”
Together to two have come up with a list of more than 250 flavors they would like to try including more mainstream creations like vanilla bean, strawberry and chocolate to more creative offerings like Peach Cobbler, Lemon Basil and Orange Marigold.
On this day a batch of Moose Tracks is turning in the ice cream maker, while Watson and Brumley work on the base for a batch of Strawberry that was to be turned the following day.
Watson, a graduate of the University of Colorado’s aerospace engineering program, spent six years working for an up-and-coming medical device company before realizing that was not the path he wanted to follow. He fell back on his love of the kitchen becoming a pastry chef, teaching culinary programs at Colorado Mountain College and working as a chef at a kayak retreat in Pucón, Chile last year. He also worked as a sous chef for some of 41Norths Farm to table dinners, and when the idea of making ice cream came up he jumped on board. Hirschfeld said Watson took a break when the demand for ice cream dropped last winter, but when he came back in the early spring he was driven to make this project a success.
“This was something I was going shut down because I didn’t have the time to focus on it with everything that was going on at 41North,” Hirschfeld said. “He was working as an executive chef in Chili up until March or April of this year, but came back and took this thing by the horns and went for it.”
Watson said he uses many of the skills he learned as an engineer to make sure Yampa Valley Ice Cream’s products are top notch. He is a stickler for details, understands the importance of the process when it comes to making the perfect scoop of ice cream. As a chef he understands the importance of using high quality ingredients, knowing what will taste great and paying attention to things like texture and consistency. He uses his creative side to push the envelope.
The past several weeks he has been using his skills and investing his passion to create ice cream for Wild Plum grocers, which is now offering flavors like Big Iron Coffee Crunch, Birthday Cake, Cookie Dough, Cookies and Cream.
“A real focus of ours is to bring in those unique items that kind of set us apart from other locations and also support our local businesses,” said store manager Katie Stassen. “Yampa Valley Ice Cream meets all the criteria for our store. It’s delicious and it’s local. At this point we’re one of the few carriers, so we’re really feel fortunate to be able to support another small business and also offer a delicious product to our customers.”
Those flavors are featured and can now be purchased at the WildPlum located at 2525 Village Drive. Hirschfeld and Watson are both excited about the possibilities Yampa Valley Ice Cream brings, and are looking forward to the future.
“One of the reasons we went after ice cream is because it’s hard and because like it sets us apart,” Hirschfeld said. “As we started doing ice cream it became kind of apparent that we can use these local eggs, we can use these local ingredients. You get this circuitous giving back principle, which is what the Yampa Valley part of it is all about. , Anything with that in the name I think really needs to be focused on legitimately serving the community.”
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For several years, Academy Mortgage Corporation has been working within Moffat County by way of its Meeker office.