When I was working in Columbus, Ohio ten years ago, I visited the North Market, a place that was changing the whole vibe of downtown with it’s mix of food and craft vendors. Tucked away in the back was the most extraordinary ice cream stand, which became a staple of mine on every visit. Salty Caramel, The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Brown Butter Almond Brittle….. The flavors were intoxicating. The name on the stand was "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream". With each visit, new flavors starting appearing like wild frozen dreams - inspired by Marie Antoinette, dug up from the earth - Goat Cheese with Cognac, Black Cherry Lambic (one of the most intense frozen tastes you can ever imagine), Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry. Jeni Britton, the owner, was not shy with her frozen adventures.
I decided I had to meet Jeni. By some act of fate, we had dinner together with her husband, Charly. This is before we had kids. Before Jeni was bigger than a single stand in the Short North. There are certain people you meet in your life that are the real deal. A real artist. A real poet. A true soul. True generosity. Jeni was all of those - and it was all being channeled through this crazy passion for frozen desserts. Jeni’s notebooks were full of ideas you would never expect in a chef’s workbook: comfort, madness, butterfat plumped with scents that melt 2 degrees below body temperature. Her nose and dreams were driving her inventions as much as her tongue.
We became friends. I took lots of pictures for Jeni. Made some videos. She paid me in ice cream. All the shootings I did all over the country ended with a big box of Jeni’s being opened, the smoke from the dry ice pouring out, and everyone swooning and dipping into the most amazing frozen flavors they had ever tasted. The ice cream was too fancy for Honey Boo Boo and taunted Glenn Beck, who was on a diet - but no one could resist.
Most of you know the rest. We have all tested our heart and will trying to stay on diet. Jeni has not made it easy to resist anything she creates. Life is too precious to miss out on such decadence.
Friends of Jeni’s have lined up around the block, cheered when local markets started carrying it - and rolled our eyes at the Columbus Airport when Jeni’s installed a vending machine wondering if it was fair to eat more Jeni’s before boarding when we couldn’t take it home on the plane to our family. My goal was always to keep it to one scoop a day when I was on the Jeni’s radar. I often failed.
Last week Jeni posted on her website a message that any person in the food business dreads. They found the bacteria Listeria present in a pint in Nebraska. Jeni’s immediately shut the whole empire down. All the shops, all production, all product in stores. They are doing the hard work - from transparency in communicating to finding and eradicating the problem.
Those of us who love Jeni’s only pray this all gets solved before summer kicks in. Pray that something this devastating does not take down a company we are so proud to all support pint by pint by...for me...ice cream sandwich.
We love Jeni’s and want her whole team to know we are there for them now as we have been from the beginning. Sending love to my friends.
We took this picture in the bathroom of a restaurant we were having dinner at. I went to the bathroom and ran out to the table, “Jeni! You have to come in the men’s room with me. The light is so beautiful.”