Nigel Walker, the brain behind Dixon-based Eatwell Farm, is continually thinking of ways to increase the consumption of healthy, organic foods. He has hundreds of Community Supported Agriculture members from San Francisco to Sacramento, and he offers days at the farm, where his CSA members can not only pick organic tomatoes or strawberries but also transform them into sauce or jam on the spot at one of the farm’s many outdoor stoves.
In the past few years, CSA members also have been able to sample Walker’s latest creations — fresh ice cream and floats made and served up from an old-fashioned, semi-renovated ice cream truck that he kept at the farm and cranked up on farm visit days.
Now, the truck is fully renovated and has a powerful new generator that runs four soft-serve machines.
“We can put out an ice cream cone or float every six seconds on each of our machines,” Walker said.
And, if you have ever waited in line for a soft-serve ice cream, you know that’s fast.
“We even make our own waffle cones,” he said, “either the day before the truck goes out or right there on site. We use organic eggs, organic butter and milk, and organic flour.”
The ice cream is made using Strauss Organic Creamery soft-serve ice cream base, and then farm-fresh flavors are added.
“We experimented a lot on friends and farm members to see what flavors people liked,” Walker said. “And we know where everything comes from. That’s important. I got avocados from a fellow vendor at Ferry Plaza, I got my apricots from Bill Crepps in Winters — from his farm Everything Under the Sun — and Twin Girls plums, and fresh corn from a local grower.”
Other flavors include sweet potato, butternut squash, melon and Blue Bottle coffee.
One of the top favorites during the experimentation process was the sweet corn ice cream. “People loved it!”
While Walker may be the creative brain behind the project, Roma Grey, who runs Eatwell Icebox, is a 50-50 partner. Not only does she head the staff of four to six people who run the program, she also created the waffle cone recipe that she has taught the staff to make. Grey proposed to Walker that they go into business together and she would handle the operations.
Eatwell Icebox went operational a few months ago, and is at the Ferry Plaza market in San Francisco every Saturday.
“We are planning to go to events too,” Walker said. “We hope people will book us for weddings, community parties — we’re open to any ideas. We’ve been invited to follow along with the RoliRoti Rotisserie truck to be the ‘dessert’ truck. In March, we started going to various off-the-grid events in San Francisco. We post on our website, iceboxsf.com, where to find us at different locations.”
Right now, Walker is growing 7 ½ acres of heirloom wheat that he will mill to be used in making the waffle cones, adding one more item to the Icebox product that is farm-grown at Eatwell. The sweetener for the ice cream? Organic cane sugar. “We don’t use much sugar because the fresh fruit is so naturally sweet.”
The drinks used to make the ice cream floats are fresh from Eatwell Farm as well. Drinkwell Softers are a beverage product developed by Nigel’s wife, Lorraine Ottens. They are lacto-fermented and flavored with rose geranium, lemon verbena and lavender, all grown on the farm. The Softers are available at several grocery stores, including the Davis Food Co-op.
It will be interesting to watch the flavors of the Eatwell Icebox ice creams over the coming months. Already we can imagine honey quince, damson plum and combinations like raspberry goat cheese swirl. Once you start thinking of ice cream as farm-fresh, the possibilities seem endless.
And yet, ice cream has long been a farm product. Cows were milked, hand-turned ice-cream freezers were cranked up, and fresh fruits were added. The Eatwell Icebox takes that time-honored concept to today’s city streets.
— Ann M. Evans and Georgeanne Brennan have a food and agricultural consultancy, Evans & Brennan, LLC. Follow their blog, Who’s Cooking School Lunch? (www.whoscookingschoolunch.com) or reach them at email@example.com. “Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook” can be purchased wherever books are sold.
Green Almond Ice Cream
This is one of Georgeanne’s favorite ice cream recipes, from her James Beard Award-winning book, “The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence.” She makes it with green almonds from her trees on her small farm. Right now, early April, the fuzzy green developing shell of the almonds can be cracked open to reveal the immature nut inside.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
½ cup shelled green almonds, coarsely chopped, about 3 pounds unshelled
Putting it together:
Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to just below a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low.
Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk them until blended. Slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the bowl, whisking continuously. When well-blended and smooth, pour the yolk-cream mixture into the saucepan, whisking continuously. Continue to whisk over low heat until the mixture thickens and becomes custardy enough to coat the back of a spoon without dropping off, about 10 minutes. Add the almond extract and let the mixture stand until cooled to room temperature.
Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Shortly before the ice cream is solid — when it is a frozen slush — stir in the chopped green almonds and then continue to freeze a little longer until almost slid. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 pint.