My earliest memories of eating ice cream are with Bubby, sitting at the kitchen table in our one bedroom, third floor walk up in West Rogers Park. Chocolate was her favorite flavor evident by her all too often stained house coats and pockets plump with tissue. Deliberately she would place each spoonful of ice cream into her mouth as she closed her eyes and swallowed. When the bowl was close to being finished, Bubby would etch the spoon around the bowl as it collected the very last bits of melted chocolate ice cream. She wasted nothing and savored every mouthful.
During those years, our apartment where we lived with Bubby would often become chaotic and if there were any quiet at all, it usually drifted into the back of the apartment, into our kitchen. There we would sit, among the burnt orange teapots dotting the wallpaper, the lamp above the table whose painted stars we lit for Papa Jack on night’s like his birthday, among the towels which draped from cabinet handles, and the canned fruits and vegetables strategically placed so her blindness would not stop her from knowing what was in her own pantry. It was there where we sat and munched and slurped and scooped, licked our fingers and wiped ourselves clean. The simplicity of those moments has never been lost on me, and with the winter in Chicago being so brutal coupled with working long days and not seeing my Olive as often as I’d like, I have found great joy in the simple moments myself, always highly aware and savoring every moment.
When I was invited by Lauren and Steve Schultz of Purple Door Ice Cream to visit their new build-out, set to open in mid-March, I was thrilled. I had first heard of their ice cream on an episode of Wisconsin Foodies. At that time they were working out of Clock Shadow Creamery, a cheese purveyor down the street. Now, with their grand opening around the corner, Lauren and her husband Steve are expanding the team at Purple Door Ice Cream to include a part-time ice cream maker. “Up until now it was me and Steve making every batch by hand.” When I asked Lauren about the inspiration behind her store, she said “It had been a dream of mine since middle school.” It was that same imagination and tenacity that helped bring Lauren’s dream to fruition. What sets Purple Door apart from other ice creams is the simplicity and boldness of its flavor. Using local ingredients and hand crafting every batch, Purple Door Ice Cream keeps its taste simple, its texture rich, and does not disappoint in flavor. “We have eleven base flavors, but we hand swirl all of our mix-ins. We want to keep the integrity of the ice cream.” The fourteen percent butterfat uses milk and cream from Wisconsin dairy farms while their quality ingredients are carefully selected from local artisans including Anodyne coffee beans, Rishi tea leaves, chocolate and even liqueurs to name a few. “Sourcing locally provides a lot of inspiration”, Lauren tell us as she pulls pints for Matt and I to sample. With the expansion of their store, Purple Door Ice Cream will also branch out into local restaurants and stores in Wisconsin and the Chicagoland area including Whole Foods, Mariano’s and Southport Grocery.
Chicago has seen dreary weather for many months now, and although I find myself longing for the sun’s affection, I try to acknowledge the small moments that are my own bit of sunlight; Olive’s infectious smile in the morning, Matt’s grasp as he helps me hurdle the snow, tastes of rich ice cream on a blustery February afternoon. Our visit to Purple Door Ice Cream reminded me that summer isn’t so far away, and in the meantime I have much to celebrate. For Lauren and Steve, they are growing their company while staying close to their Midwestern roots. For Bubby, she celebrated hugs from me and my sister and bowls of chocolate ice cream. Former Olympic runner and noted author, Don Kardong once said “Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.” Lauren’s invitation (and the many, indulgent helpings of ice cream) helped bring light to this forever winter, evoking memories with Bubby, who in a time of uncertainty and confusion was always my forever light.