A farewell note from Diana

I just made our latest batch of toasted hay ice cream. Yes, hay. Like for horses. Called Haunted Hayride, it is a toasted hay ice cream with gingersnap cookies and it is phenomenal. It has a naturally sweet and nutty taste which is perfectly complemented by the biting ginger and molasses of a gingersnap cookie. You must come and try it.

Toasted hay is perhaps my favorite flavor to make but also one that I dread the most. It’s inventive, it’s surprisingly delightful, and it’s fun to make. But it is such a process. It’s annoying, it’s time consuming, and it can be painful to make. It involves washing, sanitizing, and toasting small bundles of hay at a time. Then steeping and straining and hand-wringing cream out of the hay by the handful. It is, in the truest sense, a labor of love. And I do love it. But this was the last batch of hay ice cream that I’m going to make. Ever! Because MilkMade is closing.

Our shop will close on Sunday, November 3. Members of our ice cream subscription will receive our very last pints the following week, marking ten years since MilkMade’s launch in 2009. 

 

I started MilkMade back then because I wanted a better pint. I was a young, fresh MBA with a penchant for ice cream and an itch to make my mark in the world. My go-to “superpremium brand” pints had fallen out of my favor - the quality of ice cream had deteriorated and the flavors were no longer exciting. So I started making ice cream out of my apartment with my friends in our spare time. It was all local ingredients and inventive flavors, experiments made on a small home ice cream machine. We served it to friends and at parties and very quickly fell into a snowball of word of mouth and press about our pints. Within weeks of our first tiny mention in New York Magazine, 700 people emailed asking how to get our ice cream. “Please let me be a part of your exclusive ice cream club,” someone wrote. So I figured I’d better start an exclusive ice cream club! 

I didn’t intend to start a business in ice cream, but the opportunity fell into my lap so I took it. And bootstrapped the heck out of it for the past ten years. The MilkMade story is studded with beautiful serendipities like that which have kept us going. There’s the one about taking over a fully built out dairy plant complete with a scoop shop in Carroll Gardens (where our shop currently resides). And the one about meeting two fellow ice cream makers whose enthusiasm for ice cream is what helped to relaunch MilkMade following my second stroke. Of course there were plenty of hiccups along the way too. Like those two strokes. Or the time we found out that our pasteurizer wasn’t properly grounded and I nearly electrocuted myself. Or the cat living in the basement; that one’s a riot. 

It has been a wild and wonderful ride over the years, and a lot has changed. Running a subscription delivery business back then was a logistical nightmare. I mean, it still is, but at least there’s an app for that. What hasn’t changed is what I set out to do in the first place - my quest to make a better pint of ice cream. “Better” has always been in comparison to others, but also to myself. I used to say that if each new flavor I make is my new favorite flavor, then I know I’m doing my job right.  And I think I’ve done it right. I believe our ice cream vastly superior to what existed in 2009 and, though the ice cream industry has grown significantly in the past ten years, it is superior to what has come to exist today. 

I understand why our ice cream stands out. It is also the reason why we are closing. 

It’s the commitment to sourcing the best local ingredients and to creating recipes that are devoid of fillers like gums or stabilizers. Taste our ice cream compared to others; you really can taste the difference.

It’s the laborious processes of production like for the hay flavor I described, or even for flavors as seemingly simple as our Gotham Basil Chip. 

It’s the decision to serve and deliver to our customers the freshest ice cream they’ve ever had. We rarely hold inventory for more than a week. And often the ice cream we serve has been made the day prior. Sometimes the morning of!

It’s the commitment to responsible distribution. We hand-deliver pints packed in reusable bags and for our shipments we use recyclable denim insulated shipping liners. I think we’re the only frozen food company to make this commitment. Definitely the only ice cream company to do this. 

And it’s the undertaking of inventing new flavor experiences every month which I defined as integral to the business. I have created over 400 different flavors over the years, with over 100 unique ice cream bases. 

I am pretty confident that nobody does it the way we do. Because they’d be crazy to! It is hard, expensive work. 

 

So now it’s time to take a rest, to pack our last pints and to say THANK YOU. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to take this wild ride. Thank you to our Members who have supported us every month. Some of you have been Members for all ten years and I am beyond grateful. Thank you to our shop-goers - to those who live in the neighborhood and came on the regular, and to those who made the trek out to Carroll Gardens just for one taste. And thanks to those who followed along with our adventures but perhaps never had the chance to try our ‘scream. Most of all, thank you to my team both past and present for your commitment to the craft, for your love, and your hard work.

Our shop will be open with regular hours until we close on Sunday, November 3. We’ll be serving our normal menu until October 31, including our Signatures and October Seasonals. Then from Friday November 1 through Sunday November 3, all your old favorites are making one last appearance: Mango Sticky Rice, Key Lime Pie, Fluffernutter Cookie Dough, Red Velvet Cake, and the like. And of course Toasted Hay. You must come and try it. 

Yours forever in ice cream, 

Diana and all the Milkmaids

P.S. If you'd like to keep up with whatever my next adventure may be, please visit http://www.dianahardeman.com.

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