Good + Simple

I was really curious about Good + Simple by Jasmine Hemsley and Melissa Hemsley, especially after the rave reviews the Hemsley sisters garnered for their first offering The Art of Eating Well. They are fascinating to listen to - see also a great podcast interview on Radio Cherry Bombe - and clearly know their stuff when it comes to nutrition and healthful eating. Their tips and tricks are insightful and did inspire me to make some (small) changes in my diet like reducing sugar and caffeine.

Usually when I get a new cookbook I read it cover to cover flagging every recipe that sounds delicious until the pages are bristling with tabs - some annotated with upcoming occasions or seasons to jog my memory down the road. The snag came along when I began to look through the recipes and found that many of them required unusual or difficult to find ingredients even in New York City (maybe something lost in translation since this is a book out of the UK?), lengthy processes, or a combination of flavors that just weren't appealing to my palate. I put this book down without sticking a single post-it.

If you're a regular reader you know by the recipes I post that we eat fairly healthfully with an indulgence here and there, but we still consume dairy, gluten, etc. So, it probably says more about my commitment to an eating overhaul than about the quality of the content, but for me photographs are another huge part of diving in to a new author. Beautiful, appetizing images show me what the finished product should look like and motivate me to actually make the dish. Unfortunately, as an accompaniment to a fresh, modern take on cooking & eating these pictures felt dated and flat, even a little off putting.

Honestly, I wish I liked this book more. I love that these two sisters have established a successful business, and I would have been psyched if their book had inspired me to experiment with the way we eat. For people looking to address diet-related health issues I think this could be a great resource, and I'm not saying I'll never ever pull a recipe from this book - it's possible I'll find myself returning for some of the gut-health information - but unless I have a dinner guest with dietary restrictions it's not going to be my first stop.

I received a promotional copy of this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Minty Fresh Scouting: Ample Hills Creamery

Brooklyn Bridge  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Brooklyn Bridge | Image: Laura Messersmith

Everyone needs a summer project; a goal to work toward over the hottest months of the year; a plan that will give meaning to an otherwise lazy series of days. I considered this question carefully and arrived at the most obvious answer: visit as many ice cream shops as possible in search of the best Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream.

Why Mint Chocolate Chip? Mainly, because it’s my all-time favorite flavor, but also it seems like most shops offer an option that combines mint and chocolate. I’m willing to consider gelato, novelties and sorbet, but ice cream is really what I’m after. If you have recommendations on places I should try I’d love to hear them!

Ample Hills Creamery  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Ample Hills Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

My fourth stop in my quest for the best minty-cool cone in the land was a little closer to home than my last spot but still required a little bit of an adventure to the remote and untamed borough of BROOKLYN…. Just kidding, I’m kind of in love with Brooklyn and have all sorts of schemes to go back ASAP especially if the ice cream is as good as Ample Hills Creamery’s Mint Chocolate Flake (quite a promising name….)

Ample Hills Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Ample Hills Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

Here’s the scoop (I’m so sorry) on Ample Hills Creamery summarized from their website:

“…Ample Hills was the first to pasteurize on site in New York City – which makes us a registered dairy plant – and are one of the few places that make ice cream this way. We handcraft our ice cream from start-to-finish in small batches, using fresh, local, all-natural milk, cream, and eggs. Instead of relying solely on extracts, we steep source ingredients in our homemade mix, slowly drawing flavors out of vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, peanuts and coffee beans [ed. note: and presumably the mint leaves too.]”

The Scientific Part:

The five criteria are Flavor and then the four “Cs” - Color, Creaminess, Chips, and Charm.

I like a dash of kitsch with my high-quality ingredients, so my preference is for pale green ice cream with intense mint flavor and deep dark chocolate shavings. Yes, I realize that this doesn’t make them ‘chips’ per se, but then they’re more smoothly incorporated with the ice cream. I’m giving extra points for a whimsical setting or special experience.

Mint Chocolate Flake by Ample Hills Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mint Chocolate Flake by Ample Hills Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

Ample Hills Creamery’s Score:

Flavor – deliciously minty and cool (5 of 5)

Color – a peppermint pattie white, sigh (1 of 5)

Creaminess – lovely and creamy (5 of 5)

Chips – shavings of dark chocolate, see I wasn’t making it up! (5 of 5)

Charm – the waterfront location, just a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge is pretty hard to beat (4 of 5)

Total Score: 20/25

Ample Hills Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Ample Hills Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

Current Rankings:

For folks following these adventures at home, here are the current rankings of the ice creams and shops I’ve visited so far. Those top three spots are pretty hotly contested!

1.     The Lands at Hillside Farms: 22/25

2.     Ample Hills Creamery: 20/25

3.     Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream: 18/25

4.     Sundaes and Cones: 11/25

Ample Hills Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Ample Hills Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

Minty Fresh Scouting: Hillside Farms

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA | Image: Laura Messersmith

Everyone needs a summer project; a goal to work toward over the hottest months of the year; a plan that will give meaning to an otherwise lazy series of days. I considered this question carefully and arrived at the most obvious answer: visit as many ice cream shops as possible in search of the best Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream.

Why Mint Chocolate Chip? Mainly, because it’s my all-time favorite flavor, but also it seems like most shops offer an option that combines mint and chocolate. I’m willing to consider gelato, novelties and sorbet, but ice cream is really what I’m after. If you have recommendations on places I should try I’d love to hear them!

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA | Image: Laura Messersmith

My third stop in my quest for the ultimate cool, minty creation was The Lands at Hillside Farms in Shavertown, PA. Hillside Farms is more than just an ice cream shop, to paraphrase from a 2013 magazine article:

“Originally established in 1881, The Lands at Hillside Farms became a non-profit organization in 2005 devoted to sustainable life choices. Located on 413 acres in a magnificent valley; the goal of the farm is to use the landscape as a backdrop for educating the public about healthy life choices. […]

The dairy store offers farm-made milk in glass bottles, ice cream, butter and produce among many other wholesome products. The animals on the farm are treated humanely and are fed old fashioned diets while living as their ancestors did over a century ago.” 

Some Thoughts on Ratings:

The five criteria are Flavor and then the four “Cs” - Color, Creaminess, Chips, and Charm.

I like a dash of kitsch with my high-quality ingredients, so my preference is for pale green ice cream with intense mint flavor and deep dark chocolate shavings. Yes, I realize that this doesn’t make them ‘chips’ per se, but then they’re more smoothly incorporated with the ice cream. I’m giving extra points for a whimsical setting or special experience.

Mint Chocolate Chip by Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mint Chocolate Chip by Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA | Image: Laura Messersmith

Hillside's Score:

Flavor – refreshing, well-balanced mint (5 of 5)

Color – medium green, but a touch too bright for my taste  (3 of 5)

Creaminess – very smooth and dense (5 of 5)

Chips – miniature dark chocolate chips (4 of 5)

Charm – historic, functioning gentleman’s farmstead. Talk about local, I can see the cows! (5 of 5)

Total Score: 22/25

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA | Image: Laura Messersmith

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Hillside Farms, Shavertown, PA | Image: Laura Messersmith



Minty Fresh Scouting: Sundaes and Cones

Sundaes and Cones in East Village   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sundaes and Cones in East Village | Image: Laura Messersmith

Everyone needs a summer project; a goal to work toward over the hottest months of the year; a plan that will give meaning to an otherwise lazy series of days. I considered this question carefully and arrived at the most obvious answer: visit as many ice cream shops as possible in search of the best Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream. This is a super-timely search because July is National Ice Cream Month. Convenient, right?

You might be wondering: why Mint Chocolate Chip? Mainly, because it’s my all-time favorite flavor, and because most shops offer an option that combines mint and chocolate. I’m willing to consider gelato, shakes, and 'novelties', but ice cream is really what I’m after.

Sundaes and Cones in East Village   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sundaes and Cones in East Village | Image: Laura Messersmith

My second stop on this delicious adventure was Sundaes and Cones in the East Village. Based on the information I had going in my hopes were high, perhaps too high. S&C calls their flavor Mint Chocolate Chip, but information on the formulation and process was, ummm, non-existent. Color me suspicious. I found myself underwhelmed and the ratings tell the tale…

Mint Chocolate Chip by Sundaes and Cones   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mint Chocolate Chip by Sundaes and Cones | Image: Laura Messersmith

The Scientific Part:

The five criteria are Flavor and then the four “Cs” - Color, Creaminess, Chips, and Charm. I wish I could come up with a cool acronym, but I'm stumped.

I like a little kitsch matched with great ingredients, so my preference is for pale green ice cream with intense mint flavor and deep dark chocolate shavings. Yes, I realize that this doesn’t make them ‘chips’ per se, but then they’re more smoothly incorporated with the ice cream. I’m giving extra points for a whimsical setting or special experience.

Flavor – strong, syrupy minty-ness. I doubt this was achieved naturally. (1 of 5)

Color – bright green color that leapt across the line too far into kitsch for me (2 of 5)

Creaminess – almost fluffy?, but still nice and smooth (3 of 5)

Chips – large shavings of semi-sweet chocolate (4 of 5)

Charm – not much effort put into the shop itself, but cute benches out front (1 of 5)

Total Score: 11/25

Sundaes and Cones in East Village   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sundaes and Cones in East Village | Image: Laura Messersmith