One year later…

Happy birthday to us!

Today marks one year since our first day serving ice cream, at the Accent Hardwood parking lot, just north of the Durham Farmers Market:

The Parlour, opening day

We knew back then that we were making terrific ice cream, but we really had no idea if we’d sell any. Okay, we were encouraged by the fact that we had a couple hundred fans on Facebook and Twitter before we even opened, but who could say whether anyone else would find us? Read more

More Shout-outs, More Ice Cream

Our last blog post talked about how honored we are to connect with the local community by participating in nonprofit and charitable events. Of course, The Parlour a for-profit enterprise, and we’re also grateful for the relationships we’ve built with other local businesses.

It would take a lot of posts to discuss every kind of interaction with other businesses, so we’ll just talk about companies that provide a place to park. These companies support us in 2 ways: enabling us to serve to the public, or hiring us directly to cater an event.

Serving to the public

We have to begin with a hearty toast to Motorco and Fullsteam. Our regular appearances at these great Rigsbee Ave. spots have really gotten our name out there. We’ve also made occasional evening and weekend stops at Outsiders Art & Collectibles (where we’ll be this Friday!), Magpie Boutique, the Wells Fargo on Main, and Accent Hardwood.

This season: more daytime hours

In 2011 we didn’t serve much during the workweek. This season, we’ll be joining friends for lunch a few times a month, thanks to some Triangle businesses who graciously host lunch trucks. Here’s the lineup for now:

We love bringing our handmade treats to the folks working hard in the region’s office parks, so we appreciate the companies who’ve invited us out to scoop on their property!

Catering

Triangle businesses also gave us a big boost in our first year by hiring us to come treat their employees on premises. Some of these include the aforementioned Health Decisions and Insomniac Games, as well as Epic Games, SportsMedia Technologies, Panera Bread, iContact.com, and more. Folks seemed thrilled to have us out, and we’re looking forward to making some return visits this year!

Making more connections

We plan to add some more regular daytime appearances this year, so we’d like to hear about it if your company’s a good spot to be seen. And we always welcome the opportunity to provide the treats at catered events. Could your workplace use more great handmade ice cream? Get in touch!

Our first test batch of the season, and a giveaway!

Today we made our first test batch for this coming spring/summer. We often test our new ice cream ideas at home in our Musso Lussino ice cream maker, in small one quart batches. This way, if a recipe goes terribly wrong (PG Tips ice cream, I’m talking to you), we haven’t wasted tons of ingredients and time. Today’s flavor: lime vanilla bean buttermilk ice cream with blueberry swirl.

Now, since we’re making this ice cream in January while we’re closed, we used your average grocery store (organic) blueberries. During blueberry season we get ours from either Lyon Farms or Snikroc; both farms have pick-your-own, which is a fun thing to do before it gets too unbearably hot. And I know maybe right now you’re thinking “man, those limes are kinda gross looking”, but Mrs. Parlour likes limes best when they’ve ripened a bit, until they’re more yellow than green. Buttermilk and fresh vanilla bean (not pictured) are also part of the equation.

First, we cooked down fresh blueberries with sugar and pressed them through a sieve to make a thick blueberry sauce.

 

While the sauce thickened up in the fridge, the ice cream base came together: first, cream, sugar, and vanilla bean:

Then lime zest, and a bit of cornstarch to thicken the custard.

After adding the buttermilk and some lime juice, we let the custard get nice and cold before churning.

Then came the slightly more challenging part; layering the just-churned ice cream with the blueberry sauce. See that blur in the top left corner of the photo? That’s my hand moving as quickly as I can make it.

We’re pretty happy with the end result, so we’re giving a pint away! Just leave us a comment letting us know what new flavors you’d like to see on the bus this year. We’ll choose a winner randomly by Monday at noon.

 

Winter is a comin’

So, yesterday The Parlour had an Important Business Meeting, also known as sitting at our dining room table trying to figure out what we’re doing for the winter (with interruptions from the cat, the dog, the other cat, the other dog, and the internet, of course.) We’ve come to a few decisions:

  1. Starting now-ish, our menu will condense a bit. We’ll have 6 regular flavors, 1 vegan flavor, and 1 sorbet, and not quite as many toppings.

  2. We’ve added French-style hot chocolate, old fashioned hot cocoa, and spiced cider to the menu, and we plan on adding chai and some sort of coffee drink as well. Right now the availability of hot drinks is contingent on weather, but they’ll be regular items once the weather’s regularly cool.

  3. Once it’s for-real cold, we’ll be pre-packing our items to go. Instead of waiting in line and then ordering and waiting some more, you’ll be able to grab something to go and take it right away. This means selections will be more limited, but it also means we will have ice cream sandwiches regularly and we will make an extra effort to vary the menu and keep things interesting.

 

 

okay let’s do this okay

So, we put out a survey a few days ago, partly so we could figure out what our strategy for this fall/winter is going to be. And right after we posted the survey, it got a bit colder; thanks for the free market research, weather patterns! Things Mrs. Parlour has observed this week:

  • People will still buy ice cream when it’s cold and rainy. They’re much more likely to buy it if there’s somewhere close by and warm to take said ice cream.
  • No one wants soda or floats when it’s cold and rainy, but a few people want milkshakes. But only a few.
  • People DEFINITELY want hot chocolate when it’s cold and rainy, even if we accidentally write the wrong price on the menu board and it appears to be more expensive than it actually is.

It’s going to be warm again tomorrow, but the past few days have been helpful in figuring out how to keep stuff going in the fall/wintertime. When it gets for-real cold again, we’re thinking of switching out our milkshakes and floats for hot chocolate, chai, and cider. We’ll probably have a smaller ice cream menu, and more cookies and baked goods (like Ari Berenbaum’s donuts!) And we’ll try to think of some interesting ways to incorporate our ice cream into hot drinks (a customer suggested a scoop on top of hot chocolate instead of whipped cream, which seems like a great idea.)

So, what do you think? Any suggestions for how we can stay busy in the wintertime? Know any offices that would like a mid-afternoon hot chocolate and cookie break? Let us know!

Schedule changes

We’re going to try something the next few weeks. We’ll be skipping the Accent Hardwood location during the Saturday Farmer’s Market and try to find more places to stay out later on Friday nights. We’ll also be getting to Wachovia a little earlier on Saturdays.

Also, please note some new stuff on the schedule this week! We’re…

  • stopping by Erwin Square on Main for about an hour on Wednesday,
  • scooping the Watts-Hillandale First Thursday at Oval Park on Thursday (with Pie Pushers and OnlyBurger),
  • attending an art opening at Joe Van Gogh Friday,
  • joining the Food Truck Rodeo (and arm wrestling benefit for Girls Rock NC) at Casbah Saturday

… in addition to our usual Fullsteam, Wachovia, and Motorco appearances. See you out there!