Today’s interview is with Diana Hardeman, the founder of MilkMade Ice Cream, a subscription based ice cream company in New York City. Diana is definitely an ice cream inspiration to me. She comes up with the most inventive flavors, and makes them all in small batches, then delivers them to her subscribers. I’m definitely signing up for this fall’s membership! —Kristin
How did you get started making ice cream?
Diana: One summer I decided to start making ice cream. I wasn’t satisfied with my local pint offerings—I want a natural product made with local ingredients with unique and sophisticated flavors. I decided I could just make that for myself, so I bought a machine and started crafting ‘scream. I began serving to friends, serving at parties, and found that I wasn’t the only one seeking a better pint. So I launched MilkMade and have been sharing my creations with New Yorkers ever since.
What was the first flavor you made?
Diana: Peanut butter. It was way too fatty and thick, but still tasted delicious. Peanut butter was the most elusive flavor for me for quite some time, but I finally cracked the code and offered it as a flavor of the month this past March. The second was just plain vanilla, which I crafted and crafted until I got a good recipe down. I now use that as the basis for any flavor creation.
How did you come up with the idea for your delivery service?
Diana: When I thought of the delivery service, I never imagined myself running all over town delivering ice cream to hundreds of people. I thought MilkMade would be a fun little side project and I would bring ice cream to friends who I was going to visit anyway.
How many people signed up for the first flavor you delivered?
Diana: We had over 700 people sign up for waitlist before even launching the business. We opened to the first 50 people in three East Village based zip codes for our for season that started December 2009.
How many trips do you have to make to ensure that all of your deliveries arrive still frozen?
Diana: I circumnavigate Manhattan at least 10-20 times each month to deliver all of the pints. We carry the ‘scream in coolers with dry ice so they’re always frozen.
What has been the most requested flavor that you have made? Is there one that people have been requesting that you haven’t gotten a chance to make yet?
Diana: Members are always asking when we’ll open a shop, or make past flavors they’ve received accessible. The most popular flavors have been our Salted Caramel and our Red Velvet Cake flavors. Though it seems for each flavor, at least one member has declared it his/her favorite.
Is there a flavor or ingredient that you haven’t used yet that you’re really eager to try?
Diana: So many! I’ve been meaning to get spicy, to get coconutty, and to get orangey! But because we always use local/sustainable ingredients, finding sourcing partners for each of those is a bit more difficult than using local produce or mix-ins. We’re finally going to get to use bananas, as we found a fair-trade banana supplier. Huzzah!
What is the most unusual flavor you’ve made to date?
Diana: Ramps is definitely the most unique flavor we’ve offered to the membership. We only had about 10 orders for it, but it was one member’s favorite flavor we’ve ever crafted. EVOO and Chocolate is another unique flavor, though if you tasted it, it’s not unusual at all. We used an EVOO from the Filling Station that had a natural fruit essence to it, and it created an amazing ice cream.
Have you had any flavors you’ve made that were absolute disasters? Any that you will never make again?
Diana: The biggest disaster so far was a Carrot Cake flavor. Carrot ice cream, with rum, walnuts, raisins.. didn’t turn out so great. I only did one iteration of it, and am determined to take another stab at it. For a fun time I made caramelized Brussels sprout ice cream for our flavor of the day on our blog, Adventures in Ice Cream. Called it Cabbage Patch Kids. Great name…awful ice cream.
What kind of music do you listen to while making ice cream?
Diana: I like this question—and my answer totally varies. If it’s an all night session I put on something like Justice to keep me going – sets a good rhythm for chopping, stirring, packing pints all night long. A day session usually involves some rock like Led Zeppelin or recently Taking Back Sunday, and podcasts after podcasts of RadioLab, This American Life, and Ted Talks. Also, I’ve been sharing space with the gentlemen at Melt Bakery, and we’ve been listening to the Aladdin soundtrack. Multiple times.
Is there anyone else in the ice cream making community that really inspires you?
Diana: Definitely! I’m constantly inspired by those in the local food movement who dedicate their time to crafting an amazing product. Doing it right, crafting a product from start to finish, is so difficult and costly. And as a producer myself, I can recognize and appreciate that now. I really respect everyone who is out there and doing it right.
If you weren’t making ice cream, what would you be doing?
Diana: Eating it!
You can learn more about MilkMade on their website, and be sure to check out the video of Diana talking about the company!