I think I might be in love with Je & Jo.
On a recent weekday I went to hunt down this ice creamery, as it was recommended to me by a friend once I told them about The Ice Creaming. Now for some reason, I had it written down that they were located on the Upper West Side, and since this Brooklyn gal is rarely there, I decided to use the fact that I'd be at the Met as an excuse to visit for some ice cream (in truth, this blog does more enabling than you can imagine). Well, it turns out it was in midtown all along, where I feel like I am EVERY DAY, between auditions, rehearsals, theater-going, and tourists. Why am I telling you this? Well cause I was kinda grumpy by the time I arrived here. But visiting Je & Jo was one of the best things I did all day.
Before I go any further, I need to know: Do you like cookie dough? I mean the raw kind you're not supposed to eat but you do anyway? Do you like it in ice cream? I ask this in all earnestness because some people do not. I for one really like it, but now that it's become as common (or more so) than chocolate chip, I feel that the quality has gotten grosser. Or maybe I'm just over it in general.
Jennifer Welser and Jonathan Baker claim that they became ice cream makers by accident. I know this because during my visit to Je & Jo, I talked to the co-owner - who introduces himself as Jonathan, and not "Jo" as you might expect - for nearly ten minutes about his shop and his ice cream. He and his wife used to make ice cream as a hobby, using sheet pans to layer different flavors with cookie dough. They'd serve it to friends, who loved it, and voila, after "Ice Cream Camp" (this is a real thing at Penn State) they opened up their shop in NYC. Doesn't that make it sound so EASY!?!
Jonathan took time to chat with me about where his cream comes from (Hudson Valley Fresh), about what his cups are made of (sugarcane fiber) and about why they serve their ice cream in prepackaged cups (to preserve the freshness/ integrity of the ice cream) even after another patron chatted with him for ten minutes about how to successfully make an affogato, and until yet another patron introduced herself to inquire about where they got their cute cup-sized paper lids for her frozen yogurt company.
Je & Jo is extremely unique, beyond the simple fact that the owner had the patience of a kindergarten teacher introducing the alphabet to us newbies. For one - the aforementioned pre-packaged cup:
They are as far as I know the only ice cream store to serve ice cream in little to-go containers and not scoop it out of gallons, despite being made in-house. It seemed that in searching to create ice cream "popsicles" in squares or even spheres, they landed with cups instead. With the cups they can regulate portion, and temperature, and no ice cream goes to waste. But the most unique aspect is that every flavor - which alters with the seasons - features cookie dough. Different kinds of cookie dough. All eggless, of course - no salmonella cases here. But this does not make Je & Jo gimmicky. The fact is that their ice cream - "made from scratch, using only the best whole ingredients, sourced as locally as possible, always fresh" - is REALLY GOOD.
As you can see above, I was seduced by the uniqueness of Earl Gray ice cream with Shortbread cookie dough. Jonathan went through several Earl Grays before landing on Harney & Son's Earl Grey Supreme, which has triple the bergamot. A little too intense as a beverage, but AMAZING to flavor ice cream with.
So, I like Je & Jo. I like everything about them, from their locally sourced ingredients, the inventiveness (and reinvention) of their flavors (Cardamom Ice Cream with Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough, hello!), their desire to elevate the classically overdone Cookie Dough ice cream, and above all, the mom-and-pop shop quality in a neighborhood positively starved for not only ice cream, but connection with one's community.