Henry James said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon,’ and while that pair is pretty stellar, we’d like to submit two more that rival the nostalgia and happiness that a summer afternoon inspires: ice cream. On their own, the words are alright at best, but placed together — the frosty ice leading the soft, sweet cream — and you’ve got magic in a bowl. Or cup. Or cone. Or on top of a cookie. However you scoop it, ice cream evokes all the sticky sweetness that life offers. We taste tested the latest and greatest frozen treats in Denver — we know, our job is hard — so you can enjoy the best, most delicious ice cream on a summer afternoon. Bliss.
(ICE) CREAM OF THE CROP
Item numero uno on your summer bucket list: get a lick, scoop or bite at these three superior scoop shops.
This brand-new, Uptown microcreamery is the only licensed dairy plant in Denver, which means that the small batch flavors crafted here are as fresh as they come. Think cow-to-cone flavors like Caramel Cloud Brulee, Challah Good! French Toast and Voodoo Magick (made with Voodoo doughnuts). Gerry and Josh, the duo behind Frozen Matter, are truly taking ice cream to the next level, having studied vigorously at ice cream school (yes, that’s a thing), using on-site pasteurization and insisting upon the highest-quality, organic ingredients. And did we mention they have a liquor license?
That’s the Spirit!
Frozen Matter combines two of our very favorite things: ice cream and alcohol. “We’re pretty unique in our spirit pairings,” owner Gerry Kim says. And by ‘unique,’ we think she means ‘genius.’ The libation pairings are carefully chosen to complement the flavors of the ice cream, and we were pleasantly surprised by how well booze played off the frozen treats. Our favorite is a scoop of Almond Cluster Funk paired with a shot of Dolin Blanc Vermouth. Or maybe the Strawberries & Cream with Aperol. Or the Valrhona Chocolate with Royal Cognac. Just get an Uber, and you’ll be fine.
530 E. 19th Ave., Denver, FrozenMatter.com
With its shop housed in an iconic, 28-foot-tall, 14,000-pound cream can, this is a cheerful, throwback ice cream experience that any frozen treat aficionado must have. While the ice cream is top notch — there’s more going on at this happening Highlands gathering place than just dessert; they host live music, poetry slams, movie nights and even carnivals all summer long.
2620 16th St., Denver, LittleManIceCream.com
The Inventing Room
Down to a Science
You probably think you know ice cream. You’ve been eating it out of the container — er, reasonably-sized bowl — for as long as you can remember. But unless you’ve eaten liquid nitrogen ice cream, complete with billowing smoke clouds, then you can’t claim your connoisseur card quite yet. We’re talking extra-creamy, dessert-with-a-show style ice cream. And you can only get it at Denver’s The Inventing Room, helmed by the resident mad scientist of sorts, Ian Kleinman.
“I’ve always been extremely excited about science,” Kleinman says. “My main two sources of inspiration are my grandfather and Willy Wonka.”
Stepping into his downtown, brightly-hued ice cream lab, we think it’s safe to say that Mr. Wonka (and his grandfather, whose welding helmets and hand-crafted tables make up much of the décor) would be proud. The menu looks fairly traditional, with popcorn, ice cream sandwiches and sundaes innocently adorning the lineup, and it’s once you place your order that the real entertainment begins.
Here’s how it works: Kleinman pours a (liquid) ice cream custard blend into a thermal walled bowl. He then pours liquid nitrogen — kept at an astounding -321 degrees — over the ice cream to quickly freeze it. This creates teeny tiny ice crystals (the smaller the ice crystals, the creamier the ice cream); not to mention that show-stopping smoke that keeps on spilling from your now-frozen treat, even coming out of your mouth, dragon-style, while you eat it.
Kleinman has been running his science-class-meets-culinary-school catering operation for nine years now, and he opened the brick and mortar dessert shop last Halloween. If you believe in magic — or better yet, if you don’t — this is some dazzlingly unique ice cream that you’ve got to check out.