Standard Foods
205 E. Franklin St., Raleigh

Eating at Standard Foods is like a tasty game show; your experience depends on the door you choose. Behind door No. 1, you’ll find an eighty-seat restaurant. Behind door No. 2, though, you’ll spot shelves stocked with cooking essentials, soup and pasta take-alongs, fresh vegetables spilling from bushel baskets. The top prizea delicious ice cream sandwich from pastry chef Krystle Swensonlurks near the grocery’s rear.

“I was really drawn to the dueling parts,” says Swenson, who relocated from Chicago’s Blackbird to work with Standard. “It’s so exciting for a pastry chef to have a retail outlet where they also have things on the menu.”

The key to great ice cream is in the details, Swenson explains, like separating the egg yolks completely from the whites and properly tempering the eggs to produce a velvety, homogeneous base. She cooks with milk from Ran-Lew Dairy in Snow Camp, chosen because of its commitment to non-GMO feed. It’s not highly pasteurized or homogenized and sports a high butterfat content. The base is punched up with seasonal ingredients to create the sandwich fillings.

While the ice cream offers a platform for experimentation, the most intricate part of the sandwich is one of three cookie containers: a butter cookie, a brown-sugar based cookie, and a chocolate shortbread. They are thin enough to yield, dense enough to provide structure. Their flatness makes them look like pancakes, but Swenson has perfected the balance of crunch and chew.

“That’s the part I worked on the most,” she says. “Sometimes, a cookie is great on its own, but when you freeze it, the ice cream and the cookie temper differently. It might be too hard and the ice cream squishes out. I needed recipes that were thin, without compromising any textures or consistencies.”

Swenson makes around 60 pints of ice cream and 150 ice cream sandwiches per week, a stunning figure since the temperature has yet to crack ninety degrees. Soon, pecan, cookies and cream, and coffee will yield to herbs, like lemon balm and lemon verbena. Swenson will fold strawberry sorbet into vanilla ice cream, toosure to be a winner behind door No. 2.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Frozen Spoils”