Finding one of the many ice cream shops or creameries is of no difficulty throughout many Alaska communities as anyone on a Sunday drive could easily go for an ice cream sundae. For some, a cold treat and cold weather doesn’t sound ideal. But for many, the unique ice cream flavors and authentic gelato from local creameries is what keeps Alaskans coming back for these sweet treats.
Gelato on the Spit
Not to be mistaken for just being an “Italian version” of ice cream, gelato is denser than ice cream because it has less air; it also contains less fat and is served 15 degrees warmer, giving it a smoother and more creamy texture. Because it is served warmer, gelato doesn’t freeze taste buds which allows people to experience more flavor.
Carmen’s Gelato is Homer’s sweet little secret. Only open in the summer, the gelato shop Carmen Riccardi and his dad built is a must-make stop on the Homer Spit for people on road trips and tourists.
Riccardi opened his shop in 2016 after selling his gelato from a cart for three years. He fell in love with gelato after attending the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Italy and trying it for the first time. “When I first tried it, I was like, ‘Wow, what have I been doing with my life?’” he said. He wanted to bring the treat back home to Alaska, since it was something that “no one here was doing, or doing correctly.”
Riccardi’s little shop may be small but he has a plethora of customers. He and his small staff see around 500 customers on a sunny July day, and on average, go through 10 to 20 batches of gelato a day.
“My favorite [flavor] changes every hour,” Riccardi said. He has somewhere between 300 and 400 gelato recipes. His shop has 12 flavors on display, changing them out frequently.
Local flavor and spirit
When in Anchorage and feeling adventurous, Wild Scoops can meet all of your needs. The buzzing shop along E Street has ice cream flavors that might surprise the typical customer. Take their flavor Yukon Gold, for instance: It is made with Alaska potato chips which are turned into a crunchy toffee and fudge. Or the owner, Elissa Brown’s favorite flavor, ginger cookie dough: spicy ginger ice cream with molasses cookie dough bits.
Brown started her business in 2015 in a part of a rented kitchen space in downtown, creating ice cream off of a “tiny” ice cream maker bought off Craigslist. After selling at downtown events and farmers markets, she and her husband and business partner Chris Pike opened the small shop downtown in May 2017.
“We love using Alaska products, and we view ourselves as part of the community ecosystem,” Brown said. “I love getting to interact with so many different kinds of people and find ways to connect ice cream to so many other parts of the community. Being an entrepreneur means you get to wear a lot of hats and you are constantly learning new things. Also, it’s inherently creative and filled with problem solving. But, at the heart of it, an ice cream business means that you get to make people happy, in a small way, over and over again. It’s a way to be a positive force in our community, to make Anchorage a little better and happier, one ice cream scoop at a time.”
Juneau’s chilly treats
On the wharf in Juneau, Chilkat Cove Ice cream Shop offers a variety of exclusive flavors from Eugene, Oregon’s Cascade Glacier, a renowned creamery. The shop has been up and running since 1996, created by Tony Teng.
The Cove offers dozens of flavors at a time, but they also offer unique Alaska cones. Their cones are baked from scratch on custom built bakers and are intricately detailed with tribal designs. The inspiration for the cones come from the totemic Chilkat weaving style of the Chilkat tribes of the Pacific Northwest coast.
“My favorite thing are the cones. They’re so good because they’re handmade every day and fresh,” Ciera Kelly, lifelong Juneau resident, said. “[Chilkat] is less expensive than a lot of ice cream places in Juneau and it also has the most variety. Also, locals get a discount.”
Chilkat and Carmen’s Gelato both agree that seeing happy people on their way out is absolutely the best part of the business.