The Key Ingredient: Fresh

Ice cream first made an appearance in the second century B.C.
Liza Tremblay, right, co-owner of Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream of Sag Harbor, made in Sag Harbor, with her assistant Claire Timmons, left, at the East Hampton Farmers Market Bridget LeRoy

    Alexander the Great was a big fan, as were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Charles I of England was so entranced with its flavors that he tried to keep the recipe secret as a royal prerogative.
    The cause of this historical brouhaha? Ice cream.
    History tells us that ice cream — or some form of shaved ice and flavored syrups — first made an appearance in the second century B.C. as a treat for royals. But it took almost another two millenniums for it to reach the masses, and when it did, it took off like an ice cream avalanche.
    Liza Tremblay, co-owner with her husband of the local company Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream, doles out cups and cones at the East Hampton farmers market on North Main Street Friday mornings from an old-fashioned ice cream cart. She can also be found Friday afternoons at the Hayground farmers market in Bridgehampton and the Sag Harbor market on Saturday mornings.
    But the ice cream — which is all natural, made in Sag Harbor with as many local ingredients as possible, and free of stabilizers like guar or xanthan gum — is also being served at some of the most popular restaurants and shops in the area now.
    Ms. Tremblay and her husband, Joe, opened Bay Burger in Sag Harbor in 2007. “When we decided to start Bay Burger, we wanted to do as much fresh and on site as possible, The meat is ground fresh each morning, the buns are made in the store daily.” It was a natural jump for the couple to offer fresh ice cream. Ms. Tremblay, who is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, decided to take a course in ice cream making with Malcolm Stogo, “the ice cream guru,” who runs the prestigious Ice Cream University in West Orange, N.J.
    All of the ice cream produced by Joe and Liza begins with a private-label base from Hudson Valley Fresh, which contains no hormones or antibiotics in the cream and milk. Then, when making strawberry ice cream, for example, all-natural sugar and 10 pounds of frozen strawberries are added to the two-and-a-half-gallon base, along with natural vanilla extract. “And that’s it,” Ms. Tremblay said.
    Along with the six regularly produced flavors — vanilla, chocolate, coffee, straw­berry, cookie jar, and pistachio — Joe and Liza’s creates specialized flavors, either for their restaurant clients or according to the season. A recent creation, served up at the farmers markets, was a fresh mint with chunks of Fat Ass Fudge, locally produced by Donna McCue. A Tate’s cookie-crumb ice cream is sold at Tate’s bake shop. Joe and Liza’s has also served up a basil ice cream for Sang Lee Farms and are working on a lavender flavor for them, along with a lemon-balm sorbet.
    Even more locally, Sylvester and Company carries a private-label flavor in their shops: “Dreamy” coffee with chocolate-covered almonds. And the new Mary’s Marvelous store opening in East Hampton in a few weeks will carry a Joe and Liza’s ice cream made with Mary Os, the store’s signature cookie.
    Ms. Tremblay now works full time with the ice cream part of the Bay Burger business. Mr. Tremblay, a grill man at some of Manhattan’s poshest eateries, concentrates on the restaurant part.
    It may have been the birth of the couple’s 18-month-old son, Leo, that helped Ms. Tremblay decide over the winter to stop adding stabilizers and emulsifiers to the frozen treat. “It was because of customer demand,” she said. “People just don’t want to feed their kids words that they can’t pronounce.”
    Although she called the new formula “a little less forgiving” — the shelf life is a little shorter — she doesn’t see that as a negative. “Customers are so pleased that we cut out the stuff that wasn’t natural,” she said. “And that’s really what it’s all about — happy customers.”