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Small Pleasures: Burlington's Odd Otter Ice Cream Mixes High-Quality Dairy With Inventive Flavors


Published July 9, 2024 at 1:41 p.m.
Updated July 10, 2024 at 10:16 a.m.

Andrew Plotch of Odd Otter Ice Cream - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Andrew Plotch of Odd Otter Ice Cream

I love eating ice cream at the wrong time. On a recent Saturday morning at the Burlington Farmers Market, Odd Otter Ice Cream's Razzle Dazzle ($5), a flavor with raspberry swirl and fudgy brownie pieces, dripped down my face in high winds and a torrential downpour. It was delightful.

The weather did not improve, but my delight continued as I sampled more from Odd Otter. While I usually equate mint flavors to mouthwash, the Strawberry Mint had an earthy sweetness and acidic strawberry punch. The Mexican Hot Chocolate did not shy away from spice, and its richness was complemented with a nostalgic marshmallow finish.

Odd Otter started long before its soft launch on May 17 at Burlington's Roosevelt Park for Kids Weekend. Founder Andrew Plotch, 28, has been churning ice cream since age 13 with a frozen-bowl-style maker. As he put it, he realized early on that "what's better than making dinner is actually making dessert, and what's better than a baked good is ice cream."

At the start of the pandemic, Plotch, like many of us, took to the kitchen again. Through his first ice cream venture, Plotch's Pints, he sold to family and friends in the Washington, D.C., area. Last year, the Middlebury College graduate decided to return to Vermont, working remotely as a communication manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council and launching his pop-up ice cream business on the side. He makes around 15 gallons of ice cream every week in the Burlington Friends Meeting House kitchen and sells pints and cones at community events around the city.

Odd Otter's setup has a childlike lemonade-stand quality to it. At the farmers market, Plotch and his friend stood in matching green shirts under a rain-sunken canopy tent, hollering for passersby to sample their ice cream from a large Igloo chest cooler. But Plotch's charismatic, carefree demeanor belies his comprehensive ice cream knowledge.

Odd Otter Ice Cream's Mint Chocolate Chunk - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Odd Otter Ice Cream's Mint Chocolate Chunk

Ice cream is not a simple science. Droplets of milk fat suspend in millions of tiny ice crystals, while stabilizers and sugars interact at the right moment to create a smooth, airy texture. To nail this emulsion takes skill.

Using Monument Farms dairy, Plotch creates his own ice cream base, an extra step that many small ice cream makers don't tackle. His secret to making flavors that "punch you in the face," he said, is to steep his flavoring ingredients into high-quality milk and cream from the start. Local mint leaves are soaked and strained into the base of the Strawberry Mint; coffee grounds are steeped right into the base of Espresso Cookies and Cream. Because of his infusion process, Plotch must repasteurize the dairy before freezing it.

His innovative, rotating menu boasts flavors such as rooibos and honey. He said his development process might involve, for example, "lining up four different chocolates or four different strawberries" and having his friends fill out tasting notes, voting on their favorite.

There are other thoughtful touches: Plotch makes his own chocolate chunks that have a low melting temperature to ensure you "don't have to fight through" the crunch of frozen chocolate. His Espresso Cookies and Cream is decaf. The Mexican Hot Chocolate is spicy without making you sweat. There's even a Pup Cup for dogs.

While fans are asking about a brick-and-mortar location, for now Odd Otter will continue with pop-ups. "The goal right now is to have a lot of fun," Plotch said.

Small Pleasures is an occasional column that features delicious and distinctive Vermont-made food or drinks that pack a punch. Send us your favorite little bites or sips with big payoff at [email protected].

The original print version of this article was headlined "All About That Base | Burlington's Odd Otter Ice Cream mixes high-quality dairy with inventive flavors"

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