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Side Dishes: Artisan ice cream hits Bristol


Published June 13, 2012 at 6:37 a.m.

“It’s been a blur to us. All we do is sleep and make ice cream,” says chef Doug Mack. The owner of Mary’s Restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek is talking about, the artisan ice cream parlor that he opened with his daughter, Martha, and wife, Linda Harmon, during the last week in May.

Martha Mack grew up in the kitchen at Mary’s when it was still located in downtown Bristol. She earned a master’s in library and information sciences, then decided she preferred the dynamic life of a restaurant to academia and returned to Bristol, where she became Mary’s bar manager. Last winter, Mack’s love of infusing vodka with flavors such as bacon started inspiring parallel experiments with desserts. At first, she flavored cupcakes that she paired with homemade ice cream, but before long she realized that “it’s a lot more fun to play with flavors [in ice cream], and the shelf life’s better.”

While the family relocated Mary’s Restaurant to the inn in 1994, they held on to its original 11 Main Street spot. This spring, the Macks began remaking the chic space with work by David Durgin of Mainly Metals. That includes a giant metal ice cream cone suspended outside the scoop shop.

Martha Mack makes the French-custard-style ice cream base herself with milk and cream from Monument Farms Dairy and eggs from the Inn at Baldwin Creek’s own chickens. Flavors change daily, but Mack says she always offers four standard flavors and five quirkier ones, including a sorbet. Of the less-quirky choices, she says her cookies-and-cream flavor has proved particularly popular. It’s filled with her own homemade version of Oreos. The Macks bake the waffle cones themselves, too.

More adventurous dessert seekers will be excited by Doug Mack’s invention: curried-peanut ice cream. Martha Mack says her favorite flavor is caramelized banana with dark-chocolate-covered cashews. She’s also proud of a scoop made from Vermont Coffee Company dark roast and chocolate-covered toffee from Red Kite Candy in Thetford. Other flavors showcase the Macks’ own harvest, including basil ice cream, mint ice cream and strawberry-rhubarb sorbet featuring berries from Last Resort Farm. “Since we’re cofounders of Vermont Fresh Network, we’re trying to be as local as we can,” says Doug Mack.

The store is currently open Wednesday through Sunday, but Doug Mack says he hopes to serve seven days a week year-round. A new, larger-scale ice cream maker arriving this week will make it easier for the family to stock up and avoid selling out. Soon, Mack says, customers will also be able to grab pints to take home.

The demand is there, says his daughter. “I’ve had families [who] come in almost every day,” Martha Mack adds. “You can taste as many flavors as you like, and the kids like to take the opportunity to try everything.”

We bet it’s not just the kids.