From the Mixed-in Files of Mr. Ice Cream
How an Alum Became a Frozen Dessert Visionaryby Sala Levin ’10 | Photo Illustration by Jason Keisling
The next time you have ice cream stuffed with candy bars, brownies or cookies, take a minute from your dairy decadence to thank Steve Herrell ’67, who claims the title of creator of the ice cream mix-in.
Raised making ice cream in his Washington, D.C., back yard every summer, Herrell dreamed of a similar commercial version, with less air than most. So after finishing his sociology degree at UMD, he rejiggered an ice cream maker to mix more slowly, almost as if by hand. The result? “Dense, ultra-rich, ultra-creamy ice cream that is sticky, stretchy and chewy, almost like taffy,” according to food writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of the ice cream at Steve’s Ice Cream, which Herrell opened in Somerville, Mass., in 1973.
“A customer could choose up to three goodies to have mixed in to any flavor of ice cream,” Herrell says. “People just went bonkers over that.”He offered “smoosh-ins,” as he calls them, of brownies, nuts, Heath bars or—most famously—Oreo cookies.
Multiple accounts say two fans of the shop who observed Herrell’s ways for a while began their own ice cream operation in neighboring Vermont—Ben and Jerry’s. Meanwhile, Herrell sold Steve’s and opened Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton, Mass., which now also has a location on Long Island.
Herrell is now retired, but he still loves to taste-test handmade ice cream. “If I go to an ice cream parlor I haven’t been to I’ll always start with their vanilla and see if it’s good enough to move on to some of their other flavors and spend the calories.”
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