ruby jewel ice cream

A Terra Madre Day Frozen Sweet


By Jane Pellicciotto

As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” which is why on yet another unseasonably cold day in Portland, I headed over to Ruby Jewel to sample a limited-edition ice cream flavor called Quince Crème Brûlée, debuting today in celebration of Terra Madre Day.

Why quince? And why Terra Madre?

Andie Thompson, a marketing coordinator at Ruby Jewel, conceived of the special flavor after hearing about Slow Food’s Ark of Taste — an effort to seek out, document and preserve foods and food products around the world, keeping alive regional food traditions.

“Ark of Taste had been on my radar for a while,” said Andie, ever since she set about researching a sort of moldy persimmon—an unusual delicacy she tasted while teaching in Korea.

Eager to locate an Oregon Ark of Taste food that might inspire a good ice cream flavor, Andie perused the long list. This is a challenge since the foods aren’t listed by state. But Andie had a good idea of the kinds of fruits that grew in Oregon, so when she spotted quince (meeches prolific), she thought she might be onto something. Ruby Jewel located a supply of the fruit from Oregon Quince, a farm in Independence, Oregon, enough for about 22 gallons of ice cream. As founder Lisa Herlinger explained, it’s a challenge to make fruit-based ice creams because the water content can cause ice crystals to form. But a big smile spread across Lisa’s face as she licked a double-scoop cone, noting the surprising smoothness.

Quince is native to southeast Asia and looks like a cross between a pear and an apple. But it’s hard and starchy and not meant for eating raw. Instead, it’s often make into jams, jellies and wine. When cooked down, usually with sugar, it tastes a bit fig-like and apple-pear-like, with a hint of musk. You’ll often find quince jam paired with cheese such as manchego.

The ice cream is rich but not too sweet and studded with crunchy shards of crème brûlée that add a satisfying slightly smokey, salty taste. But why stop at a cone or cup? Turn this special ice cream flavor into one of Ruby Jewel’s iconic ice cream sandwiches. Andie suggests the Triple Ginger or Snickerdoodle cookies.

Ruby Jewel got its start in 2004 when Lisa saw an artisan ice cream void. She filled it, first selling her ice cream sandwiches—using locally sourced, all natural ingredients—from a cart at the Portland Farmers Market. Today, Lisa and her sister and co-owner Becky Burnett (whose daughter Ellie is pictured above) have two stores, national press and their product is sold in 13 states at major food retailers.

Don’t wait to sample this flavor. But if you miss it, I have a feeling another Ark of Taste seasonal ice cream is around the corner. You can find Ruby Jewel in two locations: SW and in North Portland.

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Jane Pellicciotto is a Slow Food Portland steering committee member, and owner of Allegro Design, a brand and communication design studio. She heard somewhere that chopping vegetables releases endorphins, so she keeps chopping. She is also working on a jewelry collection.

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