The Inside Scoop On The Bent Spoon
See why The Bent Spoon has been stealing the hearts of ice cream lovers near and far
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
With over 550 farm fresh flavors in rotation– including a constant supply of chocolate and vanilla – it’s no wonder that The Bent Spoon has developed a cult-like following in Princeton, New Jersey. Aside from promoting local businesses, the state of New Jersey, and organic eating, The Bent Spoon has also encouraged Princetonians to get experimental with their ice cream.
The quaint shop offers 24 flavors at a time, each inspired by seasonal New Jersey produce. That means there are summer ice cream flavors like sweet corn, basil, and Beach Plum currently available, while flavors like pumpkin and shiitake mushroom will make their debut this fall. Although most people don’t associate fruits and veggies with a decadent dessert, The Bent Spoon proves that produce is possibly at its best when made into ice cream. In fact, according to The Bent Spoon’s co-owner Gabrielle Carbone, some of their fans are no longer satisfied with run of the mill flavors like cookies and cream or mint chip. Instead, they eagerly wait for their Bent Spoon favorites to be in season. What’s the current flavor to get before it’s gone from the Jersey farms? Sun Gold Saffron sorbet made from Sun Gold Tomatoes.
“I think one of the more magical and special things about this business is that we feature the fleeting flavors of the season. For example, our Sun Gold Saffron Sorbet. Sun Gold Tomato season is super finite, and they’re super amazing. We made the sorbet out of all the ones we could get, and when it’s gone, it’s gone until next year. That’s a really rare thing. People come in and it’s, ‘What’s here today?’ ‘What’s in season?’ They wait all year for it. Basil ice cream is like that too. When we first opened, people were like, ‘basil ice cream?’ And now, as soon as it starts to get warm, people are like, ‘When is the basil coming?’ Even little kids! Who would’ve thought 11 years ago that an eight year old would be requesting basil and ricotta ice cream? That’s a really cool thing that happens at The Bent Spoon.”
It’s not only The Bent Spoon’s incredible ice cream that attracts crowds, but also its Jersey pride. Carbone and her partner Matthew Errico are experts on all things New Jersey, especially when it comes to its food. Both New Jersey natives, Carbone and Errico come from families that care about food and making memories around it. After attending none other than The College of New Jersey, they decided to get involved in the food industry and business and ice cream seemed like the natural choice. This was especially true for Carbone who received her first ice cream maker when she was 14. As Carbone explains, she was not the type to let her ice cream maker hibernate in the closet; she always had it out and ready to go. After honing her skills at the French Culinary Institute in New York and taking waitress stints at several Princeton restaurants, Carbone felt ready to make ice cream her craft. Paired with Errico, who had years of experience as the general manager for Small World Coffee, the duo opened The Bent Spoon in 2004.
“We went into this really wanting to make something that highlighted the beautiful products of New Jersey and create a space where people could make a food memory like Matt and I have done. It was so important to us to make something that people would taste and then remember – maybe a beautiful Jersey summer, or when they got engaged here – just those kind of things.”
With a seemingly constant line of people outside of its doors, The Bent Spoon appears to successfully make food memories – and satisfied bellies. It also seems to make people ask themselves, “How in the world does The Bent Spoon manage to make shiitake mushroom ice cream taste so good?” It turns out that Carbone has a simple answer to that: it’s all in the ingredients.
“When you’ve been doing it for this long, you can make anything into ice cream. It’s most important to put your energy into finding the ingredient that tastes amazing. If you start there, it’s really easy to make the ice cream taste delicious.”
It also helps when people show up at The Bent Spoon’s door with 40 pounds of Beach Plums or other produce when they’re in season. Apparently, such occurrences aren’t uncommon, as Carbone and Errico have developed strong ties with local vendors and farmers who are eager to have their produce transformed into a tasty treat. The Bent Spoon is also a big supporter of fellow Princeton businesses. In the past, they have used Triumph Brewery’s beer and Small World’s coffee as key ingredients in their ice cream.
When thinking of the future, Carbone and Errico are focused on maintaining the quality of their product before anything else. Aside from making their ice cream, the co-owners are busy supplying it to over 20 restaurants and six retail stores. “We’re always growing,” explains Carbone, “but I think the way in which we grow is really important to us. So, who knows what The Bent Spoon will look like in 10 years? But, we can promise you that however it is that we’re growing, it will be with intention.”
Unfortunately, Sun Gold Tomatoes and Beach Plums won’t always be growing with intention, so please excuse us while we stock up on some tomato and plum ice cream from The Bent Spoon.