In Brooklyn, mid-September is one of those precious times of the year when you can feel the seasons changing around you, in real time, as you walk down the block. Autumn’s approach suddenly mellows the sun’s rays into a syrupy golden light. A few leaves swirl lazily to the ground, the first warm-up notes from the orchestra pit of the colorful symphony of fall. Mounds of pumpkins will fortify the farmers markets in a matter of weeks. But it’s still eighty degrees. What better way to savor the last days of summer than with a scoop of ice cream?
Today we stop by the Van Leeuwen ice cream shop in Boerum Hill in search of a taste of late summer, and chat with manager Adam Khatib.
OK Adam, what should we get?
One of our special flavors right now is this honey, spiced almond and blackberry ice cream. It’s really good. I like it a lot. There’s something about it that seems perfect for this time of year. It’s got a really nice natural, kind of floral sweetness from the honey, the almonds add these nice earthy, nutty and spice notes, and the late summer blackberries brighten it all up with that kind of ripe tartness.
And you know, the ingredients are really great. The honey is from a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We use fresh, organic blackberries from Blooming Hill Farm up in the Hudson Valley. The almonds obviously aren’t local, but we spice them ourselves in-house.
Those are all mixed with our ice cream base, which we also make ourselves with really nice, fresh milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm and creamery upstate, and egg yolks and cane sugar. That’s it. It’s a special flavor, so it won’t be around for long.
You seem to know your ice cream? How did you end up here? Doing this?
I’m from Poughkeepsie, which is about two hours north of the city, on the Hudson River. I always wanted to live in New York City. I went to college in Ohio, but I moved to Brooklyn right after I finished in 2009. I was looking for jobs, and I actually found the Van Leeuwens through a job posting on Craigslist.
They had basically just started then. They were only doing the ice cream trucks at that point. They had me come in for an interview, and it just seemed like they had an amazing idea – to make super high quality ice cream with great local dairy products and the best ingredients they could find.
They were really dedicated to the project – really excited about it – and it was all pretty inspiring. I started working for them on the trucks. I took a detour into book publishing for a little while, but realized that wasn’t really going to do it for me. I checked back in with the Van Leeuwens and I ended up coming back to manage this shop, which they’d opened while I was doing the book publishing thing.
It’s been great. I love it. Most of our customers are regulars from the neighborhood. They come in a few times a week, or even every day, and I like getting to know their names and faces and stories. You start to feel like a part of the neighborhood.
Van Leeuwen’s Boerum Hill shop is located at 81 Bergen Street, between Smith and Hoyt.
Photography by Heather Phelps-Lipton. All rights reserved.