The Ice Cream Harvest

SAG HARBOR—When Joe and Liza Tremblay opened their restaurant, Bay Burger, in 2007, they thought they could get by just selling burgers. “We quickly realized that we’d have to expand our menu,” says Joe. By the second year of business, they were struggling and looking for other items to add. “We wanted something we could make during the downtimes to supplement the restaurant,” says Liza, “and we settled on ice cream.”

But with the chaos of a roadside burger joint on the edge of Sag Harbor village in summertime, it was too difficult to produce anything other than burgers. “We’d try and work on the ice cream, and inevitably someone would rush up to us and say something like, ‘We’re out of American cheese!’” says Joe. “This year, having a dedicated space to produce the ice cream will drastically change the equation for us.”

The new facility is just a couple of doors down from Bay Burger, along the Sag Harbor–Bridgehampton Turnpike, and shares space with Sag Harbor Industries in a building from another era. “They’ve been making electrical components there since the 1960s,” says Joe. “Our space was actually an old garage. It was full of heavy machinery, wires and dust. But we walked in and knew it was the future of our ice cream.”

Joe and Liza transformed the old shop into a gleaming white ice cream factory, complete with a batch freezer, stainless-steel tables and humming freezers.

With an increased focus on their ice cream business, they also decided to give it more of their conscience. “People loved our old ice cream,” Joe says, “but it was made from a mix that used stabilizers instead of egg. We decided that if we’re calling it our ‘homemade’ ice cream that the mix should only include milk, eggs, cream and sugar.”

To that end, they’re working with the Hudson Valley Fresh dairy cooperative for their mix, and sourcing the eggs from New York State. According to FDA regulations, for a product to be labeled, “ice cream” it must contain 10 percent butterfat. “The mix we get from Hudson Valley is 16 percent butterfat. That puts it into the ‘super-premium’ category of ice creams,” says Joe. “Something like Baskin-Robbins? They’re at 14 percent butterfat.”

While Hudson Valley isn’t an organic cooperative, they do hold their farmers to high standards. According to at least one mandatory test for somatic cell counts, which determines the health of cows, Hudson Valley’s herd is far healthier than its counterparts on even organic farms. This allows them to boast, via their Web site, that their cows offer the “cleanest” milk you can buy.

To flavor their ice cream, they’re relying on the bounty of the East End farms. Strawberries from Balsam Farms, blackberries from Dale and Betty, and peaches, pumpkins and apples when they’re in season. “Making friends with so many agricultural types awakened our sense of purpose,” says Joe. “With the ice cream, we really wanted to use the local farmers as much as possible.” To highlight the link between their ice cream and the farmers, they will be selling the frozen confection at the East Hampton and Hayground farmers markets. And, of course, at the Sag Harbor farmers market, which Bay Burger hosted this past winter.

Joe is thrilled by this development. “We’ll be right there alongside the farmers who sell us the produce.”

In addition to the farm stands and Bay Burger, Joe and Liza already have the ice cream in a few local restaurants, including Almond in Bridgehampton and Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, and plan to dish it out to a few select retail locations throughout the Hamptons. (It’s already sold at the new Hampton Seafood Company in East Hampton, Sylvester’s in Sag Harbor, Stuart’s Seafood in Amagansett and One Stop Market in Springs.) “We’re not looking to become Ben and Jerry,” says Joe, “but we would like to become the ice cream of the Hamptons.”

“Anyway,” says Liza, “we’re a bit better because we’re married. Ben and Jerry? They’re just friends.”

Christopher Gangemi writes and ruminates from his home in Sag Harbor.