Ever since McConnell's became available locally I've been on a mission to try as many of their ultra-premium pints as possible, and inspired to learn as much as possible about their product and process. The predominant approach taken by companies in the ice cream industry is to create buzz through the use of catch phrases, fancy packaging and clever marketing. It is increasingly important to me to try to see past that by looking under the hood at more objective measures whenever such information is made available. The folks at McConnell's are very open about their process and their products.
Olive Oil and Salted Almonds features ingredients entirely from the central coast of California. The Olive Oil is from an Arbequina Olive orchard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Arbequina is a Spanish olive cultivar - very fruit-forward, tropical and not peppery, and as I found, great for ice cream. The almonds come from a nearby orchard, making it a local, Santa Barbara flavor. I hadn’t experienced creamy until I tried this stuff. The Olive Oil and sweet cream base was tremendously rich without being at all greasy. The Olive Oil taste was fruity and tangy, not overpowering, and most noticeable to me on the back end of each bite. The salt roasted almonds balance out the impossibly creamy, fragrant, olive oil tinged base.
McConnell’s had this to say about their Olive Oil and Salted Almonds flavor, “OO&SA, is really emblematic of who McConnell's is as a brand and our almost 70 year history on the Central Coast. Things like local ingredients, sustainability, organics, etc. (grass-grazed...) - these are all great concepts the retail food industry has come around to over the last 10-15 years. In the case of McConnell's, these are foundation concepts that were a part of things from day one, when Gordon and Ernesteen McConnell realized, purely as a result of where they lived, that they could access amazing ingredients year around. It wasn't marketing back then. It was pragmatism!”
“Olive Oil and Salted Almonds is a great, Central Coast story in that is embodies everything that makes McConnell's a special product. Again, we're a dairy, not an ice cream company, and this is important, because it allows us to take this amazing bounty from our "backyard" here in California, and make this singular product, truly from scratch. It's a cool thing to be able to do.”
Percentage overrun gives you an idea of how much air by volume you're getting (more overrun is more air). McConnell's has an overrun of less than 10%, which is about as low as is possible before texture is compromised. It is something most brands will tell you is not achievable or scalable. While most producers use a batch freezer in to maximize scalability, McConnell's uses a continuous freezer. The method they use is sometimes referred to as a modified French pot process. They start by making their own base mixture, which most companies do not - again, McConnell’s is a dairy. The base starts out in a larger tank and is fed into a machine that freezes as much as they wish to freeze as they go. It produces a more consistent product and allows them to control overrun.
McConnell's Olive Oil and Salted Almonds is truly artisan ice cream. I love this flavor. I find myself daydreaming about what more this Santa Barbara dairy has in store for us.
Where Elliot Found It: Straub's Market
Elliot's Grade: A