Go Ahead and Scream!

Summer means frozen treats. The frighteningly good flavors at Nashville shops will have you screaming...for ice cream!

Nashville is home to a developing slow food culture, growing consciousness about sustainable and organic agriculture. Rolling Stone magazine just dubbed our little ol' town the best music scene in the country! However, with a warm spring heralding the hot summer to come, Nashvillians know that the season's biggest rock stars will be our own local purveyors of all things frozen and flavored.

Pied Piper Creamery

Just one block from East Nashville's coolest corner at Five Points, things get even colder at the Pied Piper Creamery. Whether you want to take a break from the summer heat on the front porch or get in out of the winter rain, for a creamy treat, Pied Piper is a fun, friendly place offering good times by the scoop.

Owner Jenny Piper's love affair with ice cream began in earnest back in 1995 when she got a job topping cones with the good stuff at a chain store. Piper graduated from college, worked in youth ministry and moved to East Nashville in 1998. She discovered there were no ice cream stores. After what she describes as "eight years of moaning and crying," Piper attended Frozen Dessert University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina before returning to East Nashville on a mission. The 300 people who streamed through her door on Pied Piper's opening day in 2007 couldn't have been happier.

The creamery has gone on to develop over 150 distinct flavors, selling more than 10,000 gallons to ice cream lovers from 22 countries. A five miniscoop sampler can soothe noncommittal palates, but most newbies decide on Trailer Trash- Piper's most popular flavor. "It's our best seller," enthuses Piper. "It's vanilla ice cream with M&Ms, Reese's Pieces, Twix, Nestle Crunch bars, Butterfingers, Oreo cookies and Snickers. It's the best thing, if you don't want to make a decision."

Piper opened a second location on Bransford Avenue last July. Now Nashvillians on the west side of the river are getting their fair share of her cool scoops. Her ice creams are made with the fresh, local produce that Piper grabs from the East Nashville Farmers Market or the Turnip Truck whenever she can. With both locations in place, Piper's looking forward to a busy season. The highlight is an East Nashville event that the creamery has helped to define. "Tomato Fest is my favorite," says Piper. "It's crazy around here. That's our busiest day. It's a great time for East Nashville to puff up and show off!"

Savarino's Cucina

Baker-owner Corrado Savarino's deli/bakery/pizzeria has become a cornerstone of the Hillsboro Village food scene. If the sweltering summer months don't find you longing for a slab of lasagna, Savarino's Cucina has a few treats that will make your sweet tooth an offer it can't refuse.

A native of Sicily, Savarino grew up in his grandfather's vineyards. However, he learned his way around a kitchen in New York's venerable Veniero's bakery. Now, he's passing on his skills to his oldest son, Carmelo, who crafts the gelato and Italian ices that keep customers coming in twelve months out of the year.

While acquiring the skills of a gelatier, Carmelo learned a lesson important to all kitchens. When we asked him how they made their delicious frozen treat, Carmelo simply said, "I can't tell you." While we'd never ask an artisan to reveal his secrets, we can confirm some of the basic differences that separate gelato from ice cream. Gelato has a lower butter fat than ice cream. It is whipped more slowly during freezing, so it contains less air and feels denser to the scoop. Gelato is stored at a lower temperature than ice cream. The Savarino's mix includes eggs along with the fresh fruit and nuts that are used to create flavors like strawberry and pistachio. "It's thicker," explains Carmelo. "Gelato is more like custard. I prefer gelato to ice cream, but Italian ice is my favorite."

Many think of Italian ice as shaved ice flavored with sweet syrup. Savarino's old school combos use fresh ingredients to create their trifecta: lemon, chocolate and cantaloupe. Asked to name his favorite summer activity, Carmelo doesn't hesitate. "Sitting outside eating Italian ice," he states. "I could do it all day long."

Mike's Ice Cream and Coffee Bar

From the automobile to the Hollywood movie to space travel: America has always been a place of grand notions. One of the greatest contributions to culture is the soda shop. Most of these iconic chrome and tile sweet shops have gone the way of the dodo bird. Nashville, however, has always been a place where a couple can order a milkshake with two straws.

Although the legendary Vandyland diner and soda shop called it quits in 2006, the Elliston Place Soda Shop is still making old-school ice cream drinks. Another place has established a reputation on both sides of the river for making some of the best ice cream in town. Customers can 'get the skinny' at Mike Duguay's downtown spot.

Just ask manager, Ryan Taliaferro. "We're an ice cream store and oldfashioned soda shop," he explains. "And a coffee bar, too." This combination of coffee and cones makes Mike's Ice Cream and Coffee Bar a unique stop. It is attractive to latte lovers as well as dessert aficionados. The trip to Mike's is like walking into a parallel universe where the soda shop never died and ice cream is made the old fashioned way.

When the downtown location opened in 2003, Mike's was selling a local brand ice cream in his drinks, cones and cups. However, ambitious plans soon found Mike's replacing the factory bought brand with homemade creations. Mike is making use of Arcade's Peanut Shop nuts and candies with local produce whenever he can. "We're in the process of having all homemade flavors," explains Taliaferro. "Right now, we have 32. We hope to have 36 by the end of the year." Mike's has also established another storefront. He bought Sip coffeehouse in Inglewood in 2008 and added ice cream to the java spot's menu. Mike's coffee is also local-centric. They serve Drew's Brews at the Sip location and Summit coffee from Old Hickory at the downtown headquarters.

While there are plenty of choices at Mike's - including a blueberry flavored "Superhero" ice cream - one of the biggest sellers is their Red Velvet Cake-flavored scoops. "The Red Velvet cake ice cream was in Rachael Ray's magazine," enthuses Taliaferro. "We also have a key lime pie and other off-the-wall flavors." Hearing Duguay list the ice creams' ingredients is like listening to an opera in praise of sugar. "We add cocoa and we use specially prepared cake batter that is designed for ice cream," he explains. "We also add pieces of red velvet cake and swirl in cream cheese icing."

If you're not in the mood for a frozen treat or iced coffee on a hot afternoon, you may be able to score another summertime bite that's only for patrons in the know. Mike's Broadway location used to list hot dogs on their menu. While you'll no longer find them among the published offerings, we have it on good authority that there are wieners to be had. "For people that know, we have hotdogs," Taliaferro offers. "We still have 'em." Don't forget to save room for dessert.

Follow these frozen food artisans on Facebook: