I think it’s only fair to warn readers of this column: If you should be inclined to stop by the Spotted Dog Creamery to chat with John Winders about ice cream, as I did last week, plan to bring lunch, a knapsack, prescription medications and perhaps a sleeping bag. You’ll be there a while. I’d intended to drop in on John and take a quick 10- to 15-minute tour of his facility and wound up learning about ice cream for nearly two hours.
When reviewing restaurants, one of the things that thrills me is meeting a passionate chef. In an era when predictability and a corporate mentality have taken over most of the restaurants and restaurateurs in the United States, I love coming across that rare chef or restaurateur who is excited and filled with passion for what he or she is doing. It doesn’t take much creativity or technical skill to put seared Ahi tuna with a sesame crust and a puddle of bottled ponzu sauce in front of customers; some variation of that dish is probably offered at a third of the higher-end eateries in this country. My 5-year-old son could make that dish if he could reach the stove. But to offer steamed monkfish liver pate slices in a fragrant homemade broth—that’s creative! And so when I hear a restaurateur/chef like Takashi Gibo for instance, speaking so passionately about monkfish liver the way he does, it inspires me to put something into my mouth that I’d never dreamed of before: in this case, monkfish liver.
Well, John Winders has a passion for food and cooking that is second to none. Mention a single culinary term to him—let’s say, “artificial flavoring”—and it will trigger a lecture, a lesson and a tirade all in one. Those who have worked with Winders know what I’m talking about. Even if you haven’t, you might remember John from when he was chef at the Goldener Hirsh in Deer Valley, or when he opened Solitude’s St. Bernard restaurant. He’s also an established private chef and caterer for high-end clients in Park City and Deer Valley.
But for the past few years, ice cream has been John Winders’ passion. Along with business and life partner Kristin Johnson, Winders more or less started making ice cream out of necessity. Due to the seasonality of business and the especially slow summers at the resort restaurants, John and Kristin decided to make use of their down time by getting involved with farmers’ markets in Salt Lake City and Park City. In the beginning, they sold coffee, iced tea, lattes and such from a cart, and they thank Brad Baird and the Downtown Farmers Market for “literally giving us a chance to start our business.”
Then John became obsessed with ice cream, and began making a few batches by hand at home, which he and Kristin also sold at farmers’ markets. The response was overwhelming, according to Winders. “There’s way too much cheap ice cream on the market to try to compete with Breyers or HÃ¤agen-Dazs. So I decided to concentrate my efforts on making high-quality, all natural, super premium ice cream—something that was lacking in this market. This is a company built by demand.”
In the past three years or so, John and Kristin have gone from scooping homemade ice cream from a plastic cooler at farmers’ markets to moving into a brand new 6,100-square-foot facility on State Street in South Salt Lake called Spotted Dog Creamery. Dog lovers to the core, John and Kristin named Spotted Dog Creamery after their Jack Russell-mix Hopper, who was adopted by the couple from No More Homeless Pets in Utah. Hopper joined John’s doggie-already-in-residence Jaxson, a ridiculously friendly Brittany/Golden mix. Now both dogs are permanent fixtures (with an office of their own) at Spotted Dog Creamery.
John makes small batches of ice cream (a few gallons at a time compared to Ben & Jerry’s 25,000 pints), varying flavors from day to day and week to week. Altogether he’s created some 140 flavors including Lemongrass, Lavender, Tiramisu, Cantaloupe, Star Fruit, Mojito and Bailey’s Chip, just to name a few—“My favorite is Coconut,” says Winders. “But I’m not allowed to have any in the house or I’d just eat it all day and night. But Rocky Road is the most popular with customers.”
John and Kristin are to ice cream as artisan cheese makers are to the American cheese industry. The small batches of all-natural ice cream made at Spotted Dog are lovingly produced by passionate human beings and, well, absolutely sensational. Nothing artificial goes into Spotted Dog ice cream. “I searched for nine months for all-natural bubblegum flavoring before I could find any,” says Winders as he points to a large container of bubblegum ice cream flavoring from Edgar A. Weber & Co., one of the few suppliers of all-natural ice cream ingredients in the country. “Sure, it costs more to make ice cream that’s 100 percent natural, but I want my ice cream to be wholesome, not filled with red dye No. 9, corn syrup and artificial junk,” he says. He then proceeds to talk to me for the next half-hour about natural vs. artificial ice cream. By the time he’s finished, I’m ready to invest my last nickel in Spotted Dog Creamery.
To all of you who are passionate about ice cream: In John Winders you may have met your match.
SPOTTED DOG CREAMERY 2980 S. State (behind Action Link Wireless), 485-SPOT (7768). Monday & Tuesday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday & Friday 1 p.m.-6 p.m.
John Winders supplies various restaurants around town with custom-made flavors of Spotted Dog Creamery ice creams and sorbets, including his fermented red bean ice cream that is served at Takashi. Other operations that currently serve Spotted Dog Creamery ice cream are Este Pizza, Free Wheeler Pizza, Grand America, Latitude Restaurant Group (Mikado, Kam Pai, Hapa Grill), Les Madeleine’s, MacCool’s, Primary Children’s Hospital, Ruth’s Diner and the Sun & Moon CafÃ©. For delectable ice-cream dining at home you can petition your local grocery store manager to begin carrying Spotted Dog Creamery ice cream and sorbet or buy it to take out at the Spotted Dog Creamery on State Street.
So now you know all about spotted dogs—but what about spotted frogs? Along with Wild Oats, Red Rock and Hapa Grill, one of the most interesting businesses to open in Park City’s new Redstone development is the Spotted Frog Bookstore. That’s because it’s the only bookstore I’m aware of in Utah that serves wine and beer. Technically the wine and beer isn’t sold in the bookstore, but just adjacent to the Spotted Frog Bookstore in its cafÃ©. Along with pastries, brownies, coffee and such, fiction and nonfiction lovers alike can sip a cold Chimay or Spaten beer or enjoy a glass of wine from producers like Smoking Loon and Jeriko. Spotted Frog’s sommelier Zev Rovine says he plans to host wine-tasting and wine-education classes as soon as all the paperwork and permits are in order.
Midway’s Blue Boar Inn is featuring Mother’s Day brunch on May 8. Executive chef Chris Sheehan will prepare a special selection of nine entrees including peppered rack of New Zealand lamb, blackened swordfish medallions, lobster and fennel Benedict, and Dijon rubbed prime rib. Brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Phone 888-650-1400 for reservations.
Quote of the week: We’ll make you a believer one lick at a time. —Spotted Dog Creamery
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