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A proper ice cream van: bye-bye Mr Whippy

Catherine May talks to Claire Kelsey of Ginger’s Comfort Emporium

Published on December 14th 2010.

A proper ice cream van: bye-bye Mr Whippy

Ice cream vans bring back memories of childhood holidays where you always ended up feeling sticky for hours after that one Mr Whippy.

She’s working with Marble Brewery to create ice-creams that represent Manchester. She felt that Eccles cakes, Vimto and Manchester Tart have been overdone and so opted to work with the brewery to produce her Ginger Marble ice cream.

Now a Manchester business is re-visiting the ice cream van but providing a product far removed from Mr Whippy’s sickly, glue-y flavours. The owner is Claire Kelsey, and she’s trying to change the way we think about ice cream vans.

Having worked as a food stylist for six years, Claire had grown tired of making food that was always discarded into bins after it had been photographed. She wanted to create food that people could enjoy the taste of, as well as the look of. So in winter 2009 she bought herself an old smoothie van in Brighton and with the help of her family and friends she transformed it into Ginger’s Comfort Emporium.

First and foremost it serves ice-cream. The roasted banana, salted caramel and peanut flavour incorporates sweet and salty flavours to delight the taste buds whilst the apple crumble flavour changes your previous perceptions of this hot dessert through its transformation into an ice cold treat. All the ice creams are made at Claire’s home and are stored in refrigerators in the van at temperatures as low as -40° making for a densely textured product.

Jonathan Schofield, Manchester Confidential editor, tasted some of the samples Claire had prepared and said: “Bloody hell, these are fabulous. Exotic flavours, tightly bundled together, no sloppiness or sickly aftertaste.”

In her first year of trading, Claire has taken the van to Kendal Calling festival and the Manchester Food and Drink Festival and will be in Piccadilly Gardens Wednesday to Sunday from 9 December to 3 January serving ice cream with hot waffles.

Next year she is returning to Kendal Calling and will also be driving down to The Secret Garden Party in Cambridge as well as a visit to Manchester’s new Friends of Mine festival in May. As well as outside catering, the company also have a home delivery service within the Manchester area where you can receive a box of ice creams of your choice for £15.

She’s working with Marble Brewery to create ice-creams that represent Manchester. She felt that Eccles cakes, Vimto and Manchester Tart have been overdone and so opted to work with the brewery to produce her Ginger Marble ice cream. It’s proved to be a success and so she’s now working to make ice creams out of various malts and hops on offer at the brewery.

The ice-cream van is clearly a project pursued out of love. Claire exudes optimism and has furthered her love of intriguing cuisine as a member of the Experimental Food Society. This is a group that meets in London. Claire’s Espresso, mint and pear sorbet has gone down well with her fellow foodies in the group.

When it comes to why she chose the ice cream van as her future career, she said that she toyed with the idea of investing in a tearoom or restaurant but didn’t want to gamble everything on it. Claire said “If you do something in a van you can be as eccentric as you like and then go and find an audience – It’s much more pro-active than sitting in a tearoom in Chorlton waiting for custom”.

As for the future? Claire’s excited about 2011 but says she never knows what will happen. She’s enjoying serving ice cream for now but doesn’t want to limit herself to that. She doesn’t see ice cream as a food people should only eat when the weather’s hot but understands that there may be more enticing things she could offer in the colder months. “Maybe I’ll cook shepherds pies,” she said with a smile on her face.

Claire understands that people love her quirkiness along as the product backs up the eccentricity with good flavours, originality and value. That they do this means that Ginger’s Comfort Emporium has strong foundations.

Ginger’s Comfort Emporium will be in Piccadilly Gardens Wednesday – Sunday between 9 December and 3 January.

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angriochaddyDecember 14th 2010.

How lovely- at last, the younger generations can enjoy ' proper' ice- cream like we remember fondly from summers of our youth when Senors Serretti, Granelli, etc sent their vans to every park and round all the streets. A dribble of raspberry syrup on your plain vanilla was as exotic as it got back then, but has this young lady considered 'Uncle Joe's Mintball' flavour - it'd go down a storm, ha ha

Ginger''s ComfortDecember 14th 2010.

Yep! - My Proper Mint Terrine has Mintballs, Evertons, imperials, Extra Strongs, and After 8's. Not on the menu at the moment but could be re-visited for spring... hmm.

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