Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

My high school friend from Baltimore, Linda Rittelman, has been visiting the resort for a few weeks, and she’s been telling me all about the 100+ degree weather (with 113 % humidity) that she left behind. Of course I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first time I went to Baltimore to visit my Aunt Robin and Uncle Kit, when we undertook a somewhat futile effort to make vanilla ice cream.

My aunt is not known for her culinary prowess, but on this particular day it was so hot that we decided to give it a shot. The actual recipe is easy, but when you’re churning ice cream by hand in 100+ degree weather, it’s hard to have anything turn out remotely ‘icy’. (This was back when I was only nine, and we were not afforded the luxury of an electric ice cream maker.)

After a delicious dinner of Baltimore crabs (complete with mallets and newspaper), we got everything together to venture into the realm of handmade ice cream. We churned and churned, but Mother Nature won the day; our ice cream came out like a thick vanilla milkshake, but no matter—it’s still the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. It was so cool and refreshing. (Side note: That semi-liquid consistency was the inspiration for the Chilled Cauliflower Soup we have on the menu today in Butler’s Restaurant & Tavern—cool, creamy, soothing, and the perfect remedy for the summer heat.)

The recipe couldn’t be easier, just be sure to use real vanilla bean. Once you’ve tried the recipe a time or two, you have the perfect base to which you can add puréed berries or any other flavor you like.


Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
7 oz. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
15 egg yolks

Combine milk, cream, vanilla bean, scraped seeds, half the sugar, and all the salt in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Meanwhile, blend the egg yolks with the remaining sugar. Temper ¼ of the hot liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the tempered mixture to the saucepan and return to the heat. Cook on medium heat until mixture is napé (thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon)– usually about three to five minutes. Strain mixture into a metal container and cover and refrigerate for 2 hours until cold. Then process the ice cream in a maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Different Flavors
Chocolate: Before straining the ice cream base, stir 6oz. melted bittersweet chocolate into the mixture.
Coffee: Substitute 2 oz. coarsely ground coffee for the vanilla bean.
Raspberry/Strawberry: Omit milk from the recipe. After refrigerating the ice cream base stir in 2 cups of strained raspberry or strawberry puree.