Evidence for Saline’s fondness for ice cream can easily be witnessed every warm summer evening, as people line up in droves on either end of town to enjoy a little bit of their favorite cold, sweet treats.
To satisfy their cravings, several times a week Stephanie Schultz of Mickey’s Dairy Twist whips up batch after batch of locally-made, hand-crafted ice cream on premises. Schultz owns the business along with fiancé Anthony Toarmina.
As she began a batch of varieties recently, the perennial favorite, vanilla, was first to be made.
“I’m starting with vanilla, then cookies and cream, moose tracks, almond joy, honey cinnamon, butter pecan, cookie dough, chocolate, chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate peanut butter,” she said, citing about a five-hour commitment for the day’s production process. “This is pretty normal, making about 20 to 30 tubs per session.”
It won’t surprise anyone to hear what makes the ice cream taste so good.
“The process starts with 16 percent butterfat ice cream, and the more fat the creamier it is, the richer it is and the better it tastes,” she said. “It also really depends on what flavor you’re making as far as what the process is.”
This percentage puts Mickey’s ice cream in what enthusiasts would consider the super-premium category.
“As far as vanilla goes, I start with adding vanilla flavoring to it and it goes into the machine,” she said. “This is a liquid like milk and it cools down to a soft serve consistency and then we put it in a freezer. It’s got to sit in a freezer for two to three days and harden and then we can scoop it and serve it to customers.”
As the newly-formed ice cream flowed into the bucket, Schultz said the lower temperature at that point really highlights the richness of the extra butterfat.
“The ice cream’s good when it’s hard and it’s scoopable, but it’s really good when you get the high quality butterfat still in the soft serve consistency,” she said.
Schultz said the ice cream she yields won’t last too long.
“It’ll be about five to seven days, depending on how busy we are,” she said. “Making ice cream is probably like a twice-a-week process, but you’re never making the same flavors. I’m making 10 today and we have 17 flavors of homemade ice cream that we make.”
Keeping an eye on inventory flow is important, Schultz said, to keep customers’ favorite flavors readily available.
“Some we make more than others, like we go through a lot of vanilla because we use that to make all of our homemade shakes and all of our homemade sundaes,” she said. “So there’s more vanilla than anything else.”
Schultz said she also makes enough ice cream to be able to supply Mangiamo Italian Grill for their dessert menu.
At Mickey’s, patrons can readily see which ice creams have been favored by others in the past.
“On our menu we actually have all of our flavors listed out in terms of what the most popular ones are,” she said. “With our iPad we can go back and look and I can tell what I’m selling the most of.”
Schultz said upgrading to the iPads was a smart move.
“We got those last year and that was all Tony’s idea,” she said. “We can ring stuff up and the iPad does all of our work for us.”
Though the weather is just now starting to take on its perpetually warm summer status, Schultz said she and her employees have already been scooping ice cream for a quite a while.
“We open in early March and this year we’re closing at the end of September because Tony and I are getting married in early October,” she said. “The goal normally would be to stay open into October. Usually two to three weeks into October is our target.”
The ongoing road work has been something of a concern, according to Schultz.
“[Business] started picking up right before the construction started” she said. “And then the construction started and it kind of leveled off. Construction’s a bummer.”
That said, Schultz said she knows her loyal customers come to Mickey’s for unique treats not to be found anywhere else.
“We’re hoping that we sell a good enough product that people are still willing to drive through all of the construction to come down here and get it,” she said.
Customers should also look for a few new products at Mickey’s this year, including homemade cookies. Schultz said her mother has travelled to Michigan from Texas to stay for the summer and help with wedding planning, and has also offered up her cookie-making prowess.
“We’re probably going to have cookie sundaes too, and we might get her to make some chocolate chip cookie bowls,” she said.
Schultz said she also has made an effort to focus on pleasing customers with specific food-related issues.
“We’re trying to cater more to people that have allergies and health concerns,” she said. “Our soft serve doesn’t have a lot of calories and the Italian ice is super low in calories and non-dairy. Our Italian ice is stored in a separate cooler so it’s nut free.”
Mickey’s Dairy Twist is open every day from noon to 9 p.m.