The Sweet Scoop on Fountain & Co
A Small-Batch Craft Ice Cream Maker Pops Up in Providence
Victoria Young never planned to get into the ice cream business. The Johnson & Wales–trained pastry chef didn’t even own an ice cream maker when she accepted a serendipitous offer to make the dessert for a Walrus & Carpenter Oysters farm dinner hosted by Laughing Gorilla Catering last summer. The Caribbean theme called for something tropical and a coconut sorbet topped with a brown butter and lime crumble and served in coconut shells seemed like just the thing to finish out the multi-course waterside meal.
“I treated myself to a Rival machine to make the sorbet and then just started playing with flavors from there,” recalls Young, 27.
Tapping Rhode Island’s bounty of local summer produce, as well as other unexpected ingredients, the New York City native began churning out gourmet ice creams like sweet corn, brown sugar and whiskey, as well as roasted peach sorbet, and sharing them with friends and local food business owners she knew.
At the same time, she was brainstorming possible food businesses. With the positive response she was getting for her ice creams, she figured others might enjoy them, too, and shared the idea with two local business owners who would eventually become her partners: PVDonut’s Paul Kettelle and Long Live Beerworks’ Jessica DeBry. They got behind it immediately and a focus group tasting at Long Live soon followed.
“I was there with my Tupperware with ice packs and plastic spoons. It was so silly,” Young says, shaking her head.
Still, her products were good enough to garner the support she needed. Just a few months later, the three officially launched Fountain & Co. Craft Ice Cream.
Young has come a long way since that tasting in August. She’s traded the Tupperware for gallon-size containers and upgraded the Rival to a commercial-grade Taylor. She needs the extra capacity for all the ice cream she’s making these days. From her first pop-up at Stock Culinary Goods last fall, she’s had a constant stream of sales hosted by local businesses, including Riffraff Bookstore & Bar, Long Live, Rebelle Artisan Bagels and PVDonuts.
While Fountain’s name and handcrafted ethos harken to the old-fashioned shoppes of yesteryear, the company’s near-immediate popularity has driven Young to take a decidedly modern approach and constantly look for new ways to innovate.
Her forward thinking has led to collaborations with local food makers, mixing her ice creams and sorbets with lemon cake from Seven Stars Bakery, coffee from Nitro Cart, matcha from Leafy Green Tea out of Hope & Main and babka by Rebelle. Fountain ice cream has been found atop liege waffles from the Burgundian, sandwiched between macarons from the Perfect Sweet and crowning the brownie and blondie sundaes with Whisk Me Away.
In addition, she’s created made-to-order specialty pints for several holidays, including Christmas and Hanukkah, which come complete with ice cream, toppings, spoons and cones.
“A lot of my ideas come from conversations with friends, suggestions from customers that spark an idea and from past experiences.” Young says. “I’m also very into aesthetics, so it’s not always a flavor inspiration but a visual.”
It doesn’t hurt that she has an impressive résumé of culinary experience to tap into for inspiration as well.
As a student in Johnson & Wales’ pastry program, Young interned for a summer at Rene Redzepi’s famed Copenhagen restaurant Noma (named best restaurant in the world numerous times by Restaurant magazine).
“The experience was both terrifying and amazing. I knew it would be challenging. I didn’t know it would be that challenging,” says Young, recalling mentally and physically taxing 16-hour days.
One day, when the restaurant’s pastry chef couldn’t make it in, Young was called on to make kelp tarts for lunch and dinner service.
“I didn’t know if I would survive that,” Young says.
But despite the work’s demands, she walked away from her time in Denmark, as well as an internship under Daniel Boulud in New York City, with loads of new knowledge, which she says continues to inform her culinary creations today.
“I learned so much. I’m always picking from those experiences,” Young says.
Young’s time in some of the world’s most famous kitchens shines through in the more sophisticated flavors she creates, like rosemary caramel and chamomile ice creams and fermented plum sorbet. But like any chef worth her salt, there’s a muse behind many of her simpler flavors, too. For her French vanilla, Young looked to the recipes of Momofuku pastry chef Christina Tosi, who is known for her whimsical desserts, and opted to use clear vanilla extract for a bolder, more nostalgic flavor than a bean could provide.
Young can often be found churning away at Pilotworks Providence, where she rents space in the shiny stainless commercial kitchen. It’s after dark that the self-described night owl finds she does her best work, and her to-do list regularly includes everything from roasting peaches for sorbet and steeping coffee grounds for ice cream to prepping custard base to go into the maker or playing around with an entirely new ingredient combo. She doesn’t stock her ice cream, preferring to make it fresh for each sale she’s got coming up. She puts together a custom menu of flavors for each location based on the crowd she thinks it will draw.
Passionate about keeping her products as local as possible, Young checks in often with Rhode Island farmers to find out what’s in season and opts, when she can, to buy the “ugly produce” that can’t be sold as retail.
“I try to let what’s available at the farms dictate my flavors when possible,” Young says. “I can’t do that in the winter, obviously, but everything I use is always fresh even if it’s not local.”
And while costs prevent her from buying her dairy from a local farm at the moment, it’s a goal she’s eyeing for the near future.
Starting a business from scratch is never easy, but Young says she’s found boundless support at Pilotworks, where someone is always available to offer tips on how to make her production process more efficient, or encourage her to apply to an upcoming farmers market or fair. And with so many businesses game for working with Fountain, Young says she has found an equally warm welcome among the broader Rhode Island food community. She credits Stock owner Jan Dane for being one of her earliest and most unwavering supporters and the Instagrammers behind @tasting_ri for giving Fountain its first social-media shout out and attending almost every sale since. That type of attention is important, since Young uses social media exclusively to drum up buzz for the business, announcing pop-ups on Facebook and styling mouthwatering shots on Instagram to entice the masses to attend.
The tactic is clearly working, and talking to Young it’s easy to sense her excitement about her first full summer of business after such a successful start, in winter no less. Trying to sell ice cream in sub-zero temps might have deterred some, but Young says the timing of Fountain’s launch allowed her and her partners to figure out the demands of the business at a slower pace while still gaining momentum for the upcoming peak season.
“Only in New England could you sell ice cream in the winter,” Young says with a chuckle.
More importantly, Young says, nothing about the growth of Fountain has ever felt forced; rather, she’s been able to try out ideas as they come to her and let the ice cream’s popularity rise organically.
She’s hoping to keep that flow going as she expands, first, this summer, to more products like pops and other takeaway treats and, eventually, to a brick-and-mortar store.
“I envision a place where people can pop in and out and there’s a sense of community,” says Young.
For now, she’s focused on catering to the community she has already formed over the past year, one pint and repost at a time.
“I love when people try one of our flavors and then come in to buy a pint to bring
home to their family. That’s the best,” Young says. “It’s just a great reminder for me that people are into what we are doing and to be thankful for the food community here.”
For more information on Fountain & Co. visit FountainAndCompany.com