“WANT SOME RHUBARB?” A friend asked Amanda Thieroff recently, and yes please.
Thieroff of Fiddlehead Creamery of Port Townsend makes strawberry-rhubarb gelato — and other flavors — for the farmers market, the Food Co-op and Aldrich’s in Port Townsend and for Chimacum Corner Farmstand and Quilcene Village Store.
I discovered these treats just in time for summer at the farmers market when the “Made with Love, Not Dairy” sign got my attention.
Fiddlehead gelato begins with coconut cream. Thieroff, 33, is a former New York City chef.
She was part of the crew on the Hudson River sloop Clearwater, then came west to work on the schooner Adventuress, where the cuisine is vegetarian.
Three years ago, she debuted Fiddlehead at the farmers market, and has since found plenty of gelato-loving kindred spirits. Her “made with love” motto popped into her mind one day when she was ordering a logo stamp for her ice-cream cups.
Fiddlehead’s market booth is surrounded by other vendors who do it for love; they wouldn’t choose this difficult path were they not driven by passion.
Walk among the growers, bakers and picklers of the Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Sequim and Chimacum markets, and you can sense it. That’s love right there, in the jewel-like berries and fragrant loaves of bread.
“I’m happiest when I’m serving the public. I have a lot of regulars,” Thieroff said; when scooping ice cream, “you’re literally serving happiness to people.”
The energy of the farmers market is also delicious: Kids come up for the chocolate and the mint chocolate chip, and everybody’s curious about the coconut horchata. The most-asked question to Thieroff and her co-worker Becky Christoforo is “What’s horchata?”
It’s a Mexican rice-milk beverage with spices; Thieroff grew to love it at a burrito place back East.
“Mine is just coconut milk with really strong cinnamon,” she says. According to the menu page on FiddleheadCreamery.com, this one’s sweetened with cane sugar and nuanced with vanilla.
All Fiddlehead gelato, mind you, has distinctly Northwest sabor. The mint comes from Thieroff’s own garden in Port Townsend; the basil in her raspberry basil ice cream is from Red Dog Farm in Chimacum.
Later this summer she’ll get her blueberries at Finnriver Farm.
There are people who rear back when they see she charges $4 a scoop. But not too many, she said.
“A lot goes into it,” from the locally sourced ingredients to her hands-on work in the commercial kitchen she shares with Bob’s Bakery and Midori Farm.
Now about this vegan thing.
An animal-free diet promotes heart health and provides people with an alternative to the factory-farmed stuff.
Choosing a vegan treat — even if it’s once in a while — is a form of empowerment, for self and community.
John Bellow of Chimacum’s SpringRain Orchard & Farm recently expressed this to me as well.
He said the only way his farm can thrive is if people choose to buy — and pay more for — organic chicken, eggs, jams and other products, direct from his farm stand and the farmers market.
Let me emphasize that this isn’t about gritting your teeth to do what’s good for you.
These local foods taste fabulous.
Fiddlehead’s cappuccino chip gelato was so silken it brought tears of joy to my eyes.
Between farmers market visits, I peek at Fiddlehead’s website with its sun-drenched photos of ice-cream cones.
All the better that this product comes from an independent businesswoman, one who’s expressing herself while meeting our basic need for a treat.
“What I like about ice cream,” Thieroff said, “is it’s a simple base with a lot of room for creativity.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.
Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be July 4.
Reach her at [email protected]