“Penny Lick” refers to an old fashioned style of ice cream vending. Before people bought cones or cups, they would pay just a penny for a tiny bit of ice cream—essentially, one “licks” worth.
Churned even more slowly than gelato, Penny Lick Ice Cream is really frozen custard made in small batches with premium heavy cream, egg yolk, 40% whole milk, sugar, and the freshest local ingredients available. Ellen Sledge, the chef and owner behind Penny Lick Ice Cream, noticed a void in marketplace and got down to business perfecting this rare treat.
After a little over one year in business, Sledge is known fondly by neighborhood children as “The Ice Cream Lady.” She prides herself on creating an old fashioned product—made from all local, all natural ingredients—sold in an old fashioned way. Sledge receives constant praise for how unique her products and their presentation are—which she finds funny, considering she borrowed an idea that’s over a century old.
Most often, you can find Sledge at farmer’s markets all over Westchester, selling tasty ice cream products out of a pushcart with bicycle wheels. (You can check out the calendar on her website for a full market schedule. In summary: Irvington on Wednesday afternoons; Pearl River on Friday mornings; Chappaqua, Hastings, and Bronxville on Saturdays).
In developing Penny Lick, Sledge was not even thinking about selling her ice cream at such markets. Given the lack of similar treats at most farm stands, though, Sledge was quickly able to secure placements all over the county. Her adorable pushcarts attract customers of all ages, and she is fortunate to have assistance from a handful of affable college students. Sledge has found that an ice cream company is very easy to staff!
Having an ice cream company is also pretty much every child’s dream. Sledge has three little sweet tooths at home who assist in various capacities: her ten-year-old puts stickers on some packaging; her seven-year-old takes money out of Sledge’s cash box to try to buy toys; her four-year-old just tries to eat any treats in sight.
Because of her desire to stay home with her kids, Sledge wanted to create a small and scalable company, but Penny Lick has already grown tremendously. Sledge has been moving full speed ahead, following a flexible learn-as-you-go business model and planning her next course of action during the slower winter season. During chillier months, Sledge has more time to create new flavors, which she loves to experiment with. In the rare moments she’s not working, Sledge also makes time to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.
Ice cream is somewhat of a seasonal business—so far, Sledge has noticed a predictable pattern: in the winter, her pints are most popular, while in the summertime, her ice cream pops reign supreme.
This summer in particular brings an exciting milestone for Penny Lick. A new, family-friendly restaurant opening in Irvington called Wolfert’s Roost (a historical reference familiar to those who’ve resided in the town their whole lives) will feature Penny Lick Ice Cream. This now-barren storefront is actually where Sledge and I met to discuss her business over a few scoops. Sledge noted the joy she feels when she sees her pints in the freezers at local stores, like fine cheese shop Dobbs and Bishop in Bronxville–and it seems we can expect her products to continuing popping up around Westchester!
Sledge scooped out three small bowls for me: milk chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry chip (a limited edition flavor). While it’s difficult to play favorites, I probably enjoyed her super creamy chocolate best. On average, at any given time, Sledge will have about 12 flavors in pints for sale. She rotates them seasonally and is looking forward to July to recreate blackberry mint, which was very popular last year.
Another favorite is maple salted caramel, in which Sledge mixes homemade caramel praline chunks as the ice cream is spinning. Some caramel stays crunchy, while the rest melts into gooey swirls. Ethiopian macchiato was inspired by a recent trip to Africa, paying tribute to a popular drink made in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Here, macchiatos are made with locally-grown and roasted Yergecheffe coffee and a hint of dark chocolate. Sledge recreates the ice cream translation with Ethiopian coffee and a little bit of 72% dark chocolate. This less-sugary mocha flavor and mint chip are Penny Lick’s very best sellers.
Naturally, Sledge undergoes a pretty extensive experimentation process in order to dream up her delicious ice creams. Honey graham was a happy accident: Sledge was trying to make an ice cream with a swirl of Biscoff cookie butter, but the cookie butter ended up simply melting right into the ice cream. Improvising, she added honey and baking spices to produce a graham crackery taste she came to love.
Penny Lick creates a lot of custom flavors for private events. Most often, Sledge will set up her pushcart and scoop sundaes or ice cream sandwiches made to order, whatever guests have in mind. You can find Penny Lick at everything from birthday parties to weddings. One recent bride had Sledge’s ice cream during her cocktail reception, perhaps as a palate cleanser.
Sledge’s personal favorite flavor is chocolate malt: malted chocolate ice cream with crushed whoppers. Next is probably toasted almond toffee: almond ice cream with crushed English toffee. One flavor Sledge doesn’t love, however, is pistachio—surprising!
I asked how she refrains from stuffing her face all the time, and Sledge agrees she tries to watch it. But she has to have a taste of everything to make sure it’s right; only once in a while will she actually scoop out a bowl. She laughed and said maybe being in sugar makes one crave potato chips.