You can smell the freshly-made waffle cones before you ever see Ruby Jewel’s new storefront ice cream shop in the Mississippi neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The sweet, cake-like smell draws you into the shop’s cool chocolate brown and bubblegum pink interior.
Five years ago, Lisa Herlinger wowed Portlanders with her homemade ice cream sandwiches that she sold at the farmer’s market on the Portland State University Campus. These weren’t just any old ice cream sandwiches. Lisa, ever the creative one, put together surprising and delicious flavors – lemon cookie with honey lavender ice cream; dark chocolate cookie with fresh mint ice cream; cinnamon chocolate cookie with espresso ice cream, and more.
Portlanders flocked to her ice chest to buy. And the Whole Foods grocery chain came calling, wanting to carry Ruby Jewel’s ice cream sandwiches in their stores.
People still weren’t satisfied. Where could they buy fresh, hand-scooped Ruby Jewel ice cream, they demanded? Along came Becky Burnett, Lisa’s sister, and the two of them teamed up to open Ruby Jewel’s Scoops, the first retail operation for the company.
Unlike most ice cream stores, Ruby Jewel’s keeps it simple. They offer only 12 ice cream flavors – vanilla bean; fresh mint flake; espresso; double chocolate; caramel with salted milk chocolate; honey lavender; rocky road; banana cream pie; fresh strawberry; and peanut butter dream.
They also don’t let you see the ice cream before you buy it. “We rely on our severs to tell you about the ice cream,” says Becky, who will run the retail store. “Of course, you can also sample any of our flavors.”
The idea of keeping the flavors limited — and out of sight — came from Becky’s experience as a mom. “Kids are often overwhelmed when they come into an ice cream shop,” she says. “It’s easier for parents if the kids can’t see the ice cream.”
We’re not sure it’ll be kids lining up to buy Ruby Jewel’s scoops. With grown up flavors like creamy honey lavender with its floral accent of lavender and notes of honey, adults as well as kids will be scrambling for a cone (freshly-made waffle cones), a dish, a sundae, a hand-packed pint, or a build-your-own ice cream sandwich.
In addition to the ice cream, Ruby Jewel’s offers plenty of sophisticated toppings they make themselves, including homemade marshmallows, candied coconut. peanut brittle, salted nuts, whipped cream, and rosemary pecans (which would make a terrific appetizer all by themselves). Only the Meadows Salt (from a company located next door) and the colorful sprinkles aren’t made by Ruby Jewel’s. They also make a variety of sauces such as dulce de leche, with a sweet caramel-like flavor with ribbon-thin consistency.
RFT editors sampled several flavors, including the honey lavender (wonderful) and, our favorite, the caramel with salted dark chocolate. The caramel ice cream, like most of their flavors, is subtle. It’s topped with a third of an inch of rich, deep chocolate ganache. The caramel ice cream’s soft caramel flavor hits the tongue first, followed by the richness of the chocolatey ganache, and it’s all finished with just a hint of salt.
Ruby Jewel’s moto is “All natural. All good.” That’s because all of Ruby Jewel’s ice cream, toppings, and sauces are made with natural, locally-grown ingredients. For instance, their mint is grown on a nearby farm and their hormone-free milk comes from Lochmead Dairy in Junction City, Oregon.
Real bottom line: If you want an ice cream treat that’s a little different and grownup, Ruby Jewel’s Scoops is a terrific place to indulge your inner kid. —BH & AW
Ruby Jewel’s Scoops
3713 N. Mississippi