The sundae at Catbird Creamery is ridiculous.
First you pick your cookie—you can get a chocolate chip cookie, a snicker doodle cookie, or a crumb cake cone bowl—and then you pick your topping. There is hot fudge, butterscotch, and fruit sauce, which is determined seasonally or, according to shop owner Andrew Warren, on a whim. The whipped cream is made on premises with sugar and a 40% butterfat cream, and it is topped with some kind of cherry. Lately it’s been a juicy roasted strawberry. It total, it is so substantial that the people standing in line behind me asked if I had ordered the “sundae for two.” The “sundae for two,” by the way, which is listed on the menu for just $2 more, is what Warren calls “the Scorpion Bowl of ice cream.”
All of the ice creams are also made on premises, and also made from that 40% butterfat cream, but this is something Warren doesn’t make a big deal out of. The quality his process makes possible is, however, extraordinarily evident one bite in, once you realize that every dessert you have for the next few weeks will likely be eclipsed by what you are eating at that moment.
I talked with Warren, who has operated the shop in Westbrook for the past few years, about the sundae and his approach to making ice cream.
How much time do you put into making the ice cream?
A lot, though it depends on how you look at it. The actual work involved is fairly minimal—it’s just cooking ice cream base and stuff like that, but some flavors are more time intensive than others.
We make everything that goes into the ice cream, so for anything with fruit in it, we have to make the jams. We try to do that a day ahead of time because that stuff takes forever to cool. It takes a couple of days for some flavors. Anything with cookies, we have to make the cookies for it. But for actual time, a five gallon batch turns in the batch freezer in about five minutes.
The whipped cream is amazing.
That’s just heavy cream and sugar. The cream that we use here, for that and our ice cream, is 40% butterfat, which is higher than heavy cream or whipping cream that you get at the grocery story. It makes a tastier whipped cream.
I was introduced to your ice cream by Joe Ricchio, and there is something revealing about the fact that he loves what you do. He loves great food, but hates when people are precious about making great food. It’s a testament to how good all of it is, because with everything being so hand-made every step of the way—almost to another level of how people do so—there is room for you to be precious about it but that’s not really something that you do. It’s just great and handmade and there isn’t really a performance about it.
He and I share that aversion.
I just went to the Burlington area and ate a bunch around there and it feels like they’re very much where Portland was a handful of years ago, with a lot of “house-made” aioli and all that.
I feel like if you go to a restaurant, don’t you assume that the food is made in the restaurant? We’ve gotten so far away from that culturally. Speaking of those sorts of pet peeves, my biggest one is “homemade” anything. Nobody’s home, you know. Though the argument could be made that I live here.