It’s not quite frozen yogurt and not exactly ice cream, but the goats’ milk soft serve at Victory Garden NYC at 31 Carmine Street in the West Village is definitely delicious.
“I call it ice cream and frozen yogurt, but people get confused,” admits Sophia Brittan, creator of Victory Garden, which opened this past June. She says her creamy goats’ milk concoction–served up with seasonal flavors and fruit garnishes–is “something entirely new.” That’s because without butter or added fat, “technically it’s not ice cream,” and while there is yogurt added to the mix, it’s not really fro-yo either.
Instead Victory’s rich, creamy frozen concoction is inspired by dondurma, a form of Turkish goats’ mik ice cream from Anatolia. It’s thickened by salep, the root of a wild orchid, an ingredient Brittan uses in two of her flavors. Brittan lived for six months in Beirut, Lebanon after getting a degree from Georgetown University in comparative studies of Latin America and the Middle East. There she came to know Middle Eastern flavors and dondurma, travelling to Turkey in 2009, she says, “to specifically eat Turkish dondurma from the place of its birth, Kahramanmaras.”
As someone who tries to eat local but also loves the texture of soft-serve, Brittan craved a frozen alternative derived from “real ingredients.” Victory Garden’s goats’ milk hails from Beltane Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut, where their La Mancha and Oberhasli goats forage for hay and grass, and are raised free of hormones and antibiotics.
Brittan relishes the “earthiness” of goats milk and is waiting to see whether in the fall, her ice-cream might “become more earthy tasting and tangy” due to the change in the goats’ diet. Goat’s milk already has more of a tang than cow’s milk, but usually not what people are expecting, says Brittan: “A lot of people are surprised when they come here, and it doesn’t taste “goat-y” or “overpowering,” she says. “Goat’s milk has a really nice natural, sweet flavor to it.”
Brittan explains that her soft-serve is also “lighter on the digestion” than those soft-serves traditionally made from cows milk, and is also fine for the lactose intolerant.
Victory Garden also makes flavored soft serves, most possessing a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inflection. Her staple flavors are salted caramel, chocolate and mastic; a “resin from trees, a popular ingredient in Chios, Greece,” says Brittan, who procures hers from Mastiha Shop in the Lower East Side (profiled in Edible Manhattan last year). Her namesake Victory Garden is an herb and spice blend. Refreshing and sweet, it’s comprised of ten ingredients– rosemary, anise hyssop, sage, mint, oregano, thyme, jasmine, lavender, orange blossoms and cardamom. Both the mastic and Victory Garden are also thickened with salep, traditionally used in Turkey.)
There’s also often an Ethiopian coffee made with cardamom, lemon poppy, dark chocolate rosemary and Turkish delight whipped up from Damascene rose with mastic. Brittan, who is of Mexican descent, uses chocolate made from Mexican stone ground chocolate and stocks cajeta, Mexican goats’ milk caramel (goats milk simmered with sugar until it caramelizes) sourced from a Vermont farm.
Brittan also makes homemade sour cherry or blackcurrant sauce, sourcing the fruit from the Union Square Farmers Market. There are plans for stone fruits later in the season, slow roasted grapes and quince in fall and “something apple-centric for September to November,” says Brittan.