August 03, 2015

Ice Cream Man Keeps it Simple at his Cool Springs Shop, Glazee Artisan Ice Creams

The Nashville Scene

by Carrington Fox

Under the oak trees at the annual Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’, hardly a critical word passes the lips of the 3,000 guests, who happily scoop their ways through homespun ice cream recipes ranging from peanut butter to peach and from cicada to guacamole — all in the name of supporting the Martha O’Bryan Center. But under the canopy of the judges’ tent, a cast of amiable arbiters — elected officials, food industry professionals and a few ice-cream-loving journalists — pepper their praise with constructive criticism.

Words such as gummy, rancid and crumbly emerge, as the judges work their way down the official score sheet provided by Purity Dairies, which sponsors the fundraiser every year. That’s some harsh language to drop on desserts made in the name of philanthropy. But the stakes are high in this amateur competition, because the ever-generous folks at Purity will manufacture and distribute the winning entry as an official Purity flavor.

That’s how Priscilla Duarte earned her spot in the judges’ tent; her inventive Coconut Waltz won the 2010 Crankin’, landing a spot in the freezer section and scoring Duarte a coveted spot judging chocolate-based entries at this year’s event. Sampling the chocolate entries alongside Duarte were honorary chair (and Tennessee first lady) Crissy Haslam, yours truly and some guy who really seemed to know what he was talking about when it came to making ice cream.

That guy was Michael Woody, owner of Glazée Artisan Ice Creams & Desserts. A former city councilman in Fresno, Calif., Woody worked at Baskin-Robbins in high school before earning his undergraduate degree as a civil engineer. He relocated to Tennessee almost a decade ago and opened Glazée last year in the Cool Springs strip mall near Home Depot.

The simple storefront wears a tasteful but nondescript palette of designer browns — none of the bright-pink-and-green frills of the recent frozen yogurt boom. Apart from a few stuffed animals and toys on hand to occupy younger patrons while their parents sip coffee at the cafe tables, there’s not much in the place. Nor is there much in the ice cream — and therein lies the beauty of Glazée.

Cream. Half-and-half. Sugar. Those are the straightforward inputs that make up Woody’s understated and indulgent repertoire — along with a few elegantly simple embellishments and the delicious delivery system of made-to-order cones fresh off the waffle iron. "There’s no big secret to making ice cream," Woody confesses, as he ticks off the ingredient trifecta.

But he’s quick to add that a commercial mixer gives a guy like him a distinct advantage over home crankers, whose recipes often emerge "gummy," "icy" or "crumbly," to use the vernacular of frozen dairy treats. The difference, he explains, is that a commercial mixer turns on its side, like a clothes dryer, folding air into the mixture with every revolution. Meanwhile, most home machines spin vertically, like a blender, and consequently can’t achieve the same creaminess.

Back at his shop, in the shadow of the Publix supermarket, Woody walks down the line of a dozen or so ice creams and sorbets that he has smoothed into pretty, pastel peaks and folds in stainless steel pans. As he digs tiny plastic spoons into the day’s flavors — including strawberry, dark chocolate, kiwi and passion fruit — Woody divulges a few of his own little recipe secrets.

For example, the mint flavoring in the winter mint dark chocolate is not from a bottle of extract; it’s what Woody gets when he steeps fresh mint leaves in vodka for three weeks on his deck, like sun tea. The complex layering of sweetness in the butter pecan — that’s what you get when you mix caramel and dark maple syrup with sugar-roasted nuts. Cream cheese and cinnamon conspire to replicate the slightly sour earthiness of a cinnamon bun — in ice cream form. Raspberry-red-hued cotton candy ice cream tastes like real cotton candy, because Woody heats the sugar to 300 degrees prior to mixing it with the cream and half-and-half. And Almond Joy — a tropically tinged blend of whole almonds and coconut milk — gets its subtle brightness from a hint of sea salt.

But while Woody’s one-man confectionery gives him the flexibility to experiment with bold flavor combinations, such as the chocolate-covered bacon he was working on when we visited, it just might be in the classics where Glazée distinguishes itself the best. If you thought chocolate was chocolate and vanilla was vanilla, think again. Woody relies on dark unsweetened chocolate powders, such as E. Guittard, to make the frozen first cousin of a decadent thick hot chocolat. And a mysterious subtle kick, thanks to a bourbon reduction, makes Glazée’s vanilla anything but plain.

So maybe Woody does know a few secrets to making exquisite ice cream. Still, there’s one rule of thumb that trumps any trick of the trade. If he could offer a crash course in ice cream-making before Miss Martha’s Crankin’ rolls around again, he says it would be this: "Keep it simple. Don’t just start putting things in just to put them in. Don’t think you’re going to invent something that’s never been done before. Less is more."

Glazée is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday

Glazée Artisan Ice Creams & Desserts
8105 Moores Lane, Brentwood, 472-8556
Junior cup $3.75
Regular cup $4.75
Large cup $5.75
Waffle cone $1.95
Pint $6.75