For a while now, I have been obsessed with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream. I first encountered a truck by accident walking around Brooklyn with my friend Kaz. We had just finished brunch at Egg, but when we saw this truck, in all its yellow, wonderfully illustrated and designed glory we decided that, yes we did need ice cream. Right now in fact. So we got some of the Earl Grey variety, sat down on some steps to devour it.
Thank goodness we were sitting down. This flavor (and brand) has, hands down, become my all-time favorite ice cream (replacing my long time love for mint chip). It’s dreamy, creamy goodness. And it does taste like Earl Grey tea – which is (maybe strangely) a good thing!
Anyway, I quickly discovered (thank you, Twitter) that a Van Leeuwen coffee truck – nicknamed the Panda – hangs out by my office. It’s parked every morning on 6th Avenue between 23rd and 22nd streets. I actually ride the Path train 1 stop farther so I can get my coffee at this truck in the mornings.
When I’m climbing those steps up out of the Path train station, this is the first thing I see:
And that is a happy, happy sight.
During the summer I would usually get an iced coffee, or an iced Americano if I needed a little extra pep. The Van Leeuwen trucks (and store) brew Intelligentsia Coffee. This stuff is strong. In the good way. Deep, dark, deliciousness for your morning.
The Panda also has ice cream and baked goods which are baked at the Van Leeuwen store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Aside from the Panda, all the other trucks have names too (which I love, because I envision a sort of A-Team fleet of well-designed food trucks bringing justice to the world via expertly brewed coffee, ice cream and treats). The other coffee truck is the Kangaroo (The people at Van Leeuwen are fans of the animals and Laura O’Neill, one of the owners, is from Australia, so there is some Aussie influence for the animal name selection). The ice cream trucks are named the Rattlesnake, Eagle, and Bobcat, while the freezer truck is the Snow Leopard.
Van Leeuwen will soon be opening a Central Park location and that truck will be named the Turtle.
Instead of chasing all the various Van Leeuwen trucks down, John and I decided to head to Brooklyn to the store. Field trip!! I called John at 9:30 am on Sunday morning:
John (picking up the phone): Uhhhhh….(clearly still asleep)
Me: Good morning, sunshine. We are going to Brooklyn today.
Me: Can you be ready in half an hour? We have to drive through the city.
John: Uhhhhh….(but more positively, like he actually comprehended the words and was going to accommodate this plan).
Me: Bring the nav.
And so we were off, and in no time (many of you non-Hobokeners may be surprised to know that it only takes about 25 minutes or so to drive to Brooklyn from the ‘Boken. No jokin’.) we were in Greenpoint.
I think John was skeptical. He is picky about his ice cream. And rolling all the way to Brooklyn for ice cream seemed potentially extravagant. I was not to be dissuaded.
Me: Look how cute the store is!! (It really is, they have these great illustrations on the walls, and there are tiny plastic dinosaurs in between evenly-spaced votive candles on a shelf).
John: Adorable (gives me a weird look).
We enter and order the following:
Me: 1 small cup of Earl Grey Tea ice cream with HOME MADE CARAMEL SAUCE (my emphasis).
John: 1 small cup of Vanilla ice cream with HOME MADE CARAMEL SAUCE
I already knew my ice cream was going to be amazing, but I was intrigued by the homemade caramel sauce. Let me say that we both REALLY liked it. John suggested that he would like to stick his head under the caramel faucet and just drink it that way. Not a bad idea, really. It is rich, and deep in flavor, with a slightly bitter (but in a great way, like the way dark chocolate is bitter) taste. The best part was the way our server prepared our ice creams: she put a little of the caramel sauce in the bottom of the cup BEFORE she put the ice cream in, so even after you eat off the top layer, you have a more to look forward to as you make your way to the bottom. Genius.
I looked over at John to see how he was enjoying his. He was scraping the bottom of his recycled paper cup fiercely to get all the remaining bites.
Me: I think you got some paper in that last mouthful….
After finishing the ice cream, we decided to get some coffee too. John wanted to try and espresso, and I chose the cappuccino.
Like I said before, their coffee is well done. The espresso had that nice swirl on top (the kind you get when you know it’s really dark and rich). And my cappuccino was excellent with the long-lasting foam arranged in that decorative leaf pattern.
We both left very happy with our ice cream and coffee breakfast.
If you can’t or don’t want to make the trek out to Greenpoint to visit the store, keep up with the fleet of trucks via Van Leeuwen’s Twitter feed. They also sell pints of their ice cream at various locations. You can find a list of stockists on their website.
For myself, I’m very grateful that Kaz and I discovered the little yellow truck that one fine day in Williamsburg. And for John, I think the ice cream helped him forgive me for getting him up so early on a Sunday.
* Special thanks to Tim in the Panda truck for letting me ask all kinds of annoying questions!