Pepper Place and the Market are thrilled to welcome our chef of the week, Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, to the neighborhood. Her new “scoop shop” on the corner of 3rd Avenue South and 29th Street opened a few weeks ago and has served a steady socially-distanced stream of delighted customers ever since. This is Jeni’s first location in Alabama, so she may be less familiar to some. But ice cream fanatics and foodies have known about her and her addictive flavors for years. A James Beard Award winner, best-selling cookbook author, founder and owner of a craft ice cream company, now with 47 shops and distribution nationwide, Jeni applies her creative palate and fun-loving, free spirit to every flavor she makes. Several years ago, the only way Birmingham residents could get Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream was if it was in stock at V. Richards Market in Forest Park, and otherwise by mail order, and you had to order four pints at a time (not so terrible really). More recently, ice cream lovers have been able to pick up pints of Jeni’s at area Publix and Fresh Market locations. Until the opening of the new 610-square-foot, jewel-box design of Pepper Place, however, there’s been no way to get scoops on a cone in Birmingham, until now.
Jeni Britton Bauer didn’t set out to be an ice cream queen. An Ohio native, she studied art and art history at Ohio State. It was only because of a friend’s enthusiasm for chemistry that she became fascinated with the scientific properties of scent and flavor. This interest led her to making and selling her own perfumes. Lucky for us, perfume led her to ice cream. She discovered that ice cream was “the perfect carrier of scent” (Wikipedia), and started making flavored “scented” ice cream instead. Not long after that, she dropped out of college and launched her ice cream business full time. The first place Jeni sold her ice creams was at the North Market in Columbus, Ohio. From market vendors, she learned the importance of sourcing locally. She got to know some of the farmers so she could access the freshest ingredients. By the time she launched Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams six years later, she had enough knowledge and experience to make the business work. In 2011, she wrote a cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which became a national bestseller and won a James Beard Award. Jeni has been honored with numerous other food awards since then, been featured on the Food Network, and received rave reviews by top publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, The Atlantic Magazine, Food & Wine, and Time.
Named one of the “Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company in 2018, Jeni demonstrates her commitment to quality and sourcing locally every day with every flavor. As she did in her farmers market days, she cultivates local vendors to insure her flavors are as tasty and unique as the regions and communities she serves. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams collaborated with The Birmingham Candy Company, a former The Market at Pepper Place vendor, now with a shop at the Pizitz Food Hall, to create a city-exclusive flavor: Praline Pecans. According to folks at Jeni’s, “An ode to the sweet and salty candy, Praline Pecans is made with buttery, brown sugar caramel ice cream with just enough salt to make it sing, plus a dash of vanilla for a little warmth. Roasted pecans add the classic crunch.” You don’t want to miss that one.
We are excited to feature Jeni as Chef of the Week, and highlight her new shop at Pepper Place this holiday weekend. Whether you enjoy her ice creams by the scoop or the pint, under the Pepper Place pavilion or in the comfort of your own home, we encourage you to give her flavors a try. Try a red, white and blue trio in honor of July 4th, enjoy one of bestsellers like salty caramel or brambleberry crisp, or sample one of her limited batch flavors. If you are shopping the Drive-Thru Market, you can stop by her pickup window and get ice cream to go on your way out. If you’re shopping at the walk-around market this weekend, or any day of the week, you can walk in and order ice cream to go, or to eat outside in the shade. Jeni hopes you’ll check out the new shop too. “We’re super excited to finally be scooping in Birmingham,” she said. “We have been dreaming of opening here for years. Come see us at Pepper Place soon!”