Started in 2001, Lumpy's has gradually become a local staple. It's owner (Buck Buchanan) has built a business from his home kitchen, to a shed in his backyard, to a full-fledged store in the heart of Wake Forest. Using only superior ingredients, knowledge from days as a professional chef, and a name inspired by Leave it to Beaver, Buck has built a brand based on quality and first-rate flavor. Getting to photograph a day's worth of ice cream production and business-as-usual was an eye opening experience. While I knew the ice cream from Lumpy's was delicious, I had no idea how much work went into their products. Any ice cream that you see in the front case is made totally from scratch. For instance, the first flavor made that morning was Banana Pudding. This meant that a homemade vanilla pudding had to be made, along with chopping a boatload of bananas, and making a brown sugar/butter/deliciousness reduction that served as Nilla Wafer flavoring. After all the pieces have been prepared, then the ice cream mixer can be fired up. About half an hour later, the ice cream is at a soft serve consistency, and that is when the sampling begins (much to my excitement, I got to be the guinea pig of the day!). In addition to keeping the mixer and stove busy, Buck also spent the morning swapping out full pans of bacon for later in the day, and keeping an eye on dulce de leche which was left to steam and reduce for most of the day (he also walked around the kitchen singing the words dulce de leche to the tune of La Cucaracha, much to the amusement of his assistant Angela and myself). All that is to say that when you purchase ice cream at Lumpy's, you are buying a product that had a ton of time, talent, and heart put into it.
Buck working on filling for an apple pie ice cream (which is to die for, by the way), and Angela on the stove.
Did you know every good apple pie should involve cayenne pepper? Well, now you do. According to Buck, it brings out the flavor of the apples and other spices.
This is Minion. Anyone who spots him in the kitchen has to sneak him to a new spot (after this I left him tucked into the spice shelf).
Milk and cream (no hormones added!) is brought in by local dairy farmers using the crate-and-glass-bottle system which might be recognized by my more senior readers.
Buck is a born teacher, so all morning I was getting fantastic, off-the-cuff cooking tips. "You wanna see how to make bacon easier to chop? You stack it like this."
"Yellow bananas are much more flavorful." (also, apparently it's easier to open them from the bottom?)
"We can make anything we want, because we know," (pointing at his head) "the base ingredients."
"Do you know the difference between baking powder and baking soda?"
Cooking, cooking well, seems to be in his blood. He is so passionate about it, he can't help but share with whoever happens to be in the kitchen or store. "I just think if you're going to do it, you should do it right," he explained, gesturing with his spatula at my camera, "Just like taking photos."
This is where most of Lumpy's classic recipes live (other than Buck's brain). I was very careful to not so much as lift the cover, because I don't fancy the idea of sudden death due to ice cream curiosity.
The fresh batch goes into the walk-in freezer, which is kept at -20 degrees. It will take a pint of ice cream a couple of hours at this temperature to freeze to a normal ice cream consistency. A side note: unlike in the days of I Love Lucy, you can't actually get locked into a walk-in freezer. There's a simple way to break out from the inside in the case of a freezer mixup.
This is what happens if you time your arrival at Lumpy's for when ice cream is fresh out of the mixer: a sampling session and chat with the chef.
Waffle cones, also made in house. These things are life-changing.
Out to the ice cream truck, which is bright, shiny, and red like a firetruck. I now have a new bucket list item to drive this thing (or at least do some sort of shoot inside it).
A huge thank you to Buck for having me! If you live in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area, make sure you stop in for a scoop or two in a fresh waffle cone. You'll quickly join me in singing Lumpy's praises.