Husband-and-wife team Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna have gotten really good at turning unusual flavors into decadent ice cream.
What began as a pipe dream for a couple who loved making the occasional homemade batch, became a reality in 2011 when Smith, a screenwriter, and Cuscuna, a teacher, quit their day jobs to open Ample Hills Creamery.
Just four days after its initial launch, the shop became so unexpectedly busy that the couple ran out of ice cream and had to close. Luckily, they got a second chance and have been thriving ever since.
"It was more about creating a community gathering space where we could bring our kids and family," Cuscuna told TODAY's Dylan Dreyer, who got a taste of what it takes to make some of the country's best ice cream.
Since its debut, Ample Hills Creamery has been written up for having some of the best ice cream in America by countless food critics and celebrities, from Rachael Ray and Oprah Winfrey (who called their pints "addictive") to the Food Network and Zagat. With nationwide delivery and 14 scoop shops throughout New York, New Jersey, Florida and California, Ample Hills churns out its tasty pints from a factory in the couple's hometown of Brooklyn, New York.
Some of the company's famously inventive flavors include Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace, a brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with cookie bits made from a recipe passed down from Cuscuna's mom; The Munchies, a salty and sweet mix of Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and M&M's; Snap, Mallow, Pop!, Ample Hills' take on a Rice Krispies treat and dozens more. They've even turned out limited-edition themed pints for special events, like the indulgent Light Side and Dark Side duo celebrating "Star Wars." Got a new idea for a flavor? The couple is always open to submissions from creative fans.
Dylan, a former ice cream shop scooper and lover of sweet treats, got a sneak peek at how the creamery's bestselling flavor — Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, a mix of a buttery goodness swirled into vanilla ice cream — comes together.
The process? First, the team actually makes an ooey gooey butter cake from the scratch (we wonder if it's similar to Karlie Kloss' recipe?), then the cake is chopped up into smaller pieces and swirled into a cream cheese-flavored vanilla ice cream.
The even created a limited edition flavor just for the 3rd hour of TODAY: a decadent dark chocolate ice cream with chocolate doughnut pieces.
"How do you come up with the perfect ratio of stuff to ice cream?" Dylan asked.
"It's not called 'Ample Hills' for nothin'. I don't wanna go hunting and pecking for a cookie in my Cookies 'N Cream," Smith told TODAY. "So, from the beginning, our idea was to put so much stuff in it that people came and complained to us, 'There's too much stuff in my ice cream'."
And that's how to make it in the ice cream industry.