Grey Poupon and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ice cream? Van Leeuwen
has gotten a lot of buzz from those flavor collabs, but should you try them when the New York-based outfit opens its first Colorado scoop shops?
A location at 1750 29th Street in Boulder is set to open August 6, with a second to follow shortly after at 1459 Larimer Street (where it'll become Larimer Square's second ice cream option, after soft-serve shop Hidden Gems
Van Leeuwen got its start back in 2008 as a yellow truck roving the streets of New York City, and has since grown into a leading ice cream brand with scoop-shop locations in five states (Colorado and Connecticut will be numbers six and seven) and pints available in major retailers including Walmart and Sprouts stores in Denver.
Sprouts is where I found my first pint, an impulse buy when it was on sale one hot day earlier this summer, and I immediately fell hard for the incredibly rich consistency. Van Leeuwen's ice cream is French style, which basically means it's made with twice as many egg yolks as typical grocery store ice cream options. That first pint was honeycomb, and I've been eating my way through every flavor I can find ever since.
Van Leeuwen's Dijon ice cream is...interesting.
Here's my current ranking:
1. Honeycomb: The "honey" here isn't actually referring to the sticky stuff made by bees, but rather a caramel-like confection swirled throughout — and it's remained my favorite since that first bite.
2. Sicilian Pistachio: A total surprise, since I'm not usually a pistachio ice cream fanatic — but this made me reconsider my whole outlook on the pale-green flavor that I used to think of as something only boring adults ordered. Does that mean I'm a boring adult now? For ice cream this good, so be it.
3. Black Cherry Chip: A perfect balance of subtly sweet fruitiness and thick, dark-chocolate chunks. Enough said.
4. Cookies & Cream: Solid, but I would have liked more large cookie chunks.
5. Mint Chip: Like many people, I've considered mint chocolate chip a favorite since childhood, but this one left me wanting more chocolate chunks. (I'm still a sucker for an artificial bright-green hue, too, which Van Leeuwen doesn't do because of its commitment to using "only good ingredients you can pronounce.")
6. Grey Poupon Dijon: While I haven't yet tasted the Kraft Mac & Cheese collab, I did stumble upon the Dijon variety in a Walmart and had to try it. The first bite was off-putting — I literally put the pint down. But then I wanted to give the sweet ice cream with a honey Dijon swirl and salty pretzel bits another chance. After a couple more bites, though, I returned it to the freezer, where it remains, barely touched. The pretzels are a nice addition, and I think that, used correctly, this could be really fun and possibly even tasty. But just as I wouldn't want to eat mustard — even really good honey mustard — out of a bowl with a spoon, the idea of shoveling down big bites of this is pretty unappealing.
When the scoop shops open here, they'll offer a much wider variety than what's available in grocery stores — Van Leeuwen makes over thirty flavors and offers rotating specials, as well. Sundaes, milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches and root beer floats are on the menu, too, and there's an entire line of vegan and dairy-free ice cream.
While Denver's ice cream scene is already pretty sweet, thanks to spots like our 2022 Best Ice Cream pick Right Cream
, all the Little Man iterations, Ice Cream Riot, Bonnie Brae, Sweet Action and many more, Van Leeuwen's quality lives up to its reputation — but its more gimmicky flavors definitely aren't the stars.