Food | August 2014
Treat your taste buds to a bowl of homemade ice cream at Area 51
Story by Tess Catlett
Artisan ice cream has landed at Area 51 Ice Cream, calling unexpected flavors like Cedar Hill Blackberry and Goat Cheese home to Hernando. With handcrafted offerings ranging from Malted Milk Chocolate to Saigon Cinnamon Snickerdoodle, the ice cream shop has a scoop for even the most selective tastes. The brainchild of Steve and Karin Cubbage, Area 51 aims to be a flavorful location where friends and family can find solace this summer and socialize well into the winter season.
Given the shop’s tendency to sell out batches of ice cream faster than a melting scoop in this sweltering Southern heat, it’s hard to believe that Area 51 almost didn’t happen. “This was plan B,” Steve says. The couple moved to Hernando from Denver about two years ago to follow Steve’s pursuits in the casino industry. But when the company he worked for downsized, Steve and Karin were left guessing what to do next.
The two put their heads together and realized the answer was right in front of them: with Karin’s extensive experience working front of the house at high-end restaurants and Steve’s background in marketing, it was only natural that their next venture be of the entrepreneurial variety. “It came to me out of the blue one day,” Karin says, recalling the sugary question she posed for Steve: “What do you think about ice cream?” Once the decision was made and a lease was signed, a mere 10 weeks passed from start to finish. “It was ‘get open or else,’” Karin says with a robust laugh. “We financed it on our own. One of the reasons I know this was the right decision is the way things fell into place.”
Steve says that the pair found the location, which is just off Highway 51 and on West Commerce Street, less than two hours after they started their search. Area 51’s iconic name was developed in the same fanciful fashion. “It was the first name I suggested,” Steve says, adding that it surfaced in less than 5 minutes and stuck because of its notoriety. Although the shop doesn’t overtly play on the name’s extraterrestrial significance, Steve is more than happy to play along with the coincidental address. “The irony of the location came a week before we opened,” he says.
Not only did the duo utilize local businesses to get the shop up and running, they have built their ice cream philosophy on using natural ingredients from area vendors to make a one-of-a-kind product. “Part of it is what’s in season,” Karin says, adding that they do not use frozen fruit. Customers have had to say so long to sweet flavors such as Balsamic Strawberry and Strawberry Buttermilk since strawberry season came to a close at Cedar Hill Farm.
At the end of May, when the season switched to blackberries, Karin says she went to work in the kitchen to come up with a unique flavor incorporating the scrumptious fruit: Blackberry and Goat Cheese. “I was always front of the house as a server or manager at high-end, fine-dining establishments,” she says. “It gave me a good feel for what balances well.” And when it comes to this batch, she nailed it. “It sold out on the first day. It’s exciting to see people trying new things.” From luscious blueberries and plump peaches to succulent watermelon, there’s no shortage of fresh fruits to marry with an exciting ice cream flavor. And when the season ends and leaves begin to fall, Area 51’s summer flavors will give way to a new crop of tasty delights. Juicy apples, spicy pumpkins and sweet potatoes are all on the Fall roster, Karin says, adding that Nutella might even make an appearance.
More traditional flavors also have a home at Area 51. “I like really nostalgic flavors with a newer twist,” Karin says. “I’m making a great vanilla that’s real old fashioned.” There’s also the signature Bourbon Butter Pecan. “For the most part, it’s homemade,” Karin says, all the way down to the bittersweet chocolate chips in the Mint Chocolate Chip, the fudge in the Mocha Fudge Brownie and the Salted Caramel.
The shop serves 12 fresh flavors daily — 11 different ice creams and one sorbet. We encourage our customers to try all the flavors until they find the one that’s right for them, she says. Although these flavors are featured on a whimsical rotation, there are a few constants, including the Bourbon Butter Pecan, Cookies –n– Cream and Coconut Brown Sugar. There’s always a chocolate flavor, too.
Area 51 is open Tuesday through Saturday, Noon-10 p.m., and Sunday, Noon-8 p.m.