When Andrew Silverman arrived in Denver, he immediately longed for the ice cream of the East Coast. “Everywhere else I’ve lived, it’s never even come close,” said Silverman — owner and founder at Em’s Ice Cream — of the regional treat. Starting in 2014, he has built his own small empire in the Mile High city to rectify the situation. Now Silverman has brought his 100 percent, third-party certified, USDA Organic small batch ice-creamery to Park Hill.
Originally from Maine, Silverman lived out his early years licking cones on the east coast. “Denver and Boulder have been incubators for big organic brands, but no one was doing organic ice cream,” said Silverman. Prior to his move to Denver, he worked as a commercial fisherman and also as a web analyst before changing directions and launching headfirst into a career in top-shelf frozen treats. Silverman named Em’s after his wife Emily and since the first Mile High New England scoop hit the public in 2014, Em’s has expanded to now include two trucks, a pair of pushcarts, a resident service in coordination with City Pop LoDo along with its new location in Park Hill.
The renowned Em’s ice cream truck now has an anchor storefront in the Park Hill neighborhood Fairfax street between 28th and 29th street. The storefront is marked in quaint black and white signage — lodged in the middle of a shopping center strip originally erected in the ’40s east of Denver’s City Park.
The indoor space feels larger than it is. One well lit open room showcases a glass display case stocked with 15 organic ice cream flavors for the tasting. Interior decor beams soft combinations of washed-out wood paneling, polished marble countertops and exposed ceilings which help bring immediate attention to the front. Glass opens the east side of the space to natural light. The three walls that make up the room are pastel yellow and adorned with hand-painted ingredient art. Patterned cherries, bananas, chocolate chips and vanilla bean blossoms feel genuine. The expansion has not only increased Em’s production and storage — but it presents an opportunity for a mobile operation to offer guests services unavailable at other outlets. Em’s new location has also expanded menu offerings to include items like splits, Sundays, malts milkshakes and a cold brew coffee on tap. This location also comes complete with indoor and outdoor patio seating that invite guests to slow down and enjoy
The Ice Cream
Em’s serves a scoop that is arguably one of the highest quality frozen desserts in the city. One part of Silverman’s method of elevating depth of flavor at Em’s is the fact that everything ingredient and product on site is 100 percent USDA certified organic. Every gallon of dairy is sourced from a cow raised with 24-hour access to pasture and without antibiotics or hormones. Em’s also operates out of a commissary kitchen in order to prepare a number of ingredients in its recipes itself — including its own chocolate chips, candied ginger, caramel syrup, toasted coconut and more.
“New England Style Ice Cream has a high fat content, a creamy, velvety mouthfeel and it holds flavor really well,” said Silverman
Em’s has adopted a three ingredient, New England-style, custard base which it uses for all of its flavors. Organic cream, egg yolk and cane sugar are the tried and true essentials that give this take on ice cream an unforgettably rich flavor profile. The texture of organic custard weighs noticeably heavier in the hand and feels surprisingly dense on the tongue. In comparison to commercial ice cream, Em’s is pure. Commercial ice cream will often incorporate a binding component like xanthan gum or some other form of cream stabilizing additive that only act as filler.
Like other creamery concepts, Em’s has built a loyal following around several original flavors like the salted caramel and its award-winning vanilla bean — but the display case at the brick and mortar location will also emphasize a creative, out-of-the-box side to the creamery. Silverman introduces seasonal and experimental flavors each month to keep guests curious. Some flavors in the case now to note include a seasonal Palisade peach, a burnt brown sugar and even a black sesame which pushes salty/savory boundaries and opens new possibilities when it comes to defining what of a batch of ice cream can become.
Em’s partners with Boulder Organic to acquire single-origin, Ethiopian dark roast java that is ground on the day Em’s steeps it into their cream for use in its coffee flavored ice cream. Em’s version of coffee ice cream may not be one for kids — the java infused custard tastes a successful deep bitter-sweet and even carries over a surprising amount of caffeine as a result of the cold-brew inspired steeping process that takes place before the cream is churned. The Chai tea scoop is another frosty confection worth tasting before making your decision. According to Silverman, Em’s Chai tea blend took months to develop and hundreds of tasting in order to develop the harmonious blend of ginger, clove and nutmeg that composes this 100 percent unique spicy treat. Fresh fruit harvest comes and goes with the seasons, but a partnership with Colorado Mountain Jams ensures that Em’s will have access to local, organic fruit preserves the entire year-long but make sure to taste Palisade peach while it’s in the rotation for the summer.
Em’s has been a part of the Denver craft ice cream scene for years and its success is something the city should be proud of. What began as a kiosk on the 16th St mall has now grown to include a small army of organic ice cream outlets. If you have yet to visit one of Em’s trucks or carts you can for certain get a scoop from the permanent location on Fairfax.
Em’s Ice Cream storefront is at 2748, 2829 Fairfax St, Denver. Doors at this location are open Mon – Friday, 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday, 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.
All photography by Brittany Werges