There are about a billion things to love about Arkansas—really no need to start naming them here—but I’ll never be totally content with the summer heat. Sure, I’m a big baby, but it sucks the soul right out of me. But I’ve found that exceptional summertime treats are a guaranteed pick-me-up, the greatest way to pull yourself out of that heat funk you’re sure to be wallowing in within the next few months. Where does one go to successfully ride the heat wave? We’ll be sharing a few of our favorite eats and drinks throughout the hottest months of the year right here on “Beat the Heat.”
Owner, Kelli Marks, owner of Sweet Love Bakery, began experimenting with scratch-made ice creams a couple months ago, venturing into the freezer and pushing herself a little beyond her routine oven-baked goods. As she began posting pictures of her experimental cold creations on Twitter and Facebook, she was subsequently bombarded by sweets fans wanting to get a sample, asking her, pleading with her to start making them available to the public. After a little tweaking, she recently began offering the house-made ice creams, which come in a variety of flavors, with any number of freshly baked cookies, also in all sorts and flavors.
Kelli tells me she wanted her ice cream sandwiches to be something relatively unique to the Little Rock frozen treat scene. Maybe she doesn’t already realize that anyone willing to produce small batch, handmade ice cream, utilizing local ingredients is already going above the norm at this point. Sure, I did feel a bit like I was cheating on my beloved, Loblolly Creamery, who will always hold a special place in my heart, but with Kelli’s skill as a baker combined with her knack for inventive combinations, I felt like I couldn’t pass up an offer to sample her wares.
Sweet Love is committed to a constantly rotating list of flavors. When I visited, of course, I snagged every flavor available…for journalistic purposes, I assure you. It was a hot day and I was in dire need of something to dampen the heat, and these ice cream sandwiches barely lasted me ten minutes—needless to say, I enjoyed them,
Sweet Love is doing a fine job with their ice cream. It’s handmade, and has high quality, dense, creamy texture, free from excessively frozen crystals and not overly hardened by too much time in the freezer. But the magic really begins when it’s paired with their lovely cookie sandwiches. Upon my visit, I was completely won over by the Key lime with graham cookie crust. She makes small rounds of graham cookie, bakes them off, giving them a toasty flavor, leaving them light and crisp. The lime ice cream is subtly flavored, not pucker-inducing, but with just bit of zest to bring to mind pleasant thoughts of far away beaches, poolside frozen drinks, and Florida orchards. I’ve always been partial to Sweet Love’s brown butter cookies which incorporate butter that’s been cooked past its melting point until the milk solids in the butter brown and begin to give off a wonderful nutty aroma. Sweet Love paired these with a simple, fresh vanilla bean ice cream—the results were splendid. I would have eaten five in one sitting if my waistline would have allowed. Then came a seductive salted caramel and almond ice cream (always a fantastic flavor profile in my mind) and slathered that onto a crisp, buttery waffle cone sandwich—another successful sandwich, but they really had me won over at salted caramel. The occasional touch of salt, sweet caramel—I was very much pleased with my selection.
Sweet Love is constantly imagining up new combinations to keep their customers coming back for more. You can also pick up scoops of ice cream alone in pre-portioned quantities if you’d like to pass on the cookie all together (or if you’re watching your carbs for swimsuit season). Local, seasonal ingredients include those in such ice creams as their cinnamon peach with bourbon soaked pecans, or their creamy lemon and blueberry. Try passing that up.
There you have it. No excuse now to fester on your couches wishing it would cool down outside. Sweet Love has air conditioning and enough items in the freezer to keep you smiling ‘til October.
(Sweet Love is located at 8210 Cantrell Road, Little Rock)