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Copyright © 2004 
Express Publishing Inc
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The Sun Valley Guide is distributed free twice yearly to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

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Toni Deskins. photo by David N. Seelig
photo by David N. Seelig

Frozen delights

by Michael Ames

Marco Polo brought it back to Italy after travels
to the East, some say.

Catherine de Medici introduced it to the royal courts of medieval France, say others.

Whatever its source, ice cream remains a favorite dessert today with more flavors and ingredients than ever.

When a New Jersey woman named Nancy Johnson invented the hand-cranked freezer in 1846 to stir a layered mixture of salt and ice that froze the sugar, egg and cream mixture, she didn’t realize the revolution she created would still be going strong nearly 160 years later.

The icy delicacy continues to top Sun Valley restaurant dessert menus, now with an old twist: homemade.

The valley’s reigning ice cream queen is Toni Deskins. Originally from Seattle, Deskins, 30, has called Sun Valley home since 1994. She first moved here, as so many do, for the incomparable outdoor lifestyle. She kept herself afloat with restaurant work and made herself comfortable in “the only place I’ve ever felt at home.”

Deskins was working at Ketchum’s Sushi on Second restaurant when she first started making her own ice cream. These days, Sushi still serves her ice cream, now called Toni’s Ice Cream, bought direct from her Ketchum-based kitchen.

Sushi is one of approximately a dozen local restaurants to carry Toni’s brand of ice cream. Her label is also featured by every valley grocer and, as of this past January, the Boise Co-Op.

Deskins’ product must compete in local supermarkets—her minimalist white pints with black lettering—against more than a dozen colorful national brand labels. Her simplicity seems to be working as more and more people reach for her subtle containers over the glaring colors of major brands.

Deskins and Sushi are not alone in their quest for freshness and uniqueness on their dessert menus. Other local eateries are dishing up their own ice creams.

Ketchum‘s Evergreen and Globus restaurants have been making the dessert for years.

Evergreen’s Brian Heyrend was tirelessly turning the crank of a manual ice cream machine many years ago.

“When I first started work here as a dishwasher, I had to crank that thing for an hour—it was a labor of love,” says Heyrend, who’s now the head chef.

Evergreen has consistently unveiled new and unusual flavors. Tiramisu is a current hit along with green apple, blood orange and pear sorbets.

Deskins has also dabbled in the domain of bizarre taste.

“I’ve done Szechuan peppercorn for Zhou 75 in Hailey, and for Cinco de Mayo I made a Tequila Granita with ancho chilies,” she recalls.

Globus puts out variety as well: pomegranate, five-spice Oreo and ginger are regular players on their dessert menu.

Restaurants and supermarkets were not enough for Deskins.

These summer days, most locals recognize Deskins by her ice cream bike. This custom-made tricycle is equipped with a freezer compartment holding about four flavors of ice cream and usually one sorbet for the calorie conscious.

“I didn’t want to drive some stupid ice cream truck,” laughs Deskins.

Not wanting to forgo the ice cream trucks’ siren song, though, she did accessorize her bike with four brass bells that ring as she peddles.

“It’s a positive thing, a community thing and everyone loves it,” says Deskins of her ice cream bike.

All summer, people tag along not only for tastes of her classic versions of chocolate and vanilla, but also such unusual varieties as toasted coconut, wild huckleberry and the all-too-subtle rose petal.

For now, Deskins seeks to expand her Idaho ice cream empire. Her 1,200-square-foot Ketchum kitchen is “just big enough” for what she needs. With a recent expansion into Boise, her marketplace grows.

Local restaurants continue to toy with the idea of selling their own creams, but for now, Toni has cornered the icy market. •

Stoecklein Publishing

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