Day Trip to Columbus Part III: City Barbecue for Lunch and Velvet Ice Cream for Dessert
Berlin, OH - Events of Wednesday, June 24, 2015
From Inniswood Gardens, we headed about a mile to City Barbecue where we had decided to have lunch. We were still hungry for barbecue following our disappointment with the ribs at Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen the Friday before.
City Barbecue has beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey breast, chicken and sausage available on sandwiches or naked (without a bun). The prices range from $6.59 to $7.99. They also have St. Louis style ribs priced at $13 for half slab and $22 for a full slab. You can add two sides to your meat for $3. We both had naked pulled pork with potato salad and cole slaw.
The pork wasn't real smoky, but it was nice and moist. The portion was a lot bigger than it looks in the photo above. We thought the pork could have been pulled into smaller pieces to make it easier to eat; but overall, it was very good.
There were several kinds of barbecue sauce on the tables that included original, sweet, hot and Carolina vinegar. Margery liked sweet, and Paul liked original. Both were thick, molasses-based sauces. The original had a little more tartness than the sweet. The sides were also very good.
After lunch, we headed back toward Berlin. On our way to Columbus earlier that morning, we saw signs for the Velvet Ice Cream factory as we passed through the small town of Utica, Ohio, about an hour south of Berlin. A search for Velvet Ice Cream on our smart phone showed they have factory tours, so decided we would stop on the way back if it wasn't too late.
Free tours start on the hour from 11:00 to 3:00 from May through October. We arrived just a few minutes before the last tour of the day. While we were waiting for the tour to start, we had a time to check out the display of Velvet Ice Cream products.
The tour started with a video detailing the history of the company and showing some of the operations in the making of ice cream.
As a 15-year old boy, Joseph Dager arrived in America in 1903 from his former home in Lebanon. In 1914, he began making ice cream in the basement of a confectionery in Utica. Soon after, the Velvet Ice Cream Company was born.
In 1960, the company bought an old mill about a mile outside Utica in order to be able to expand. They moved their ice cream-making operation to an old roller skating rink that had been built in 1922 adjacent to the mill.
The first mill on the site was a saw mill built in 1817. That mill burned and was replaced in 1827 by a grist mill. When the second mill burned in the mid-1860s, it was replaced by another grist mill, which was the mill that was there when the property was purchased by Velvet Ice Cream. Velvet spent a lot of time and money restoring the mill, and they opened it to the public in 1970. Unfortunately, the third mill was destroyed by fire in 1986.
Velvet Ice Cream built a new, modern building that looks like a mill on the repaired foundation of the previous mills. The building houses offices, an ice cream parlor, a gift shop and a museum.
Incidentally, the water wheels for the previous mills were powered by a raceway fed from the nearby Liking River. Today, the 18-foot overshot water wheel is powered by condensate flowing from the factory's ice cream freezers. That's a lot of condensate!
After the video, the tour headed to the factory observation area. You can see the outline of the roof of the old roller rink behind the gray observation area in the photo below.
Production of ice cream starts at 7:00 a.m. each workday with the blending of ingredients for the ice cream base. The blending is done in another part of the factory and is not included in the tour. The tour lets visitors see the ice cream containers being filled.
Unfortunately, production was over for the day, and the cleaning crew was at work readying the equipment for the next day's production. However, there are videos showing the mixing of the ice cream base that take place over on the other side of the factory as well as some of the operations that would normally take place in the filling room.
In the filling room, ice cream flows from continuous freezers in a semi-frozen state and fills the containers. The containers then go into a freezer where the temperature is -130ºF. The product spends enough time in the freezer for the ice cream in the center of the containers to reach 0º.
Velvet Ice Cream produces about 5 million gallons of ice cream in 500 flavors in this small factory in the little town of Utica. Their products are distributed in every state east of the Mississippi and are also served by Bob Evans restaurants in those states.
On the tour, we learned the mill was once a stop on the Underground Railroad where escaped slaves traveling north could hide and rest. After the tour, we stopped to check out the spot where they hid under the mill.
We then visited the museum where there were various ice cream-related items on display like a couple of ice cream machines, old advertising signs, a trivia quiz, old photos and a collection of ice cream scoops.
From the Ice Cream Museum, we stopped to check out some of the old equipment from the grist mill displayed on the porch.
With our factory and museum tours complete, it was finally time to visit the ice cream parlor. Although there were several flavors of sugar-free ice cream available that would have helped limit our carb and sugar intake, there were a couple dozen flavors of regular ice cream that were a lot more tempting. We decided to splurge and have whatever flavor sounded good. Margery had Southern Butter Pecan, and Paul had Salted Fudge Chocolate. Both were yummy!
After we finished our ice cream, we made our way back to Scenic Hills. We had a busy day, so we relaxed the rest of the evening. However, we didn't sit still long. In spite of more rain, we found something else to do a few days later. We'll tell you all about it in our next post.