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Exclusive Club Has New Yorkers Screaming, 'Ice Cream!'

Mar 11, 2011 – 1:04 AM
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Susanna Baird Contributor

Diana Hardeman wanted ice cream. More ice cream. Better ice cream.

Her quest eventually led to the creation of a members-only, Manhattan-only ice cream club hand-delivering $17 pints and boasting a 1,500-person waiting list.

Diana Hardeman is seen in this handout photo preparing MilkMade ice cream in her kitchen.
Courtesy Diana Hardeman
Diana Hardeman prepares MilkMade ice cream in her kitchen. She delivers flavors such as Honey Lavender Granola and Peppery Peach to 150 people a month.
In summer 2009, Hardeman was a recent graduate of New York University's Stern School of Business, a full-time consultant and an ice cream addict.

"I used to buy a pint of Ben & Jerry's or Häagen-Dazs almost every night from the bodega downstairs," Hardeman, 27, told AOL News. "I wasn't really loving what I was eating. I was bored with the flavors.

"I thought, 'I can make better ice cream and probably for cheaper than what I'm buying every night at the grocery store.'"

Though her kitchen experience was theretofore limited to cookies, Hardeman bought a Cuisinart, found local sources of fresh ingredients and spent the summer making, tasting and sharing MilkMade, her new brand of ice cream.

While her friends became immediate fans, her "business," which was nothing of the sort at the time, exploded when New York Magazine devoted 11 words to MilkMade in a piece on a young Brooklyn party host.

The New York piece led to another at Grub Street's New York site. That piece led to hundreds of people contacting MilkMade about delivery, which led to Hardeman and her then-partner (she's now solo) renting space at a commercial kitchen in Queens which led, finally, to the current iteration of the business: Hardeman making and delivering ice cream to 150 people a month, at locations stretching from the top of Central Park south to the Financial District.

While some customers request Hardeman leave their pint (or two) with the doorman, many personally greet Hardeman and her pints, practically salivating as she hands over the month's pick.

"Last night I delivered to this girl who waits every time. I text her and she responds, 'Yay, it's my favorite night of the month!'

"Most people are excited and appreciative and friendly."

Hardeman never repeats a flavor. Reviewing past offerings, an ice-cream lover quickly understands why she's garnered such an intense following, willing to pay $50 for three pints of ice cream.

Salted Caramel. Mint Chocolate Brownie. Honey Lavender Granola. Strawberry Lemonade, Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Candy Cane and Peppery Peach.

MilkMade is devoted to the local purveyors and farmers Hardeman's been working with since the early days in her Manhattan apartment kitchen. If she tastes something yummy, like the biscotti baked by Danny Macaroons, she'll mix it into a future batch.

Hardeman typically makes five or 10 batches before deeming a flavor ready for the marketplace. Her flavors are always seasonally inspired by what's available at the farmer's market and what the month brings in terms of celebrations.

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This month, MilkMade customers will enjoy Sugar on Snow, harking back to an old New England maple-season treat, and Irish Car Bomb, a Guinness-and-Bailey's concoction that nods, in proper creamy fashion, to the cocktail of the same name.

While MilkMade's lengthy waiting list testifies to the company's ability to keep growing, Hardeman is focused on getting through the next few years and, more crucially, deciding what to deliver next month.

"It is Easter and Passover, so I'm trying to come up with something that works both of those in," she said. Late winter produce pickings are slim in Manhattan.

"This is the time when I use the peanut butters and the chocolates," she said.

Yum.

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