By lauren linhard
David Letterman shows two of the spice cream flavors he created using fruit-flavored wing sauce and vanilla ice cream at his Lewistown warehouse in the MCIDC Plaza.
Sentinel photos by BUFFIE BOYER
LEWISTOWN - Not many people would think of adding hot sauce to a bowl of ice cream for a summer treat, but David Letterman isn't most people. Known for Bonfatto's Wing Sauce and Marinades, based in State College, Letterman thought it made perfect sense to mix ice cream with one of his award winning sauces during one of the company's 2011 summer sauce competitions.
"It was a really hot day so my wife walked down the boardwalk to buy some ice cream," Letterman said. "When she came back, I started thinking about how good the ice cream would taste mixed with my sauce. We tried it and passed it around to the other competitors. Everyone seemed to love it."
When Letterman returned to his State College home, he sought out the ice cream experts at Big Spoon Creamery, located in Lewistown at the time, to see if his new idea could work as a future Bonfatto product. After a couple days of experimenting with Big Spoon's equipment, Letterman created his first pint of Spice Cream.
"When I tried the flavor, I thought, 'That's pretty good, I'm going to run with it,'" Letterman said. "I spent the next year or so developing a quality vanilla ice cream as a base and deciding which sauces I wanted to incorporate."
By July 2012, Letterman had three spice cream flavors ready for the judging and food show circuit: Jumping Jack Apple Splash, made with vanilla ice cream, pecans and Bonfatto's Apple Pepper Jack Sauce; Sweet Peachy Heat Wave, a mixture of vanilla ice cream infused with Bonfatto's Peaches N' Scream Sauce and pieces of homemade granola; and Rolling Berry Blastoff, made with vanilla ice cream and Bonfatto's Razz Hab sauce, mixed with peanut butter cups.
"The focus is really on flavor first," Letterman said. "We have a specific process that infuses the hot sauce into the ice cream without overpowering it. The heat is nice and subtle."
A few months and four national food shows later, spice cream finally won its first awards at ZestFest, held in Texas, in January. Letterman's new creation earned four medals in the ZestFest Fiery Food Challenge, including first place in Best Zesty Sweets for Rolling Berry Blastoff and third place for Best New Product: Consumer Ready Food.
"A lot of people walk by our table and take a sample, without realizing what it is, and move on," Letterman said. "They always circle back around, demanding to know what they just ate and where they can get some. I needed to get this stuff on the market."
After coming home with the win, Letterman began to focus on getting spice cream into stores and available across multiple states. He obtained a warehouse in the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation Plaza and got to work.
"The only people on staff right now are my son-in-law and me," Letterman said. "We spend 12 hour days in the warehouse making ice cream and packaging it for distribution. As things continue to grow, I'll hire an actual staff, but right now it's really on an as needed basis."
Over the past few months, spice cream became available in a number of local grocery stores. Letterman also made a recent deal with BK Specialty Food Distributors, of Philadelphia, to place spice cream in more than 20 stores across New Jersey.
"I'd love to see spice cream go international with export sales across the world," Letterman said. "But the most important thing right now is to keep the business going and expand awareness of the product in various markets. I think once we get one big distributor interested, others will follow."
Letterman also is exploring local ice cream stores and creameries in the interest of selling spice cream flavors over the summer season. It would be a great way to develop a local market one cone at a time, he said.
More information about spice cream is available at www.spicecream.com and the Bonfatto's Facebook page.