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Friday, August 8, 2008

Small Town Business Wins National Contest

I am a subscriber to my hometown newspaper. Since I grew up in a small town there’s not a lot of local news, other than so and so was invited over to so and so’s house for dinner Wednesday night. Or so and so was caught going ten miles over the speed limit and received a warning. The obituaries are on the front page, because let’s face it, that’s what people really care about reading anyway. I like to keep up with who in my hometown had a kid or got married or divorced. It’s kind of like the National Enquirer of small town Nebraska.

Lately, the newspaper has been featuring local businesses, and the one featured last week got me excited. The company is called Pheasant Oak Vineyard and Confections, out of Brainard, Nebraska. The owner is Kathy Samuelson. They use Nebraska wines (from James Arthur Vineyards, which I have already featured on this site) to make Vineyard Jelly, sauce, and ice cream.

Recently they entered their ice cream in the America’s Food and Beverage Show in Miami, Florida. They were the only American product to place out of all the entries, apparently. Go figure. They got third place at the show, and are now distributing their ice cream in retail stores throughout the country, and even on cruise ships.

The Samuelsons started out making wine jelly, which they thought tasted really good. Then they experimented with making wine syrups to put on ice cream, then finally began to make their ice creams out of wines as well. The most difficult part was mixing the wine with the cream. Additionally, they had to meet federal guidelines for keeping the alcohol content down in order to be able to sell the ice cream at places that didn’t have a liquor license.

The ice cream flavors they are currently selling took two years to develop. They have four flavors and are working on several others. The current flavors are Chocolate Druck Cherries – red wine based with cherries, Vino Espresso – red wine based with espresso coffee ice cream, Nutty Cork – white wine with walnuts, and Raisin the Bar – white wine with golden drunk raisins.

The project has become a family affair, as everyone has a talent and something to offer – daughter Kari runs the website, son Jason runs the logistics, and Kathy and husband Gary run the business. The Samuelsons have lived in many countries, including Iran, Kuwait and Mexico. Kathy had grown up in Boston and was intrigued by how much land there was outside of Omaha, where she and her husband work as a nurse and IT professional.

They purchased an acreage (197 acres, in fact), and have been in the process of renovating their homestead for the last five years. They’ve been living in the gas station part of their building, and daughter Kathy read the owners of Ben and Jerry’s used to live in a gas station as well while developing their product.

Who knows, maybe they will be the next Ben and Jerry’s.


Mommy Meryl said...

Sounds very decadent - I can't wait till it shows up in stores in Phx!