Beating the heat
Henri gives the scoop on Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy
Chico, CA 95928
Henri is absolutely thrilled that Shakespeare in the Park is moving to the new City Plaza this summer. While he’ll miss the old theater in Cedar Grove, he anticipates warm summer evenings strolling down to the plaza for the performances and, of course, stopping en route at Shubert’s for a nice, refreshing ice cream cone before the show.
Three years ago, Shubert’s ice cream saved my life. I’d just moved to Chico—after suffering a devastatingly painful break-up—and I knew no one. All I had was my dear Miss Marilyn, my little Renault and memories of another life far, far removed from what I viewed then as little more than a provincial Northern California valley town.
My first month, I barely slept, never did laundry and racked up nearly $200 in overdue fines from All the Best Video. But I also ate ice cream, lots of it, from Shubert’s, which I discovered quite by chance one evening as I wandered depressed and directionless through the darkened streets. From my first double scoop of chocolate chip on a waffle cone, I knew that I would be able to get back on le cheval and put the pieces of my little life back together.
Henri’s memories of growing up in the Midwest are framed largely by the merciless teasing of his classmates: not only for my complete lack of anything even remotely resembling athletic prowess, but also for preferring The French Chef and Edith Piaf to Bonanza and Shelly Fabares, as well for the hot lunch that I always brought to school in my briefcase.
On the other hand, I recall some of my childhood memories fondly—not the least of which is making ice cream on the porch of our old house, father filling the little container with double-thick cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and fresh strawberries or blackberries, then pouring ice and rock salt into the barrel. He always let me turn the crank while he sat in the porch swing and drank a couple of glasses of Bordeaux.
Perhaps nothing is more American than ice cream—except the mythology surrounding its origins.
Some accounts have the Roman Emperor Nero (37-68 C.E.) ordering ice and snow to be brought from the Alps and mixed with various fruit toppings. Other sources claim Marco Polo introduced the dessert to Italy upon his return from China, and that Catherine de Medici then brought it with her to France in 1533. More reliable sources, on the other hand, suggest that these and other stories were invented by 19th-century ice cream vendors to romanticize—and help sell—the dessert, a recipe for which appeared in the U.S. as early as 1751 in Hanna Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. In 1813, Dolley Madison served ice cream at the inaugural ball for her husband, James.
Shubert’s history dates from 1938, when Leonard Shubert arrived in Chico from Montana and opened the shop on Seventh Street, where it still stands and is still in the family. Shubert’s nephew, Charles Pulliam Sr., bought the store from Shubert’s widow in 1951, and the third generation of Pulliams now runs the business. In fact, they still use one of Leonard’s original five-gallon ice cream-making machines.
In addition to making all of their ice cream, Shubert’s also makes their own delicious candies (except for the little gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins), some available pre-boxed, some only by the pound. They also buy many of their ingredients—including butter, honey and nuts—from local farms. Among the most irresistible of the candies: the truffles, mints and almond clusters.
On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like a good ol’ ice-cream cone on a summer night in Chico. I look forward this year to Chico Mint (current fave) and Shakespeare in the Park, which is not only moving downtown this summer but which has done away with admission prices—entrance will be by donation only.