Want to try a cone at America’s Best Ice Cream Shop (according to the followers of YouTuber Cohen Thompson)? Head over to Spotted Duck Creamery in Penn Yan, NY. Made right on the farm by ice cream maker Pamela Cecere, Spotted Duck’s treats ranked tops in Thompson’s quest to find the nation’s best.

“I was amazed and very humbled by the award,” said owner Sam Solomon. “We knew what we were doing was very special but didn’t know that others would think it’s number one of all.”

Technically speaking, Spotted Duck sells frozen custard, as the ratio of duck eggs in the recipe makes it a custard; however, custard is a type of cream so calling it “ice cream” is correct. Solomon thinks that using duck eggs in the custard is what makes the ice cream stand out.

“We’re the only place in the country where you can find duck egg custard,” Solomon said. “It comes down to a more real product. We call it an ‘honest dessert.’ There’s not a bunch of words on the label you can’t understand. The ingredients are highly traceable and transparent. Overall, people want a product where they can feel like they know where it comes from.”

Spotted Duck is home to 75 Ancona ducks on the farm. Eggs from about 150 ducks on other farms in the Finger Lakes region are also part of the inputs.

“Some farmers are going to be adding to the flock for next year,” Solomon said. “We’ll have probably 350 to 400 ducks by next year.”

Spotted Duck Creamery nabs national recognition

Pamela Cecere is the ice cream maker at Spotted Duck Creamery. Photo courtesy of Spotted Duck Creamery

The farms raise the ducks on pasture and with organic feed. Along with the duck eggs, most of Spotted Duck’s other ingredients are either certified organic or grown with the same guidelines. This fact appeals to consumers concerned about the source of their food’s ingredients.

Each day, Spotted Duck uses 300 eggs, totaling about 30,000 eggs annually. The ice cream stand is open only seasonally; however, Solomon is considering keeping the shop open to sell pints of ice cream on Saturdays after the scoop season ends Oct. 31.

In addition to local and homegrown eggs, Spotted Duck uses cream and milk from local dairy farms; strawberries from a nearby farm; and mint from the creamery’s own mint patch. Cecere makes all the ice cream on site in small batches.

“It makes for a large task for her to keep up with demand,” Solomon said.

He advised any farm interested in creating a value-added product to “really invest in the quality of your ingredients. You can’t make good food without high quality, properly grown ingredients. It’s not hard to make great pizza when you have great cheese, fresh tomatoes and awesome pepperoni.”

That comment refers to his experience before taking the helm at Spotted Duck. Solomon previously founded and operated Pizza Posto after graduating from Hobart College in Geneva, NY, in 2017. A young entrepreneur, he founded the wood-fired pizza business with $10,000 in seed money he won from a Hobart business competition. His experience with Pizza Posto helped him master the skills necessary to operate a food business.

While running Pizza Posto, he became friends with Daniel and Elizabeth Hoover, who founded Spotted Duck. When they decided to sell the business, Solomon took over in 2020.

Spotted Duck serves ready-to-eat ice cream as well as pints. Visitors to the creamery can also meet and feed ducks, a few chickens, a peacock and a goose.

“It’s amazing how kids want to go over and watch the ducks and see Alejandro the peacock walk around,” Solomon said. “It’s a nice experience.”

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant