The Examiner, Washington, DC, June 2005
Licking D.C.'s heat - One man's mission: Share his ice cream dreams
By Alexandra Greeley
Washington's summers are notoriously sticky and hot, inspiring plenty of complaints and edgy tempers. No wonder so many people leave town for cooler climes. But there's a quicker way to chill out, and for those staying behind, the answer is simple: ice cream. For someone like John O'Reilly, however, ice cream is not a summers-only obsession. A graduate of Penn State University's week-long ice cream-making course - no fooling! - a guest professor at the university's spring session of ice cream 101 and the owner of Silver Spring's Great Falls Ice Cream Company, O'Reilly is a man with a mission: to make the world's best ice cream, and to share his ice cream dreams with the rest of us.
To date, O'Reilly's company has been a wholesale operation, selling ultra-premium ice cream to 250 local restaurants, hotels, caterers and select ice cream parlors. And business has been terrific, if you count success by the gallon. "We make about 400 to 500 gallons of ice cream a day," he says, cranking out just what the company needs to fill daily orders. Then he ships the product out immediately in its own fleet of refrigerated trucks.
O'Reilly also offers a menu of flavors - about 160 in all - that few can resist. Apart from the traditional favorites of vanilla bean, bittersweet chocolate and mint chocolate chip, he has created such offbeat ice creams as white chocolate-blueberry, lavender, Vietnamese cinnamon, and a Cajun sorbet made with ground black pepper and horseradish. Chefs make their own special requests. "One customer wants tropical flavors," he says. "So we make pomegranate, passion fruit and mamey ice creams." An Indian restaurant orders rose petal and saffron pistachio. And their Thai restaurant clientele purchase the special coconut sorbet made with coconut milk and shredded coconut.
But the retail customer is not totally out in the cold, so to speak. O'Reilly sells to such scoop parlors as Wow Cow in Bethesda, Scoop Beauregard's in Arlington, Yum Yum Ice Cream in Fairfax, Sweet Licks in Washington at 17th and R streets NW and Cones and Confetti in Olney. And before you can say "blizzard," O'Reilly launched his new FX O'Reilly Microcreamery brand, a special ultra-premium ice cream to retail locally at various markets, delis and ice cream stores.
Made by hand 10 gallons at a time, F.X. O'Reilly may become the ultimate, over-the-top, all-time favorite ice cream. "We are using incredible ingredients, and it will have a very high butterfat content," he says, "the richest you can get before the ice cream is too rich to eat. We are adding a touch of real Irish butter cream to each batch to present the customer with a unique flavor, highlighting the unusual flavors we've created." Once it's in local freezers, you can snap up pints of one or all of the F.X. O'Reilly's four flavors, including Tahitian Vanilla Bean: "Tahitian Vanilla is rarely if ever used in ice cream. We have created a rich vanilla bean ice cream that has a fruity taste and unusually creamy texture," he explains. The Vietnamese Cinnamon is powerfully smooth and a stimulating delight, he says, a perfect companion to a pastry or fruit dessert. The Belgian Bittersweet Chocolate contains three kinds of chocolate, and the Espresso Toffee Crunch is a blend of real espresso combined with sweet bits of toffee.