Milkcraft: West Hartford's ''Cow To Cone' Ice Cream Phenom

Maybe you've seen Milkcraft's elaborate creations all over Instagram: towering scoops of nitrogen-churned ice cream cradled in bubble-textured waffle cones, bedazzled with sprinkles and colorful bits of cereal and drizzled with caramel and Nutella.

If not, you've likely seen the daunting line to get into West Hartford's hot new ice cream shop, which opened in late May at 967 Farmington Ave. in the vacated La Petite France bakery space. Its ice cream, in several gourmet flavors, is made to order by blending fresh milk with food-grade liquid nitrogen, producing an extra-smooth and indulgent frozen treat.

The unique concept debuted in Fairfield's Brick Walk development in the spring of 2016, securing an instant fan base in southern Connecticut for its photo-ready creations crafted right before customers' eyes. Milkcraft's popularity in West Hartford was instant, says co-founder Lynn Mainiero.

"It's been great, it's been a hit," she says. "From the minute we opened, we've had lines out the door. It's just been a phenomenon for us."

Milkcraft is part ice cream parlor, part nightclub and part science lab. When visitors enter the shop, they get a full sensory experience, with upbeat music, an eye-catching wall mural, full-length mirrors and a screen displaying live Instagram updates. At peak hours, more than a dozen employees bustle behind the counter, making fresh waffle cones and whipping made-to-order ice cream treats in stand mixers among chilly clouds of liquid nitrogen.

The ice cream is billed as "cow to cone," using local milk without antibiotics, steroids or artificial preservatives. The menu features about a dozen composed flavors, with best-sellers including "s'mores campfire" with Valrhona chocolate, fire-roasted marshmallow and graham cracker crumbs; a cookie butter flavor in a vibrant blue hue; salted caramel with maple kettle corn and "milk and cereal" with topping choice of Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs or Frosted Flakes.

Others include peanut butter and jelly with caramelized banana and Reese's puffs; "choco de leche" with smoked black sea salt flakes and "bourbon breakfast," with vanilla bean ice cream, a touch of WhistlePig bourbon, maple and corn flake topping.

Ice cream is served by the scoop in single, double or triple portions ($4.95 to $8.95), but the best-selling vessel is the "bubblecone," Milkcraft's proprietary waffle cone, modeled after a popular Hong Kong street food. The cones are filled with the freshly made ice cream and "accessories": toppings that range from freshly whipped cream and hot fudge to balsamic glaze, bacon or pocky sticks. One-scoop bubblecones are $7.95.

Milkcraft also offers Creameebuns, another extravagant confection that features ice cream sealed into the center of freshly baked glazed buns ($5.95). Mainiero says guests often select the Vietnamese coffee flavor for a play on "coffee and doughnuts." (An affogato, with one scoop of ice cream and a shot of espresso, is also $5.95.)

The ice cream is now also mobile, with the addition of the "MilkTruck," a fully outfitted vehicle available for parties, weddings and gatherings with a minimum of 50 guests.

Milkcraft, 967 Farmington Ave., in West Hartford, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 860-232-6444, milkcraftca.com.

Copyright © 2017, CT Now