It may be a bit challenging to locate Phil and Bill’s Ice Cream, but for those who eat only those dairy products that are designated kosher cholov yisroel, it is definitely worth the quest.
Here is how to find the super premium, locally sourced ice cream, made by Pittsburghers Bill Mahony and Phil Goldberg: Head into Greenfield to the 4300 block of Murray Avenue. There is a small dive shop on the east side of the street that is easy to miss. Once inside, tell whoever is minding the store that you are there for the ice cream.
You will be led to the tiny back room, where there is no conventional ice cream counter, and the décor is modest. What is there, though, is a chest freezer stocked with freshly packed quarts of rich designer flavors such as Cappuccino Mint Chip and Pittsburgh Peach.
“The ice cream is wonderful,” said Theresa Firtell, an Orthodox Jew whose family eats only dairy products that are certified cholov yisroel. “And it was needed. Before they started making this, the best cholov yisroel ice cream you could get in Pittsburgh is in the freezer in the kosher market. That doesn’t have the homemade taste. And now that it’s summer, this is really nice for the kids.”
Dairy products have cholov yisroel status when the processing is done under the constant supervision of a reliable Jewish person who ensures that the milk comes from a kosher animal, according to the website of the Orthodox Union. But because many Orthodox rabbis have ruled that government inspection of dairies is equivalent to that of a mashgiach, products from those dairies also are considered to be halachically equivalent to cholov yisroel. Only the most stringent adherents to the laws of kashrut restrict their consumption of dairy foods to those specifically designated as cholov yisroel.
Mahoney and Goldberg make their ice cream in the kitchen of B’nai Emunoh Chabad, just a few doors down from the dive shop. The kitchen is under the supervision of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Health Department.
The genesis of Phil and Bill’s Ice Cream goes back about a year, when friends Mahony and Goldberg were lamenting the lack of quality cholov yisroel ice cream in Pittsburgh. Mahony, who had worked years ago in Maine in a few ice cream shops, and Goldberg, who was up for the challenge, decided to try their hands at making it themselves.
They soon began experimenting with flavors, and passing out “free ice cream every Shabbos, so people could give us feedback,” said Mahony’s wife, Elizabeth, who helps run the business.
“There’s not a lot of super premium ice cream out there that is cholov yisroel,” Goldberg said. “We thought we could find a niche for this, at a reasonable price.”
One quart of ice cream is sold for $7, two for $12.
Phil and Bill’s began its operations as a delivery business but is now selling its ice cream almost exclusively out of the dive shop, which Bill Mahony opened in June — a lifelong dream for the career engineer, who is hoping to devote more time to his new businesses down the road.
So far, the team has perfected about 25 flavors, although only a few are available each week.
“We are seriously resource constrained,” said Bill Mahony. “We are limited because of the size of the machine.”
Business has been brisk, he said.
“We have more demand than we have the ability to make, and we are trying to ramp up quickly. Our next step is a bigger ice cream machine.”
Popular flavors include: coffee; caramel ice cream with cookie dough; and the Mobbi — named after Herman Melville’s white whale — which is strawberry/maple ice cream with white chocolate chips.
Mahony and Goldberg hope to expand the business eventually to include shipment of Phil and Bill’s Ice Cream to stores in other cities such as New York and Cleveland.
But for now, the partners — who each work full time at more conventional day jobs — spend just a few nights a week making ice cream.
“We are trying to make as many flavors as we can,” Goldberg said. “But it takes time. Right now, it takes us 25 minutes to make three quarts of ice cream.”
Phil and Bill’s Ice Cream is made from cream and milk procured at a local Pennsylvania dairy, pure pasteurized egg yolks and cane sugar. Its flavors have organic components where available and practical, including natural vanilla.
But there is no pretense that this is a health food.
“We think ice cream is meant to be fun,” Goldberg said, “not healthy.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.