The Screamery

The Screamery's S'mores and Sweet Cream Honeycomb ice cream in a handmade waffle cone.

Ken Sarnoski is on a crusade to change the way you think about milk, one teat at a time.

Together with his wife, Linda, Sarnoski opened an ice cream shop last month on Tucson’s east side with the pledge to use milk that is exclusively sourced from grass-fed cows.

Grass-fed beef? Sure, I get it. But grass-fed Cookies and Cream?

“Most people have no idea what is being fed to the penned-up cows that are mass-producing milk today,” said Sarnoski of The Screamery, 50 S. Houghton Road, “but cows that graze naturally in grass pastures are producing the absolute best milk that money can buy.”

Prior to opening The Screamery, Sarnoski spent more than two years testing his assumptions on various milk producing processes, and came to the reaffirming conclusion that “great milk comes from happy cows.”

According to his research, taste and texture are the biggest differences when comparing these two kinds of moo juice.

“Milk from grass-fed cows is much more sweet and creamy,” he said, “and, when making ice cream, we find ourselves using less sugar, which some producers use to hide the chemical taste that conventional homogenized milk can leave behind.”

While a special grass-fed milk is regularly shipped to Sarnoski from a family dairy farm in California, it requires one more critical step before the ice cream can be shaped, scooped up and served.

The Screamery pasteurizes all of its milk on-site, maintaining that it’s the only ice creamery around that house-pasteurizes.

“Sure, it would be much easier to purchase milk that has already been pasteurized,” he admitted, “but doing it ourselves allows us to better control the flavors.”

Most of the shop’s ice cream flavor infusions happen during pasteurization, a rapid heating and cooling process to maximize freshness. Sarnoski prefers this method to the more traditional practice of adding flavors to the milk after the fact.

“When those flavors are folded in earlier in the process, you can really taste the difference,” he said.

Once Ken and Linda Sarnoski opened their doors, it didn’t take long for their message of happy cows and the horrors of homogenization to spread. They ran out of 12 of their 16 flavors by their third day in business, and have since adjusted their production to meet the increasing demand.

Today, the shop pasteurizes 200 gallons of grass-fed milk each week, the foundation for a wide selection of scoops, sundaes, shakes and floats.

Its top seller is the Sweet Cream Honeycomb ice cream, made with sweet cream and pieces of hand-made honeycomb, a selection that took top honors at the Tucson Ice Cream Showdown earlier this summer.

But for Sarnoski himself, it’s his Salted Caramel ice cream – with hand-crafted caramelized sugar, fleur de sel sea salt and a cracker cookie – that satisfies his sweet tooth.

Though his technique for burning the sugar takes nearly five hours, this painstaking process is reportedly worth the wait.

“I’m a burnt sugar and salty kind of guy, but this really is a love-hate relationship,” he said.

Enjoying his role as a modern-day milkman, harkening back to the day when bottles of fresh milk were delivered to your doorstep, Sarnoski is out to show the world what he believes ice cream is supposed to taste like, as he says, “the way nature intended it to be.”

 If it’s natural, count me in. Just don’t forget the bourbon and bacon brittle.


(Editor’s Note: Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 4-5 p.m. Saturdays on KNST 790-AM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030-AM.)