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By now, we all know many COVID stories.
The past year has brought immeasurable disruption, heartbreak and hard times, as well as surprising stories of survival, love and hope. In early March, 2020, local chef and caterer Michael Cherney and his wife Sarah got the keys to the building that would become their new, family-run restaurant in Solvang, peasants FEAST.
Then everything changed.
As we all entered lockdown, the Cherneys’ plans—15 years in the making—were no longer valid. They made a decision; their story would be of community and of love. Shifting immediately to a To-Go business model, they opened their doors on April 1, 2020.
Cherney’s menu is a product of many things: a stint at a Michelin-starred restaurant, experiences working farms and producing food, plus years of cooking and eating up and down the Central Coast. During the pandemic, the menu was pared down, and the new dining room transformed into a homeschooling room for their two kids.
12-year old Reina, an aspiring pastry chef with an affinity for ice cream, liked helping in the restaurant (she’s training to open her own cafe someday), but quarantine rules hit hard. No more in-person school, hanging out with friends, and worst of all, no movie theaters. This meant no movie popcorn with M&Ms!
She decided to try making a buttered popcorn ice cream, along with a growing list of other favorites, and offer them on the menu.
Most of Reina’s ice cream flavors come straight from the farm: Peaches & Cream from Buttonwood Farm, Strawberry from Roots Farm, Popcorn kernels from Finley Farms, and Mint from chefs’ home gardens. Plus new and old faves like Carrot & Chamomile and Triple Chocolate Brownie. This is more than ice cream: it’s the dream of a young girl, a dedicated family and countless supporters in the community.
Throughout all of this, the Cherneys have been grateful to help keep the community safe, happy and comforted with food. They couldn’t do that without the extraordinary outpouring of love from the community, and a whole lot of hope.
Popcorn Ice Cream Recipe
To prepare the Popcorn Ice Cream, pop corn in a big stock pot with clarified butter. Heat 2 cups whole milk in a pan to a bare simmer, add 2 cups popcorn, cover and turn it off. Leave it until it’s room temperature, about 1 hour. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
Return popcorn milk to pan, add some butter and heat to medium. In a separate bowl, combine 3 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar; whisk until smooth. Add a cup of warmed popcorn milk to the egg mixture and whisk vigorously. Pour the warmed egg mixture back into the pan with remaining popcorn milk. Heat to 165 degrees, whisking constantly. Strain it again, then refrigerate completely.
Freeze according to ice cream maker directions. Serve with a little fleur de sel (sea salt).