Sweet Creams: Eau Claire's Casey’s Creamery makes its own ice cream, popcorn, and fudge
Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |
Step into Casey’s Creamery on Keystone Crossing and the first thing that greets you is the aroma. In this case, it’s the delicious smell of fresh-based caramel apple pies. On a recent afternoon, manager/baker/ice cream maker Ralph Couey – a self-described “mad scientist” in the new eatery’s kitchen – had just baked a batch of pies. Nearby, behind the counter, a tray of s’more sticks – shish kebabs of marshmallow covered in chocolate and sprinkled with crunchy graham crackers – sat cooling.
“ ... ‘What can I do with this?’ I kind of feel like a mad scientist sometimes.” – Casey Couey, Casey’s Creamery
That counter is where customers can buy ice cream made in-house – this is a creamery, remember – available in 18 frequently changing flavors, including Absastinkinglutely Nuts (five kinds of premium nuts with caramel and sea salt) and Triple Berry Cheesecake (with blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries).
Casey’s Creamery, which opened at the end of July, makes its ice cream with Wisconsin- and Minnesota-sourced milk with a higher-than-usual amount of butterfat, which Couey says gives the final product a cleaner finish. In addition to the milk, Couey has been sourcing as many ingredients as he can locally, including all of the fruit (except for pineapples and peaches).
“We want to do local: Work with local people, use local ingredients,” he says.
In addition to ice cream, Casey’s Creamery fills two other niches for customers with a taste for the sweet – and savory – side of life: there’s a case full of homemade fudge (current varieties include peanut butter and chocolate, chewy praline, and oranges and cream) and shelves displaying 30 varieties of homemade popcorn, with flavors ranging from chocolate-covered cherry to dill pickle.
Couey says the shop prides itself on offering an ever-changing array of options. “Sometimes the inspiration comes from standing in front of something in the grocery store or at the market and asking, ‘What can I do with this?’ ” he explains. “I kind of feel like a mad scientist.”
Casey’s is the first commercial tenant on the ground floor of the Grandview Heights Apartment complex on Keystone Crossing, just up the hill from Oakwood Mall. Couey isn’t worried that Coldstone Creamery is just down the road, nor that several other ice cream shops – including Olson’s, Ramone’s, and the Danc’n Bean – have opened in Eau Claire in recent past. Each store has its own specialties, he says, and Casey’s stands out because it offers not only homemade ice cream, but also fudge and popcorn.
Couey has a long history in food-related businesses in the Chippewa Valley: He once owned Connell’s Apple Orchard and later Ralph’s Red Apple Grill (now the Rumor Mill Pub & Eatery), both in Chippewa Falls. At Connell’s, he baked and sold countless apple pies, but the lack of a climate-controlled retail space prevented him from getting into certain kinds of goodies. Now, with Casey’s Creamery – which is named after his four-year-old son – Couey is welcome to experiment to his heart’s content.
Customers can expect the range of foods on sale to continue to expand in the near future with the addition of more homemade baked goods (such as those pies!) as well as regional specialties, including Wisconsin cheeses and meats from Nolecheck’s in Thorp.
While Couey manages the business and makes the ice cream and fudge, Casey’s is owned by three local entrepreneurs: Lindsay Flottmeier (who makes the popcorn and also owns Bubbles BBQ food truck), Troy Meives, and Patrick Hull.
With a frequently changing selection of homemade treats, Couey says Casey’s Creamery is akin to a craft brewery, where new brews are available on each visit. “We really want it to be a different experience when people come back,” Hull agreed.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you definitely will want to come back – again and again.
Casey’s Creamery • 4740 Keystone Crossing, Eau Claire • Fall hours: 2-8pm Monday-Wednesday, 10am-8pm Thursday-Saturday, noon-7pm Sunday • facebook.com/caseyscreamery