Coffee Chronicles: Intelligentsia Coffee Meets Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

"I'm sure you've never thought of an affogato as street food, but I also never thought I'd be drinking Intelligentsia coffee from a truck."


[Photographs: Allison Hemler]

If you've ever wanted a dish of ice cream for breakfast, now's your chance. Last week, two new Van Leeuwen Ice Cream trucks were released into the wild, with a new addition--coffee roasted by Intelligentsia. This is not typical mobile food vendor coffee--dark, overroasted, brewed hours earlier. This is some of the best out there. Shops like Kaffe 1668, Third Rail, and newcomer Ground Support proudly serve their coffee, and all do it very well. Chicago-based Intelligentsia teamed up with the Van Leeuwen business, trained their employees, installed a Mirage Veloce built by Kees van der Westen in a truck, and miraculously, beautiful triple ristretto shots of Black Cat espresso began flowing.


Mirage Veloce

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The first morning I visited the truck, they parked at the corner of Fifth Avenue on 23rd Street, and clearly people were a little confused. One guy asked for hazelnut coffee, not realizing that the coffee menu was on the left side of the window, the ice cream menu on the right. Another woman asked for tea. I walked up to the window, huge smile in tow, the Veloce shining like a beacon of hope in the same block as chain coffee, fast food restaurants, and Coffee and Donuts custard from Shake Shack. But I digress--my mind always wanders before my first cup.

Espresso meets ice cream, after the jump.


Laura O'Neill of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream serves hungry and caffeine-starved New Yorkers

By now, readers will probably be aware I am a supporter of getting coffee to stay, but not all circumstances make this possible. I'm pretty sure porcelain on wheels won't work. Luckily, a properly pulled Black Cat espresso still tastes great in a paper cup, served by an enthusiastic barista who doesn't take her eyes off the shot glass. The eight ounce Americano ($2.75) is rich, bright, and doesn't need a drop of milk. Though I didn't try any of the Organic Stonyfield Farm milk-based beverages, I did see a twelve ounce latte ($4.00) decorated with a rosetta, a sure sign the Intelligentsia barista on the Veloce knew how to properly steam.

La Maravilla Guatemalan is the brewed coffee option, served in 8 ($1.50) and 12 ($2.00) ounce sizes. Before I left, Laura made me promise next time I visited the truck, I'd try the affogato. Espresso and ice cream? Sign me up.


This weekend, I visited the truck in the late afternoon to try the highly touted affogato ($5.00), their version of the traditional Italian dessert, a scoop of vanilla gelato "drowned in coffee." The Van Leeuwen version is made with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, and a triple shot of espresso in a small compostable dish. If you ask politely, you can try any of the other flavors with the espresso--in the future, I'd like to try both the chocolate and coffee ice cream. (The coffee ice cream isn't made with Intelligentsia but is fair-trade Columbian.)

If you're a first-timer, you'll want to try the classic vanilla version. Within moments, the ice cream melts and sugar, milk, and coffee coalesce to create the freshest espresso ice cream soup you'll ever have. I'm sure you've never thought of an affogato as street food, but I also never thought I'd be drinking Intelligentsia coffee from a truck. If I'm in the vicinity again at 9 a.m., I'm bringing my own mug for the affogato--who says I can't have breakfast and coffee in the same cup?

There's not a definite location yet for the coffee truck, but so far it's been in Flatiron, Union Square, West Village, and SoHo. You can rely on their Twitter feed for the moment until they settle in a regular spot.