This article first appeared in the July 31, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
QUECHEE — Smooth, luscious and rich, just a few words that describe a delicious frozen treat that has made its way into all of New England and the New York City and Boston areas in just eight years.
Founded in the basement of owner John Donaldson and his wife, Pamela Frantz, Blue Moon Sorbet boasts 10 palatable flavors with ingredients that are fresh and simple. In addition, there are two popular seasonal flavors — apple cider (fall) and cranberry orange (holidays) — that have only added to the product’s popularity in recent years.
“We settled on these flavors and feel we have all the good ones covered,” said Donaldson in a recent interview.
Making up to 1,000 pints a day, Donaldson said the secret behind his company’s success lies in the constituency of its product.
“It’s very simple,” said Donaldson. “The sorbet is made with all natural ingredients including fruit, water and sugar. There is no flavoring, gum or fillers. We start out with high quality, good-tasting fruit because that’s where all the flavor comes from.”
Hailing from such places as India (mangoes), France (pears), Maine (wild blueberry), and Vermont (apple cider), the fruit is global and local and ensures a first-class creation offered for roughly $5 a pint found in a total of about 100 natural food and gourmet stores in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Donaldson still delivers the sorbet himself, although there is a distributor in the New York area.
Familiar to many in the local area, Blue Moon Sorbet can be tasted as blackberry lime, pear ginger, raspberry cassis, lemon zest, mango passion, red raspberry, peach melba, wild blueberry, grapefruit Campari, and strawberry daiquiri.
“For the lemon zest,” said Donaldson, “we actually squeeze the lemons by hand. We don’t use concentrated lemon juice. We start with a case of lemons.”
Indeed, fruit is the dominant taste in these products that emanate a deeper and distinct looking color that matches the intensity of the palate.
“I think I like the flavor the best,” said Donaldson. “It’s a nice light alternative to ice cream which sometimes can be too heavy. And, I’ve always loved fruit. It’s a great and flavorful change.”
With a working formula of less sugar, the highest quality fruits, purees and juices and one other employee in addition to his wife to keep the company afloat effectively, Donaldson continues to enjoy what began as an offshoot of his former role as pastry chef at Woodstock’s Prince and Pauper Restaurant in the 1980s.
“Part of my duties there were to make ice cream sorbets,” said Donaldson. “People really liked them and asked where they could buy them. One thing led to another and Pamela, who was the restaurant’s bartender, and I started the company.”
The couple were employed at the P&P for 10 years before beginning to work part time at home making the fruited treat in 1996.
“We had a friend of a friend who owned The Real Scoop in Brattleboro and who was really helpful in getting us started,” said Donaldson.
Purchasing a small, commercial ice cream freezer called a batch in addition to other equipment like a cold or blast freezer, Donaldson and his wife recruited a friend who made the now well-known design of Blue Moon Sorbet. The couple then began to work on various formulas for the sorbet, eventually converting them to larger batches and finding the raw materials to put them altogether. It ended up taking several months.
“We got all these things together, made a few batches and started selling the sorbet at such local places as Alice’s in Norwich as well as other gourmet grocery stores,” said Donaldson. “Then we spread out to restaurants and specialty food stores which were at first only in the Upper Valley but eventually into northern parts of Vermont.”
Converting a room in their basement to make the sorbet, the couple began by producing three flavors: mango passion, grapefruit Campari and red raspberry.
“Each year, we would add another flavor,” said Donaldson.
Now headquartered in White River Junction, Blue Moon Sorbet retains one employee in addition to Donaldson and his wife — Carol Lycett who, having also been with the company since it began, makes the sorbet along with Frantz and Donaldson.
“It seems to be working,” said Donaldson, “and we’re really enjoying it.”
Blue Moon Sorbet owners John Donaldson and his wife Pamela Frantz are now making 10 different flavors of sorbet.