Even the names of their creations sound alike. His ice cream flavors: Strawberry, Peppermint Stick, Chai Tea Latte, Black Raspberry. Her soap scents: Strawberries and Cream, Peppermint and Oatmeal, Chai Tea and Black Spice, Chocolate Raspberry. Don’t wash a naughty child’s mouth out with these soaps if you really want to make a point.
I met the two while touring Clarke’s Sunrise Soap Co. and Lebouitz’s Sweet Willows Creamery in York, Pa. If you think that everything’s made in China these days, think again. York is the self-proclaimed factory-tour capital of the world. Spend a weekend in this south central Pennsylvania town, and you can see how Martin’s makes potato chips, how Bluett Brothers builds violins and how Harley-Davidson constructs motorcycles.
This year, five factories and businesses are opening their doors to visitors for the first time. Schedule a tour by appointment at Sunrise, Sweet Willows, the Modern Landfill and Recycling Center, and the York County Resource Recovery, where garbage is turned into “green” power (I tried to get an appointment there, but it was too busy). The Turkey Hill Experience, an ice cream shop, will open later this spring.
At Sunrise in downtown York, Clarke makes her soaps, shampoos, lotions and other bath products with vegetable, coconut, castor and olive oils and shea and cocoa butters. Animal fat and preservatives are forbidden in her kitchen.
I watched her mix a batch of bath fizzies with Epsom salt, citric acid, and vanilla and grapefruit fragrances. It looked like Alka-Seltzer dissolving in a cup. “It’s definitely a scientific process,” she said, looking like a hippie Martha Stewart in her kitchen at the back of the store.
Once the ingredients congealed in a bowl, she scooped out tiny balls and placed them in a box. As she reached the bottom, the mixture started to dry out. There were three possible solutions: either keep scooping and hope the balls wouldn’t crumble, add cocoa butter, or microwave the mixture for about a minute. Clarke chose to nuke it. “I only do it when I get desperate,” she said.
Clarke admits that her experiments sometimes go awry. When that happens, she can either try adding other ingredients or throw the batch away. “I’ve only done that once,” she admitted.
Later that day, I asked Lebouitz whether he, too, has had any duds.
“Tutti frutti, that was a tough one,” he said, cringing.
I was standing in his kitchen, stocked with cocoa and gallons of vanilla extract (real vanilla, he pointed out, not that artificial stuff that other ice cream makers use) and boxes of graham crackers and vanilla wafers.
This wasn’t so much a tour as an apprenticeship. I was helping Lebouitz create a version of coffee ice cream using finely ground Indonesia Sumatra coffee and Indonesian vanilla extract.