Bethlehem’s (not so) Super Secret Ice Cream owner named 2024 James Beard semifinalist

Kristina Zontini, the owner of Super Secret Ice Cream in Bethlehem, is a James Beard award semifinalist. Photo courtesy of Kristina Zontini.

By Katy Savage

January 30, 2024

For a long time, Kristina Zontini couldn’t decide what she wanted to do for a living. 

She taught gardening, worked in public radio and nonprofits and was most recently the marketing director of the Littleton Food Co-op. In 2019 she was tired of sitting behind a desk, so she returned to a childhood passion—ice cream. 

At first, Zontini taught herself how to make ice cream in her small kitchen and shared it with family and friends. 

“I didn’t really want to tell people what I was doing quite yet,” she said. “I never had this huge dream to have an ice cream shop. It was just fun and I kept going with it.”

Zontini converted a ski tuning shed in her backyard into an ice cream pick-up stand. She kept it a secret and dubbed her business in Bethlehem the “Super Secret Ice Cream Club.” 

But, the secret soon got out. 

Her locally sourced ice cream, with fresh ingredients and unique flavors like blueberry chip, wild chamomile honeycomb, and rhubarb almond crisp, are a hit with locals. Zontini’s success from her passion has taken her by surprise. 

In June 2020, she bought a commercial ice cream machine and a push cart and began selling her ice cream at the Littleton Farmers Market.  

Now, she’s been named a semifinalist for the coveted James Beard award in the “outstanding pastry chef or baker” category.  

When she got the email in January,“I thought it was a phishing attempt,” Zontini says. “I thought it was a scam email. I don’t consider myself in that realm of possibility.” 

Zontoni is a one of three finalists for the James Beard award in New Hampshire, along with Lee Frank who is up for “best chef of the northeast” with Otis Restaurant in Exeter and chef Chris Viaud, who is up for “outstanding restaurateur” for his two restaurants, Greenleaf and Ansanm in Milford. The winners will be announced April 3. Until then, we asked Zontini to share some of her secrets. 

Granite Post: What inspired you to start an ice cream shop?

Kristina Zontini: I have always loved the act of going out for ice cream and I looked back fondly at my first job as an ice cream scooper. I never thought I would want to own a shop, but when a spot became available in downtown Bethlehem, we had to take the opportunity. Every small town needs a good ice cream shop! 

GP: Can you share the story behind your most popular ice cream flavor? 

KZ: Oh man! That’s a tough question. We rotate our flavors based on when we can get local produce. Our Mount Cabot Maple is one the all-time favorites and it really tells the story of a super secret. We have a partnership with Mount Cabot Maple and we use their maple by sugar that isn’t fine enough for meeting their maple sugar standards we take and use in our ice cream. Since we make our own base, we’re able to actually replace a big chunk, around 75% of our organic cane sugar, with their maple sugar. The end result is really special, we keep it simple but will sometimes add a salty, buttered nut or bacon to it! You’ll find their syrups for sale in our store as well!  

GP: Do you have any unique or unusual ice cream flavors that customers love?

KZ:  Yes! And we’re always changing it up, tweaking old favorites. We’re just really starting to get into a groove. Our sweetberry honeysuckle is pretty special! We use honeyberries from Great Northern Berries in North Sandwich. It’s a berry you can’t really find anywhere and our team makes it into a buttermake base, kind of like a sherbet. It’s tangy and vibrant and has swirls of honeyberry ripple throughout it. 

GP: How do you come up with new flavors?

KZ: We love customer requests and try to create flavors that match what they’re looking for, but we also like flavors that take us outside our comfort zone. We rely heavily on our local producers for inspiration, including Mount Cabot Maple, Tellman Hill Farm, Meadstown Farm, Bent Fork Farm, and Joe’s Brook Farm. We’re also inspired by desserts we love and spices we love (cardamom is my favorite, I’ll put it in anything). We’re part of a big community online of ice cream makers, we cheer each other on and share recipes. Lots of inspiration comes from them as well.  

 GP: Are there any seasonal or limited-time flavors that customers should look out for?

KZ: In the winter we do a dedicated “test kitchen” flavor where the team is constantly experimenting with new ideas! In the summer, our berry flavors are a big hit, including blueberry gooey butter cake, strawberry jam jam. Coming up in March, we’re excited about working with carrots from Meadowstone Farm in Bethlehem. We loved making carrot cake ice cream last year! 

GP: What’s your personal favorite ice cream flavor and why?

KZ:  It’s probably a toss up between blueberry chip and rhubarb almond crisp. Blueberry chip is  made with blueberries we pick ourselves at a small farm in Vermont. I get together with my friend and pasta maker Jen from Trenchers Farmhouse after a long day of work and we chat about flavors, our work week, and pick 100-plus pounds of berries. Now that we’re a little bigger, we can berries from Great Northern Berries in North Sandwich, but we’re excited to still visit our Vermont farm for u-pick.

Rhubarb almond crisp is an unexpected knock-out and we get as much rhubarb as we can from our local farm partners. Then when they run out, we start asking our community to bring in their garden rhubarb! It’s lots of fun seeing folks walk into the shop with big bags of rhubarb. 

GP: How do you source your ingredients to ensure the best quality? 

KZ: We start with local milk and cream from Hatchland Farm in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, milk powder from Vermont, and organic sugar and then we focus on whatever else we can get locally. Whatever we can’t get here, we try to see where we can get it that makes us feel good. Our vanilla beans are whole beans from a family-run farm in Hawaii (Laie Vanilla Company), and our chocolate is single-origin from Ecuador, called Mashpi Chocolate.  

CP: Do you have any special events or promotions at the shop that customers should know about? 

KZ: We’re gearing up for Valentine’s Day. We’ll have mini ice cream cakes! Our most exciting event is when we celebrate Ice Cream for Breakfast Day at Super Secret on March 2. Don’t forget to wear your PJs! 

 

Read more: 

Satisfy your sweet tooth anytime at NH’s top year-round ice cream stands

Author

  • Katy Savage

    Katy Savage is an award-winning reporter with more than 10 years of experience working in daily, weekly and digital news organizations as both an editor and reporter. Based in Enfield, Katy is a New England native and has a passion for telling stories about where she grew up. In her free time, she enjoys running and being outside as much as possible.

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