This Family-Owned Dairy Is Secret to the South's Best Restaurants
To say your ingredients come from Cruze's cows is a badge of culinary honor.
Similar to how Benton's bacon is a Tennessee staple, anything remotely related to dairy—whether it's milk, buttermilk or freshly made cheese—is bound to have Cruze Farm attached to it. It's also why you don't have just Knoxville's chefs to thank for fare that would have even big-city food critics swooning—credit is also due to Colleen Cruze, one of the biggest forces behind the city's emergence into the national restaurant spotlight.
"I just wanted to keep what my parents were working so hard for," Cruze explains about her decision to take over the family business. The farm is located just outside of Knoxville and with its two herds of Jersey cows is one of the area's only remaining independent dairies. The milk is as natural as it gets, while the buttermilk holds a hallowed reputation in chefs' circles well beyond Tennessee's borders. As one fan puts it, it's not just the tangy by-product of churning butter but something that's "lemony, with a hint of the effervescence that true fermentation brings."
"We really do take pride in our milk," Cruze continues. "It's not homogenized. The cream actually rises to the top." And while chefs are waxing poetic and turning it into hand-pulled mozzarella, fluffy buttermilk biscuits and fresh ricotta, the rest of Knoxville's residents are standing in line for Cruze Farm's other specialty: ice cream.
Ask Cruze about her transition into making soft-serve and you can feel her smiling over the phone as she lets out the type of satisfied sigh only someone who truly appreciates a well-made cone can let out. What began as a summer pop-up using an old ice cream truck purchased off eBay morphed into a Knoxville institution that draws lines even in the winter.
Don't expect any trendy experiments or unicorn colors. Instead, there's a roster of refreshingly classic ice cream flavors: coffee, chocolate, cookies and cream, and lavender honey. But it's the sweet cream that truly embodies Cruze Farm's ice cream philosophy—"fresh milk and good ingredients," as Cruze puts it. It's a blank canvas that stands on its own, smoother than James Bond and with a taste so pure that even adding a drop of vanilla would ruin it. With any luck, one cone is all you'll need to fall under the Cruze Farm spell the rest of Knoxville is already under.
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