Big Spoon Creamery is beloved in Birmingham and Homewood. Now the husband-wife team of Geri-Martha and Ryan O’Hara bring their creative, hand-made ice creams to Huntsville.
The creamery’s third location launched with a getting-to-know-you celebration. Located on Jefferson Street North, it is open daily.
“We are thrilled to open our doors to the Huntsville community and provide our guests with the unmatched hospitality experience and high-quality ice cream that are trademarks of Big Spoon Creamery,” Ryan says.
The O’Haras bring a fine-dining sensibility to their frozen treats, sourcing from local growers and changing the lineup monthly to take advantage of seasonal ingredients at their prime.
“From the beginning, our goal has been simple: to make the best possible ice cream for our guests,” says Geri-Martha. “We believe the best way to do that is by handcrafting every product, using the highest quality ingredients. We are proud that our ice creams consist of only the highest quality ingredients and that will continue to be one of our biggest differentiators.”
By way of introduction to its new neighbors in North Alabama, here are seven things to know about Big Spoon Creamery.
1. The owners have a serious fine-dining pedigree
Geri-Martha, the creative force behind the menu, is a career dessert chef whose resume includes the world-class restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City. In 2009, after returning home to Birmingham, she joined the award-winning crew based at Bottega restaurant that made breads and sweets for legendary chef Frank Stitt’s four restaurants.
Ryan and Geri-Martha met at Bottega. He started as a cook in the café and worked his way up through Bottega’s fine-dining kitchen to sous chef at Chez Fonfon.
The idea for Big Spoon was inspired by a new wave of gourmet ice cream shops popping up in other states around that time. The couple figured their home town would support one too. Three months after marrying in April 2014, Ryan and Geri-Martha launched Big Spoon Creamery with $500 in capital and a chest cooler someone had given them.
2. They first sold ice cream from their driveway
It was like a lemonade stand, only sweeter and much cooler. On the Fourth of July in 2014, people lined up down the street as Geri-Martha and Ryan scooped their first batches of Big Spoon from their home driveway. One of their neighbors, a writer for Southern Living Magazine, was moved to churn out an article about the ice cream. That publicity boosted the business like a rocket.
The O’Haras initially split time between their restaurant jobs and Big Spoon, building their business and a following by creating an ice cream “club” and delivering to the “members.” Making the leap to focus solely on the creamery, they operated a Big Spoon cart at Birmingham’s popular Saturday market at Pepper Place, and later a truck. Their first brick-and-mortar store opened 2017 in Birmingham. The Homewood outpost followed in 2019.
3. They make super-premium ice cream…
First of all, everything you eat – the confections, waffle cones, sauces, caramels – is made in-house. In addition to fresh-picked fruit the O’Haras buy from farmers who supply the state’s top restaurants, Geri-Martha and the Big Spoon crew use premium ingredients like Valrhona chocolate.
Geri-Martha formulates unique recipes for each flavor – more than 100 and counting – based on the ingredients and water content. “There are different sugars that help with scoopability and different ingredients that help with sweetness — not getting it too sweet, just sweet enough,” Geri-Martha tells me in a 2022 interview.
It’s not the easiest way to make ice cream, the chef says. Nor is it the most cost-effective. “But it’s the best way. We do it the right way.”
4. … using Alabama-grown products …
Big Spoon’s ice cream flavors change regularly based on what’s growing nearby.
Spring strawberries come from Trent Boyd’s Harvest Farms in Cullman; Petals from the Past and Mountain Orchards in the Jemison are among their other fruit suppliers. Mint for sorbet is from Frank and Pardis Stitt’s Paradise Farms. Their milk source is Blue Ribbon Dairy in Tallassee.
“We have a lot of incredible farmers in Alabama and they take so much pride in what they do,” Geri-Martha says. “That makes our job so much easier. We just highlight the fruits.”
5. … and served fresh, fresh, fresh
Often, fruit delivered one day is churned into ice cream the next. Made daily in small quantities, each batch turns over quickly, usually within days. “We do not have long lead times because we go through the product like crazy, Geri-Martha says. “You can’t get that kind of freshness (elsewhere). It really celebrates the season we’re in.”
6. You never know when inspiration will hit
Ryan and Geri-Martha were taking a spring walk one day when they smelled sweet honeysuckle. Geri-Martha’s aunt had just given them 50 pounds of blackberries from her farm. A new Big Spoon seasonal flavor was born. They hand-picked honeysuckle blossoms and steeped them in milk and cream before folding in a jam they made with the aunt’s blackberries.
“It’s so exquisite,” Geri-Martha says. “It’s reminiscent of childhood. You get all the florals from the honeysuckle, and the blackberries just set it off. It goes really fast. But it is super-fun to make.”
7. Here’s the scoop
Big Spoon’s ice cream menu features scoops, sundaes, and “sammies” – ice cream sandwiched between house-made cookies. All locations are open Sunday-Thursday from noon-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from noon-10 p.m.