Meeting our makers: Caroline’s Dairy
If there’s one thing that we’re always complimented on here at Billy’s On the Road (besides our breakfasts), it’s the delicious ice cream we serve for dessert. And even before Billy opened the diner in 2013, she knew exactly where her ice cream was going to come from: Caroline’s Dairy.
Made at Chalder Farm near Chichester, the award-winning Caroline’s Dairy ice cream was one of the first products Billy chose for her as-yet-unnamed diner back in 2012. Meeting Caroline Spiby and the team (and tasting all the delicious flavours!) sealed the deal, and it’s this same ice cream that we still serve with our home-made desserts and sundaes today.
Chalder Farm has been in the Spiby family since 1974, when Caroline’s parents-in-law moved from Kent to take the farm on a lease from the Church. Having always been dairy farmers, Caroline and her husband Chris had notions of making ice cream since 2000, but its development was put on hold by the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001 and then by the arrival of Caroline’s two sons. But in 2008, when the supermarket price wars were making it impossible for dairy farmers to get a good price for their milk, the time was ripe for a new venture and Caroline’s Dairy was born.
Ever since, Caroline’s guiding principle has been to create ice creams that live up to the quality of the milk her carefully nurtured herd produces. That belief is celebrated in the award-winning Double Dairy ice cream, the simple but heavenly pairing of rich milk and cream, and also extends to other flavours where only the very best ingredients are added. The juiciest locally-grown fruits go into the strawberry and raspberry ice creams, and the finest Madagascan pods flavour your scoop of vanilla.
As you might expect, Caroline’s favourite part of her job is creating and tasting new combinations, and she’s always looking out for new ideas. She first started adding honey to her ice cream when she found herself pitched opposite a local honey stall at the Chichester farmers’ market, and is often approached by chefs with fresh ideas. They’re not always successful – she recalls an elderflower and vermouth sorbet that just didn’t work – but a new passion fruit sorbet is available this summer that Caroline can’t wait to share.
Other favourites include the toffee and honeycomb and the salted caramel flavours, both of which have won well-deserved gold medals at the National Ice Cream Competition in recent years. This summer’s special take-home flavours include the likes of rhubarb, lime cheesecake and amarena cherry.
One of the more unusual combinations is the stem ginger, lime and chilli ice cream that Caroline’s Dairy produces every year for the Chilli Fiesta at West Dean Gardens in August. Caroline laughs when she remembers trying a chilli and chocolate ice cream recipe that was rather too hot to handle – after all, at a chilli event you need ice cream to cool down your tastebuds!
West Dean Gardens is one of Caroline’s favourite places to go when she has some time off, along with family dog walks on Selsey Beach. But in the summer she’s so busy making ice cream that she doesn’t always have much of a chance to catch up with friends, and says she’d love to get them all together at Billy’s On The Road. And what would she be ordering? The butterflied marinated chicken breast with avocado, she says, followed by Billy’s famous pancakes with cherries and – of course – a scoop of Caroline’s Dairy ice cream.