How much creativity can you fit into a scoop of ice cream?
At Nancy’s of Woodstock Artisanal Creamery, high-quality ingredients elevate the tasty treat from a summertime cool-down to pure decadence. Owner Kathryn Spata, who debuted the ice cream shop back in 2017, found the perfect base for her creations with Hudson Valley produce and dairy. Her heavy cream comes from Ronnybrook Farms in Pine Plains, and every chocolate-flavored ice cream is made from a special blend of Fruition Chocolate.
“That’s what makes it so good,” Spata says. “I’ve had people tell me to open up an ice cream shop in Arizona, that it’d do well there. And I’m like ‘I can’t get Hudson Valley ingredients in Arizona.'”
Spata serves up unconventional flavors of ice cream from classic varieties to vegan twists. One of Nancy’s specialties is a combination of deep, dark chocolate ice cream and brown-sugar rum-spiked banana, making for a rich and decadent dessert. Other fan favorites include a tart sour cream cherry, a vegan coffee coconut cream, an earthy cream cheese carrot cake, and the one-of-a-kind chocolate whipped cream — like putting a big dollop of mousse on top of your sundae of choice.
While many know baking to be a science, Spata certainly views it as an art as well. “It’s the most creative job I’ve ever had.”
Many of her travels abroad inspired the unique flavor profiles and combinations in her desserts. Her husband Sam worked for an architecture firm for many years and was transferred to the London office when it needed help. Of course, Spata went along for the ride.
The pair traveled throughout Europe while they lived in England’s capital. They reached Paris, Rome, Munich, Cannes, and even Doha and Shanghai. Perhaps no experience was more influential on Spata’s eventual vision for Nancy’s than Naples — in more ways than just inspiring her sweet honey-fig ice cream or the staple affogato, a combination of hot espresso and cold ice cream.
One year, Spata and her husband stayed in the classic southern Italian port city during the Christmas holiday. During that time, she made it her mission to get an authentic experience by going where the locals go and eating where the locals eat. Good advice from a hotel concierge brought her to a tiny waterfront restaurant.
A busy night meant an early dinner — at least, by Italian standards. At around 6:30 p.m. the Spatas were seated in the corner of a quiet dining room. Shortly thereafter, a teenage boy entered the restaurant and started strumming a guitar. All of a sudden, a deep voice began bellowing the verses of a song. Spata quickly realized the voice wasn’t coming from a musician, but from the same waitress that sat them down. The few couples seated at tables around them started to join in, and soon enough everyone was singing. She was enamored.
“There was this small-town charm in a big country famous for tourists, where the locals really want you to succeed. They love you, and you love them,” Spata recalls. This was the essence she wanted to capture with her business.
Both she and her husband worked in New York City before moving to Ulster County — Sam as an architect, and Spata as an interior designer. When they settled in Woodstock, it became clear that this Hudson Valley community had something special.
Spata has incredible conversations with everyone who walks into Nancy’s and develops lasting relationships. Earlier in November 2020, Nancy’s relocated to Bearsville, a small hamlet of Woodstock. While working an event at the Woodstock Playhouse, she bumped into a chef of the former Bear Cafe, who encouraged the move. Soon enough, the new owner of the Peterson House walked into Spata’s shop and invited her to come there.
Nancy’s new home allows Spata to do something she’s wanted to do for a long time: sell ice cream year-round. A walk-in freezer also permits Nancy’s to produce enough of the sweet treat to sell wholesale. With the addition of a large hood, Spata makes fresh donuts and even deep fries ice cream. Using their combined design knowledge, she and her husband were drawn to the fishbowl-like interior with a soothing northern exposure — meaning they have soft natural light all day long.
With two restaurants next-door and the historic Bearsville Theater behind them, Nancy’s welcomes a continuous flow of visitors into the sweet tooth paradise. To add to the experience, Spata teamed up with Woodstock’s indie bookstore the Golden Notebook to host book signings, poetry readings, and more.
Yet the question remains: If Spata is the artist behind the sweets, then who is Nancy?
“I’ve always had a passion for baking. Watching my mother — Nancy — in the kitchen, she was always a great baker and a great cook,” Spata remembers. “Most of the recipes were in her head, she had been baking for so long. She made these incredible pineapple squares that I am determined to replicate.”
Many of the sensibilities she picked up at an early age from her mother persist to this day, like using exclusively New York Cortland apples for apple pies. Everything is made in-house at Nancy’s, from the hot fudge to the waffle cones to the crazy sundae toppings. Freshly baked key lime tarts are the perfect bed for a blanket layer of the sour cream cherry ice cream. French-style crepes become a feuilletine crunch, the perfect add-on to sweet cream ice cream. Panettone, cinnamon buns, gluten-free cookies, and more add to the rotation of daily baked specials, all available with a side of coffee or hot chocolate.
Spata bakes with her mother’s spirit, and the passion for art that she and her husband both share. Always looking for new combinations to try and ways to create something beautiful in the kitchen, Spata makes Woodstock a little sweeter, all year-round.
297 Tinker Street, Woodstock, New York
at The Peterson House