Five years ago, OnMilwaukee.com pitted Kopp's custard against Leon's custard in a "Milwaukee Challenge" and all of the editors picked Kopp's as the better frozen treat. This week, the OnMilwaukee.com editors sampled two more vanilla custards, this time from Northpoint Custard, 2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., and Gilles Frozen Custard, 7515 W. Bluemound Rd.
Although the editors had no problem choking down both brands of custard, four of them preferred Gilles and two chose Northpoint.
Both of the custards are made with a mix, and then flavors are added later.
Gilles Custard opened in 1938 and Northpoint is a newcomer, opening just last summer. But because Northpoint has quickly become a Milwaukee favorite among custard lovers, OnMilwaukee.com decided to pit the oldest and the newest custard stands against each other.
Frankly, I didn't find much flavor in the Northpoint custard. I couldn't smell or taste the vanilla, and it had a distinct flatness, not the richness I've come to expect in a Milwaukee frozen custard. Gilles was everything Northpoint wasn't: richer, rounder and creamier. And it had a definite vanilla flavor. As far as I'm concerned, this wasn't much of a competition.
Can these challenges get more difficult? I mean, custard is generally pretty awesome in any form. Either one of these vendors' custard would be spectacular as a treat on a warm summer night. I preferred Gilles, in part because the texture seemed creamier, the flavor was a bit egg-ier and it was closer to fitting my own classic definition of what custard is / should be. Northpoint's entry was almost ice cream-like, but -- let's face it -- not many people buy pints/quarts to go. I usually consume it right on the spot. I think Northpoint's entry, if consumed on a warm day next to Bradford Beach, would be creamy and delicious. I thought Gilles was sweeter, creamier and popped with a little more vanilla flavor. When push comes to shove, Gilles is closer to my house.
I liked both of the custards a lot, but I was slightly more smitten with Gilles. I found it to have a more natural flavor, even though, to me, it wasn't as vanilla-y as the Northpoint custard. I also loved the creamy texture of the Gilles. The Northpoint was less creamy, giving it more of a regular ice cream taste. I enjoyed both, however, and, truth be told, would still probably go to Leon's Custard given the choice.
Northpoint's vanilla custard is mild and smooth with a slight yellow hue and more vanilla flavor. Gilles is whiter and creamier and sweeter. I give Gilles the edge in texture -- which is more like traditional custard -- but I give Northpoint the edge in flavor.
And while I wish there was a winner with both best texture and best flavor, I go flavor over texture in this case, especially since we tasted these after the competitors had been in a home freezer overnight and, to me, that adds a variable that makes a win based on texture too risky.
I love the Milwaukee Challenges in which both choices are so great that you couldn't possibly go wrong. This was one of them. After being a life-long chocolate custard connoisseur, lately, I've taken a shine to vanilla, so I was excited to delve into the subtle differences between these two selections.
I found the Northpoint custard to be less sweet, more buttery and bursting with vanilla flavor. The Gilles custard was creamier, sweeter, whiter, eggier and more sugary. I certainly liked Gilles' texture more, and indeed, it tasted more like traditional custard. Northpoint's, though, had a more sublime and refined flavored, and is probably a bit less melty. Don't get me wrong, both are just delicious -- but I picked Northpoint by the slimmest of margins.
I'm going to be honest here and admit my quasi-bias: I grew up three blocks from Gilles, ate a pint a day during my senior year in high school and even worked there for about four days, so I figured I'd pretty easily differentiate between the two offerings. The first sample came from Northpoint, and was slightly dull; you could taste the sugar and vanilla flavor, but it lacked the creaminess that I'm used to in custard. Offering No. 2, hit the spot. Smooth and creamy texture, a milky taste with just the hint of vanilla. This one was a no-brainer, Gilles wins my vote, hands-down.