CULVER CITY, Calif. September, 2012—Ice cream sandwiches are an expression of Natasha Case’s architectural aspirations. The Southern California based Coolhaus www.eatcoolhaus.com food truck she owns with partner Freya Estreller is a tribute to the ice cream trucks that roam neighborhoods with their familiar jingles. Coolhaus is based on “starachitect” Rem Koolhaas and Bauhaus, German stylists of functional, modernist design. “Our sandwiches look like tiny, cold houses—cookie roof and floor with ice cream walls,” says Case who earned a master’s degree in architecture from UCLA.
The truck is decorated with photos of architects such as Frank Gehry and his signature Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Koolhaas with his Seattle Public Library.
Their vanilla ice cream + chocolate chip cookie sandwich is named Mies Vanilla Rohe for German designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, while strawberry ice cream + snickerdoodle cookie is the Frank Berry in tribute to architect Frank Gehry. They also sell Blue Bottle coffee, marshmallows and ice cream cookie cakes.
Starting in 2009 with converted postal truck found on Craigslist, the successful duo now own five trucks one each in Los Angeles, Austin, Miami, New York City, plus a storefront in Culver City.
Recently the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, famous for ice age fossils and ongoing excavations, commissioned Coolhaus to create an ice cream sandwich for their new saber-toothed-cat puppet. The flavor? Snickerdoodle ice cream between red velvet cookies.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES?
Ice cream has such a broad appeal, and ice cream sandwiches in particular are relatively uncharted in the bigger picture of ice cream and frozen desserts. Also, our product is delicious when the flavors are classic and simple, but also a great canvas for experimentation.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START A FOOD TRUCK?
It was really the only option that we could afford—plus it’s a great way to market test your product: you can go to your audience and bring it to events. People also love the adventure of chasing down the truck, and the pairing with technology, particularly Twitter, makes for a phenomenal marketing platform.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
I kind of start my day by waking up to work—I mean, it’s always on my mind. I live and breathe Coolhaus! So, I probably work about 10 hours a day. But honestly, I barely even notice it, as it has just become a part of who I am.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT CONTACT WITH THE PUBLIC?
I love serving people my product and seeing their joyous, satisfied reaction! I also love it when people know our brand and our story. It’s such an honor!
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT RUNNING A FOOD TRUCK? THE WORST THING?
The dynamic of the day to day—no day is the same! That’s also the worst part though. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to predict things better!
ARE ANY LOCATIONS BETTER FOR YOU THAN OTHERS?
NYC is the top sales during the summer, but the seasonal change is more drastic than LA. LA is the most steady and consistent.
HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH NEW COOKIE OR ICE CREAM FLAVORS?
We sometimes get inspired by savory dishes we are eating, or client’s request custom flavors, and we also try and keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry and what intrigues our audience/customers.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE CANDIED BACON, CUBAN CIGAR, OR FRIED CHICKEN AND WAFFLES ICE CREAM?
The inspiration was creating a sweet-meets-savory flavor profile and using unique ingredients that surprise people and draw them to our locations with curiosity. When we came out with the Candied Bacon ice cream, bacon desserts still seemed fairly unusual. Now it’s becoming more and more accepted; so we’re always looking for new ways to push the envelope, like with the Fried Chicken & Waffles. I’ve seen a lot of re-invented concepts for fried chicken on menus and they often involve sweet components. By using fried chicken in our ice cream, I’m predicting we see this profile and ingredient more on dessert menus, and we like being pioneers in developing trends.
For the Cuban Cigar ice cream we were also looking to create a flavor specifically for the Miami audience. Since Miami was our fourth city, we wanted to be sure it also felt special for the local population and that they could have an item on the menu that nobody other market could. Also, the Cuban Cigar ice cream is special because it is almost more than a flavor—it’s sensual experience. We used special ingredients to connote smoke and hickory, coffee and caramel notes. Translating smells into taste was an interesting challenge, but I strongly believe we succeeded in doing it, and that the Cuban Cigar ice cream will become a city-wide trend!
WHAT IS A NEW FLAVOR OF ICE CREAM YOU HAVE COMING UP SOON?
Peking Duck hasn’t hit the menu yet. We are also working on a re-interpretation of Cherry Garcia that will be a playful and Coolhaus-ified take on the best-selling flavor.
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