Big Gay Ice Cream Truck Talks About...Ice Cream
That familiar evening chill is just one more reminder that the glory days of summer are once again making that slow, but steady, transition into fall. But while the time of year for caramel apples and spiced pumpkin lattes will soon be upon us, that doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on all of your favorite treats just yet -- at least according to the boys behind New York City’s Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.
Owned by Doug Quint and his partner, Bryan Petroff, the truck quickly garnered accolades from countless publications after it began rolling the streets in June 2009. With a menu that combines traditional soft-serve flavors with extraordinary (if occasionally eyebrow-raising) toppings such as wasabi pea dust, sea salt and olive oil, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck has truly become a downtown confectionery legend in just two years.
Now Quint and Petroff are taking things to the next level with the opening of the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, which opened in the East Village over Labor Day Weekend. Items like the "Salty Pimp" (a mix of vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt and chocolate dip) and the "Bea Arthur" (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche and crushed Nilla wafers) are just two of the ultra-fabulous treats found on the new menu.
EDGE caught up with Quint and Petroff at this year’s Newport Wine Festival in Newport, R.I. where the event newcomers were providing do-it-yourself demonstrations on their mouth-watering creations. The boys offered plenty of insight into the business of ice cream -- and why fall, rather than summer, may be the perfect time for a cone.
What brings you to the Newport Wine Festival this year?
Doug: It never really occurred to us to do demos before, but it made a lot of sense, actually, because a lot of what we do translates great to stuff you can do at home, and we saw some opportunities to show people how to get clever with ice cream.
Why do you think that people usually aren’t very clever with their ice cream?
Doug: I think that a lot of ice cream that you buy in the store is already done. It’s so already packed with candy or flavors or whatever, there’s not much you can do with it. Even just to add hot fudge to some of those flavors you get, that would already be too much. Most of the ice cream you have in your freezer is too densely flavored for you to do anything with other than just sit on a couch and shovel it in.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
Doug: Not that there’s anything wrong with that, except it’s not an ideal dining experience-- it’s more like shooting up (laughs).
Brian: It also takes away your own creativity, you’re going out and looking for something that other people already make. We like to show you there are things that are beyond the ice cream aisle.
What misconceptions do people have when it comes to eating ice cream?
Doug: There’s so much stuff you can buy in any grocery store that would make a great ice cream topping or mixes, you just don’t think of it....you haven’t been told that vinegar and ice cream go well together before. Balsamic vinegar and salt, fold it into some vanilla ice cream (smacks lips).
You mention the use of savory ingredients in your ice cream. I think a lot of people might be fearful of even trying something like that. How do you calm that fear?
Brian: You start by making small batches and not using that much of something. Experiment with it and if you don’t like it, you can throw it away.
Doug: At the ice cream truck, people come up and they’re dubious. I always say, "Let me make it for you. If you don’t like it, I will make you a sprinkle cone." But they never change their minds. Vinegars and olive oil are two real staples that work great on ice cream. People are usually sold after the first bite; they smile, walk off and don’t talk about it because they’re too busy eating.
Going into fall and winter, what can people try when it comes to their ice cream?
Brian: Take advantage of the seasons -- as we get into fall, think about things like caramelizing pumpkins and squash, sweet and salty combinations...simple things that up it a notch. Chocolate is a great base flavor when it comes to the more savory flavors and spices, especially...putting in some cayenne. Rum raisin ice cream with mulled cider.
Doug: Always be watching for the seasonal fruits and vegetables -- and yes, I did say vegetables. A lot of root vegetables, after they’re baked, can be really good with ice cream. Even just baked apples and ice cream...it’s so simple, so old-fashioned. Brown sugar and apples...you can also do mulled cider or hot chocolate with ice cream.
What was the concept behind the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck originally?
Doug: I wanted to do a weird summer job, and the idea of having an ice cream truck was presented to me. It also involved working on the street, which was really an appealing thing. We live in New York, we never really had jobs where we were interacting on the street. It was a little intimidating, and I wanted to bite the bullet and do it. So we had the opportunity to have an ice cream truck, but all of the ice cream trucks had exactly the same menu...the two things were: revamp the menu and to be incredibly nice to everyone. Mix up traditional stuff just a little bit and have great customer service.
How should ice cream be served?
Doug: We really think that any ice cream should be served by someone who’s very happy, and you should be smiling when you eat it. That doesn’t matter if it’s a soft-serve cone from a roadside joint or a high-end sundae from an artisanal shop.
Brian: It shouldn’t be precious, it should be just goofy and happy.
What’s the concept behind the new shop?
Brian: It’s getting rid of the limitations of the truck. You can’t cook on an ice cream truck. We have a full kitchen now, a home base...it allows us to look into our own flavors of soft serve, bringing in a lot of different toppings, ice cream sandwiches, more composed sundaes. We have this idea of an ice cream, frozen treat emporium. We won’t just have our stuff, but also other vendors and having options.
Doug: We like the idea of having a staff, not only because it was a lot of work, but also because we like personalities and being around people. Brian’s been building a great little team, and we’re just dying to start working.
What’s your favorite way to eat ice cream?
Brian: Sitting on a picnic table.
Doug: My favorite, still, is vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkles standing by a cow field in Pittsfield, Maine.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
125 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10009