Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Growing up as a kid, it was de rigeur to run after Mom and Dad for spare change once we heard the familiar sound of the ice cream truck coming from down the street. Once it stopped, we'd wait in line anticipating when we could get to the window and order our favorite icy treat whether it be a strawberry cheesecake bar, the creamsicle bar, the fudgesicle, the pushups or the always popular ice cream sandwich. These ice cream trucks are still around, but today, one ice cream truck in particular has upped the ante and goes by the name of Coolhaus.
Coolhaus is the first project by Freya Estreller and Natasha Case under their umbrella organization that they call Farchitecture, which is shorthand for food + architecture. Natasha, who's an architect, came up with this concept of marrying food and architecture while in grad school and finally fully realized it in the form of an ice cream sandwich and edible wrapper at a craft fair while working for Walt Disney Imagineering. Her roommate Freya, who's a real estate broker, soon came on board and after much experimentation, they launched Coolhaus in a 1984 renovated postal truck at the Coachella Festival this year. If you'd like to find out more, please click here to read the LAist interview.
My first experience with Coolhaus happened as a result of one of my Assistant Organizers from my dining group, arranging a private tasting with Coolhaus on a sunny afternoon in July. Our sampling was going to include halves of 6 different ice cream cookie sandwiches. It started with Freya giving us a little background about Coolhaus. She also further explained how the ice cream cookie sandwich was a perfect representation of architecture because it had a floor, a roof and four walls and as such, each of them were named after a well-known architect. After that short talk, we were ready to begin.
The first one up was the Mintimalism, a chocolate cookie with mint chip ice cream. That chocolate cookie was quite rich and almost had a cakey brownie quality to it. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the cookie wasn't so hard to bite into. Unfortunately, the Mintimalisms were prepared ahead of time, which meant they had time to sit in the freezer and harden. Freya did mention that in the future, they might steer clear of preparing ice cream sandwiches too far in advance, noting that they aren't as enjoyable to eat.
Up next was the Frank Behry which was a sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream. It was a nice pairing of sweet and tart and it doesn't hurt that I love sugar cookies, but like the Mintimalism, it was still a little bit too frozen. One suggestion though? Why not take the sugar cookie to the next level and have one ice cream cookie sandwich with snickerdoodles instead? I'd be first in line.
The Richard Meyer Lemon Ginger was third on the rotation and was my favorite of the whole tasting. By this time, Freya and Natasha were putting together the cookie sandwiches to order, which meant the cookies were nice and soft. The spice of the ginger and the tartness of the lemon really did it for me. My palate shies away from the bland so this particular ice cream cookie sandwich is one I'd definitely order again plus it wasn't too sweet.
Next on the agenda was the IM-Peinutbutter which was a double dose of peanut butter in both cookie and ice cream form. When it comes to peanut butter, I've been known to eat a spoonful or two right out of the jar. In this case, it was just too much of an overload for me. I would have preferred one or the other, but not both. I did seem to be the minority of the group since a lot of people were digging it.
Next to last was the Mies Vanilla Rohe, chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream. Simply, this was a classic and like most classics, it didn't fail to please.
To end this prolonged sugar rush that probably lasted the rest of the day, we were treated to the Renzo Apple Piano, which was an oatmeal cookie with an apple pie ice cream. This particular sandwich is usually sold exclusively at Wurstkuche, so this was an unexpected treat. What made this one stand out was that it was wrapped in an edible rice paper with an image printed using food coloring of Bergamot Station, the location of an event they were going to later that night. Again, I think I was in the minority because for me, this sandwich was way to sweet. The oatmeal cookie itself was fine, but the ice cream was a little too much for me. One thing to mention is that all the ice cream is now coming from Milk in Los Angeles.
Overall, Coolhaus did put a smile on my face and the quality of the cookies and the ice cream is definitely not something you'd find on your local music tinkling ice cream truck. Not that I still wouldn't be perfectly happy with a creamsicle or a strawberry cheesecake bar when the mood hit me, but it's nice to see how Coolhaus did such a glamorous makeover on the simple ice cream sandwich and I look forward to seeing what else comes from the melding of food and architecture.
By the way, as mentioned, our samples were ice cream sandwich halves, but look below for a photo of a whole sandwich.