The Ice Cream, It Is Delicious
“It’s still kinda funny I’m doing this considering how not-food-world I am,” says Angevine. “None of us are.”
That’s fairly hard to believe when you taste Little Baby’s ice cream. It’s exceptionally rich and velvety, owing to the 16-percent butterfat content that allows the stuff to be marketed as “super-premium.” The complex flavors are balanced perfectly, whether it’s the delicate, citrusy bergamot getting a nice-but-not-too-potent slap of sriracha, or the way the slightly bitter, anise-like tarragon downshifts the sweetness of the maple syrup/peanut butter union.
“It would be irresponsible not to make something delicious,” Ziga laughs.
Appropriately enough, Little Baby’s makes what’s known throughout the business as “Philadelphia-style ice cream,” referring to the combination of milk, cream, sugar and flavorings. (“French-style” or “custard-style” involves egg yolks.) The company gets its dairy from Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, Pa.—which touts its “happy cows” and low-temperature pasteurization method for tastier product—and uses organic, locally sourced ingredients for flavoring. They also make several nondairy (vegan) flavors using coconut or almond milk as the base, and they’re as rich and robust as their animal-fatted counterparts.
It’s masterfully crafted stuff. But during their early trial-and-error stage last year, Angevine admits, there were a few misfires. Like, say, Champagne-and-Lucky-Charms ice cream.
“It was disgusting,” he says.
“It was way funnier on paper,” Ziga admits.
And then there was Duck Sauce Vanilla. “It tasted awesome, but the duck sauce has a weird consistency so it was kinda like eehhhhaaahhhhhh,” says Ziga. “Something like that, you gotta deconstruct the duck sauce, which is basically preserved apricots and vinegar, so maybe we’ll try that again someday.”
Little Baby’s has 21 flavors in the rotation now, from out-there concoctions like Hawaiian Pizza (which includes candied pancetta and pineapple), Vanilla Molasses Goldenberg’s Original Dark Peanut Chews and Strawberry Pinkpeppercorn to the almost-normal Coco-nut Chai, Bourbon Bourbon Vanilla and Birch Beer Vanilla Bean.
Out on the streets, they’ve seen the same scenario play out thousands of times. “People look at some of the flavors and they’re like, ‘Ewww, that sounds nasty!’ says Angevine. “And then they try it and they’re like, ‘Whoa, this is pretty good’—tellin’ us like we didn’t know.”
Eat Your Heart Out, Andy Warhol
Making weirdly delectable (or, perhaps, delectably weird) ice cream is just part of the fun for Little Baby’s—the endeavor’s as much conceptual art project as dessert option. The tricycles are just the beginning, though it’s worth noting that Angevine and Philly musician Jon Guez spent much time creating the “Music for Ice Cream” trike tunes by tweaking an old-fashioned music box from an old ice cream truck, then feeding it into a generative computer program to twist the melodies into ever-changing sonic shapes.
It’s an example of the guiding principle behind everything Little Baby’s does. “It’s something that kind of appears to be very familiar and recognizable and maybe even nostalgic—like, ‘I know this, I know what that sound means, it means ice cream’—yet it’s just wrong somehow,” Angevine explains.
Likewise, their new World Headquarters—designed with help from artist Jason Hsu of Space 1026—is intended to be a little disorienting. The garish colors, clashing patterns (zigzags are big here) and oblong shapes are inspired by two sources: the Memphis Group—a collective of Italian designers and architects active in the ‘80s whose aesthetic has been described as “a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price”—and Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
And then there’s the disturbing and hilarious Little Baby’s promotional video on YouTube, in which an androgynous being—part human, part living ice cream—sits in a cone with a creepy smile while holding and ogling a cone in which a smaller version of itself sits smiling and ogling a smaller version of itself sitting in a cone, and so on ad infinitum in a recursive loop, while the deep voiceover implores, “If you want to lick something, lick us.” (As seen on PW’s front cover.)
“We love the absurd,” Angevine says. Ziga explains that the trio is heavily influenced by the Situationist, Dada, détournement and culture-jamming art movements of the 20th century that engaged in pranks and spectacles and subverted common experiences as social or political statements, or simply to make life interesting. “I fully well admit that I have problems with the status quo,” says Ziga, “so that’s part of what I bring to any table I’m sitting at.”
And so they’re dreaming up more weird-ness. Guerilla projections around town. A Rube Goldberg-style change dispenser on the World HQ ceiling. (“A completely inefficient system that takes two minutes to give you your change, but how fun is that?”) Even a vending machine that’s actually a “crane game” where you put your dollar in and try to get an ice cream sandwich—“and maybe you won’t get it!” Ziga says, cracking up.
“It disrupts the everyday,” says Angevine, “and that’s what we’re after.”
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PW's Fall Guide 2014