An Interview with OddFellows Ice Cream Co.
Store Spotlight: OddFellows Ice Cream Co.
Back when people-packed parties were a thing, Fish Cheeks and OddFellows Ice Cream Co. got together to throw an unforgettable Leap Day party at the Dumbo scoop shop and invited me to pair and pour some of my favorite sakes. I still dream about those curries and the outrageous tom yum soft-serve with swirls of coconut makrut and lemongrass galangal topped with chili rice pearls they made for that night.
Fast-forward to the present and I'm back in the scoop shop, this time assembling The Koji Club kits (filled with some of the sakes from that night!) and eating ice cream for breakfast (seems to be the only thing my gut-wrenching, white-knuckled, entrepreneurial-adrenaline stomach can handle these days).
In between kit deliveries, freezer meltdowns, pint-packing and Zoom happy hours, I caught up with Andy Mullins, Director of Operations and Beverage at OddFellows Ice Cream Co. to talk sweet, savory and what it's like to live out any child's dream job.
All photos by Baltz & Co.
Why ice cream?
I was a fan of this brand of ice cream prior to coming on board. Creativity and integrity are both hugely important to me and it was clear from the product itself just how important those two things are for Partner Owners Mohan Kumar & Chef Sam Mason. When there was an opportunity to join the team in a very dynamic way, similar to my previous Director of Retail role at Nobletree Coffee, I jumped at the chance for more learning opportunities.
who are the partners that own OddFellows have shown both of those in abundance. I was a fan of this brand of ice cream prior to coming on board. When there was an opportunity to join the team in a very dynamic way, similar to my previous Director of Retail role at Nobletree Coffee, I jumped at the chance for more learning opportunities.
I spent six weeks interviewing for this position with Mohan. He was very candid and transparent with me throughout the entire process, more than anyone I have ever worked with. Creativity and integrity was apparent on the very first day. Mistakes were welcome. Fixing them even more so. I knew off the bat, this was a culture I wanted to be a part of.
Scooping is part of the job.
I don’t know many ice cream shops that have a Director of Beverage…wine and ice cream is a pretty odd couple on paper. Besides reinforcing your brand name, how do you see this food + beverage pairing work?
We think of ice cream as culinary… as food. Chef Sam Mason has a deep and profound understanding of taste and texture. As a pastry chef, he has always worked to broaden the palate of what we consider to be dessert. This is why our ice cream is not as sweet as others in the market and why you see more savory flavor and balance. If you have ice cream like that, it becomes easier to pair the wines.
The orthodoxy of wine and dessert is pairing sweet with sweet. We turn that on its head by virtue of the wines and flavors we get to work with.
Champagne + Banana Splits are surprisingly good company.
Your ice cream shops have a pretty awesome natural wine list. What drives the wine list at Oddfellows?
We like to sell grapes that people have heard of made by producers that are making wines in very different ways. This is the same as our ice cream approach… taking something that is approachable and familiar and making it more interesting.
You may not find an oaky mendoza malbec on our menu, but you will find a malbec which will broaden the circle of malbec for the people who love it. We are providing the most natural expression that we can find in a clear and approachable way.
If you don't make a mess, you're not doing it right.
How has your formal wine training (WSET III) influenced your experience with ice cream? With sake?
In a very basic way, the lesson from learning to taste deductively or when you are learning qualitative evaluation is that the underlying technique is always the same. You think more about what you are smelling and tasting all the time. I taste ice cream like I taste wine, very pretentiously. Understanding the range of flavors and aromas that are available from fermented grapes has gone a long way to proving my ability to describe taste for anything.
Understanding and more importantly, being able to describe a broad range of flavors and aromas has equipped me with a common language to talk with Chef Sam and the culinary team. When we are discussing quality control or recipe development and the first draft of a flavor misses the mark, this language allows me to help identify where it missed.
There are quite a few comparisons to be drawn between premium sake and natural wine (minimal intervention, four ingredients, small breweries, etc.) while the process of turning rice into alcohol seems to defy the laws of nature altogether. How would you relate the two?
I think that they are both very versatile and surprising for different reasons.
Because of wine’s ubiquity in our culture, people are quite familiar with wine.
Natural wine expands a wine drinker's palate by introducing them to surprising new grapes and textures and flavors. That's where the fun really begins for me.
Sake, right now, has further to go. It blows my mind what extraordinary flavors you can get from four ingredients. Sake has such a different texture and range of flavors and so both sake and natural wine offer a similar excitement, just from two different perspectives.
Going back to the idea of integrity... anything I really want to drink starts with having an integrity to the place where it is made. Sake is special in the way that it is very close to the place where it is made.
We ask this to every new TKC member: what was your first or best experience with sake?
Best: The OddFellows Leap Day Party in concert with AMD and Fish Cheeks. An opportunity to unexpectedly pair sake with a dessert and a cuisine not normally paired with sake was a blast. Sake, curry, and ice cream weirdly all worked very well together. It’s always fun to pull something off like that in an ice cream shop.
The closest I’ve seen to pairing booze with ice cream is in a Guinness float on St. Patrick's day and, to be honest, it’s always fallen short of the Root Beer GOAT. Is there a fantasy-float combo out there waiting to blow our minds?
Why would you want to mess with perfection?? OddFellows collaborated with Evil Twin to make a rootbeer beer -- it was a sour ale brewed like a rootbeer (Evil Twin). There is a lot of fun to be had with beer floats in particular. Beer brewers are now making pastry stouts and milkshake ales. They can work really well together.
One of my favorite things we have ever done is a milkshake IPA milkshake with Evil Twin The Soup Superior with cherry, vanilla, oat and lactose in an IPA that we paired with a scoop of strawberry jam and a scoop of miso cherry. It was everything… Sweet but tart, salty and savory.
Hops and ice cream is a mostly unexplored frontier of deliciousness.
What is the best thing you drank in July?
Brooklyn Kura Catskills Junmai Daiginjo is astonishingly good and well-integrated. Fresh with substantial body.
Fukucho Namazake is up there too. Shockingly fresh and vibrant.
Château de Béru Amalgamay. A spontaneous co-fermentation in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts of aligote and gamay.