Meet and Eat: Alex Rein, Founder, Kelvin Natural Slush Co.
Since it seems that summer hasn't released us from it's steamy clutches quite yet, you may still be daydreaming of a cool refreshing treat. Fear not, Serious Eaters, Kelvin Natural Slush Company is here! This recent addition to NYC's food truck fleet stocks grown-up versions of the icy childhood treat and can be found by following @kelvinslush on Twitter. Kelvin's founder, Alex Rein, is a law firm escapee who gave up the desk job to drive the big blue truck and peddle his wares throughout the city. We tasted his treats a few weeks ago, but came back for a chat with the man behind the slushies.
What led you to create sophisticated slushes? I always liked slushes when I was younger, but you get to an age when the typical convenience store slush is just a little too sweet and artificial tasting. On a hot day, there is really nothing more refreshing, so we decided to come up with a slush that is targeted towards a more grown-up crowd.
Why do you think so many lawyers leave the law to start up careers in food? Is there a connection? It may have something to do with the fact that you spend so much time at the office eating take-out that you gain an appreciation for good food when you have it.
What made you decide to go mobile in a truck rather than create a brick and mortar operation? Initially, we thought about opening as a brick and mortar operation, but not having a lot of experience in food service, and not knowing what the reception to the product was going to be, it seemed as though a truck was the safer route to test out the waters. Plus, trucks have become very popular in New York and they give the business a lot of flexibility.
How did you come up with your flavors and how often do they change? The idea was always to allow our slushies to be customized by adding different mix-ins like real fruit purees and fresh chopped mint and basil. Because of that we wanted to have an assortment of "base" slush flavors that work well with a wide variety of mix-ins and with each other.
For this summer our "base" slush flavors are a spicy ginger, an iced tea that is a mix of green and black tea and a tangy citrus. We think these three flavors allow us to have something for everyone. The slush flavors take quite a long time to get right so we probably are not going to offer any new slush flavors until next year. But, we are constantly testing out new mix-ins to offer, some that have been good, some that have been not so good; those, we will be changing fairly regularly.
Rumor has it that many Kelvin enthusiasts are mixing an extra ingredient or two into your slushes to create adult beverages. Any ideal combinations that you suggest? I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor... but I might have heard that a combination of the ginger slush (with maybe a splash of citrus slush), chopped mint, and dark rum, makes a pretty good Dark and Stormy. Also, doing half tea slush, half citrus slush with raspberry puree and adding sweet tea vodka makes a great John Daly, which is just an alcoholic version of an Arnold Palmer.
Have you gotten into any turf wars with other members of the ever-expanding NYC food truck community? I would not call them wars. There is an etiquette to where you can park in relation to another vendor's spot, and we've been trying to be respectful of other vendors who were doing this before us. We really have not run into too many problems, and most of the time any conflict has been resolved civilly. Everyone is just out trying to make a living.
What are your favorite NYC hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? One of my favorite hangouts is Woody McHales on 14th Street—a great place to grab a beer.
Do you have any food or drink guilty pleasures that we might be shocked to learn about? I have to say that I am a big ice cream guy, which is one of the reasons we have a Kelvin slush "float" on the menu, and one of my guilty pleasures is Magic Shell, the chocolate sauce that hardens once it hits something cold. It is even good on slushes, but I think it has to be pretty unnatural to do what it does, so we don't offer it in our truck.
Where can we find your favorite NYC pizza, burger, & late night snack? My favorite pizza place is Little Vincent's on 73rd and 2nd, my favorite burger is from J.G. Melon, and my favorite late night snack is Papaya King.