Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar had a shared passion for food, combined it with a dash of social justice and some business skills, and took to the streets of New York to peddle ice cream. But you won't find typical ice cream flavors or toppings at the Guerrilla Ice Cream cart. (Or in Ethan's ice cream recipes, here on Serious Eats.) They were nominated for a dessert award at Saturday's Vendy Awards—but even if they didn't walk away victorious, their nomination was quite an honor.
Name: Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar
Occupation: Founders, Guerrilla Ice Cream
Status: Teaching classes and hosting special events during the colder months. Follow them on Twitter at @GuerrillaIC for updates.
How did Guerrilla Ice Cream come to be? We've been friends for a while due to common interests like food and... well mostly food. After Ethan spent a few months working at Allen & Delancey and Tabla, we decided to get together and combine Ethan's love of making ice cream and degree in conflict studies with Ori's business background. We started producing ice cream in our spare time and creating Guerrilla Ice Cream—an ice cream cart with bold, unique ice cream flavors paired with specially designed toppings and a dedication to social justice.
You've got some very nontraditional flavors and topping combinations, as well as names inspired by various political movements. What's the evolution from idea to ice cream dish? All of our flavors and toppings are inspired by political movements and cuisines from around the world. When we're coming up with a new flavor, it's very important to us that all the components work together as a single unit, both to create interesting flavors and textures, and to fit the profile of the cuisine, in as many ways as possible. Sometimes the idea for a flavor starts with an issue or area we want to highlight (like Chalas, Israel-Palestine ice cream—Olive Oil and Honey Ice Cream topped with Pistachios and Candied Lemon Peel) and other times, it starts with an idea for a flavor that we find an political movement to match (like Istiqlal, our Lebanese-inspired Yoghurt Sorbet topped with Shaved Halvah and Pomegranate Molasses).
Who/what are your culinary inspirations? Our travels around the world (between us we've been to about 50 countries) are our greatest source of inspiration. We take disparate elements of dishes that we loved in each place, and look for ways to capture themes from the cuisine in a single ice cream flavor.
What has been your most popular flavor this summer? The Libertação, our Guinea Bissau-inspired 72% Chocolate and Port Wine ice cream, topped with cashews and brûléed frozen bananas. Of our specials, which rotated weekly, our most popular flavors were probably L'Humanité, our French-inspired Raspberry, Hibiscus, Lavender and Rose Sorbet, and Mariposas, our Dominican-inspired Guava and Sweet Cheese Swirl Ice Cream.
In addition to sweeter flavors of ice cream, you have also created some memorable savory ice cream flavors, including a duck ice cream to commemorate your final weekend at the Hester Street Fair. What makes for a successful savory ice cream flavor? Although we do use many traditionally savory ingredients (like roast duck) in our ice creams, none of the flavors has been totally savory (yet!) The key to balancing savory and sweet ingredients in an ice cream is to find the common ground between the two, and highlight it, so that the flavors come together easily and naturally and don't feel forced.
You have chosen to donate 100% of your profits to marginalized populations, both locally and globally. What made you decide to do this and what kinds of donations have you made so far? From the beginning, we knew we wanted to run socially responsible business in a bold way. We make sure to cover our costs, and to operate in an environmentally conscious manner, and donate the rest. We've been floored by the positive reception we've recieved; by the end of our first summer, we will have donated close to $4,000 to charity. We've donated to a few non-profits that we truly believe in, including ones that support street vendors in New York and provide relief to those impacted by the flooding in Pakistan.
Are you considering opening a storefront at any point? It's too early to tell about a storefront, but we will keep our fans posted.
What's next on your agenda? As the weather drops, we've wrapped up sales at outdoor markets and will continue hosting our ice cream making classes and will pop up for certain special events. We're also going to take some time to think long and hard about how to come back bigger and better next summer. (That will probably involve finding more uses for our butane torch on the cart.)
What are your favorite NYC hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? One of our favorite places is a tiny hand-pulled noodle shop, on East Broadway between Essex and Allen Streets. They pull the noodles to order for each bowl of soup, and everything they make is delicious. We're also big fans of Destination Bar, on 13th Street and Avenue A.
What's your favorite hidden gem in NYC? We love grabbing a bite at the Zaragoza Mexican Deli/Grocery on Avenue A between 13th and 14th Streets. It's small, delicious, inexpensive, low-key and the people who work there are very friendly.