Not everyone gets cravings for ice cream sandwiches in the middle of winter, but Julian Plyter & Kareem Hamady certainly have the power to tempt you, despite the chilly temperatures. The duo behind Melt Bakery churns out over thirty varieties of ice cream sandwiches, using high-quality ingredients and creative flavor combinations. Even better? They deliver!
Why did you decide to focus on ice cream sandwiches? Our original plan was a full service bakery—but as we progressed, we ultimately decided it would be best to focus on the one product idea we loved most. Ice cream sandwiches are a familiar concept, but we felt there was a lot we could do to improve upon what's currently available. Quality ingredients and unique flavor combinations have been the key to our success so far, and we've got big plans in the works!
How do you come up with new ideas for flavors? It's mostly been combinations we love—bourbon and peaches, chocolate and mint, beer and peanuts—along with a number of great fan suggestions. As of today, we have 32 flavors and there is a never-ending list of new flavors we love and have yet to explore!
What do you think is your most unique flavor combination? Do each of you have a favorite? Our most unique flavor combination is probably the Thai Fighter—Curried Coconut Cookies with Chocolate Chili Ice Cream. The flavor arc, the way the flavors each become evident in progression, is truly great in that sandwich. We try not to play favorites, but you can find me (Julian) munching on a Morticia just about any day of the week, unless Thick Mint catches my attention first. As for Kareem... well, he likes the Kareem a lot but probably eats more Cinnamax and Classic sandwiches.
Any disastrous experiments that didn't make the cut? Fortunately, we haven't had any true disasters. The greatest potential for disaster is yet to come! Having said that, a couple of sandwiches that we workshopped for special occasions are: (i) Waffle Cookies with Salt Water Taffy Ice Cream and (ii) Espresso Cookies with Redbull Ice Cream.
What are the challenges in delivering ice cream sandwiches across the city? Keeping things frozen is always a concern, and dry ice is very expensive. Since we're delivering by MTA and occasionally taxi, lugging coolers around is a big part of the challenge. We get some interesting looks wheeling around two or three coolers at a time in the middle of winter!
Do you notice a shift in business as the seasons change? Surprisingly, we have been growing pretty consistently since we started back in June 2010. We were very worried when The Hester Street Fair, our only retail outlet, ended early on October 31, 2010, and we did a lot of work to create a strategy for the fall and winter months. As a result, we began delivering ice cream sandwiches and focused on expanding our wholesale and events business. Interestingly, people consume just as much ice cream, if not more, in the winter months—but they do it indoors (at home, in restaurants and at events).
You also teach cooking classes, some of which do not focus on baking or sweets. What classes do you plan on offering this year? We will be offering our Food Business Startups class again, as well as Baking Basics, both of which have been popular and lots of fun. A new class we are particularly excited about is "Baking Demystified"— so many people say they "can't" bake, and we can't wait to show them that they can! Our current class schedule can always be found online.
When you're not snacking on ice cream sandwiches, where and what might we find you eating in the city? Fried pork dumplings—nothing is better than feeding yourself full for three bucks! When we have time to sit down and eat, most nights you'll find us on the Lower East Side; Cafe Katja is a second home and the place we frequent most. For bigger nights Kareem is awfully fond of Babbo; I (Julian) like the slightly more rustic vibe of Lupa—either way Batali seems to have it going on, still.