Philadelphia’s Little Baby’s Ice Cream has been exploring the “art” in the word “artisan,” and the world is taking notice. First came their delectably unusual flavors like Earl Grey Sriracha, Balsamic Banana, and Pizza that sound oh so wrong, but taste oh so right. Now, their bizarre YouTube video commercials with an androgynous ice cream humanoid eating itself, which seem to be invoking similar feelings, have gone viral garnering the attention of major media outlets like Huffington Post, Mashable and Gawker just to name a few. Former musicians Pete Angevine, Jeffrey Ziga and Martin Brown, who are heavily influenced by the Situationist and Dada art movements, are certainly enjoying pushing the boundaries of “good taste” these days, and Pulp Lab simply had to contact Little Baby’s for an interview to learn more about the unique ice cream artisans.
Angevine and Ziga initially met at a rock ‘n’ roll summer camp a decade ago where the idea of opening an ice cream parlor started as a joke. Pete began making ice cream at home, and was eventually inspired to experiment with outside-the-box combinations after a visit to San Francisco’s revered ice cream parlor Humphry Slocombe two years ago. There, concoctions made from ingredients like foie gras and black olives can be found. Brown, another old friend of the former campers, was also refining his homemade ice cream-making skills around the same time, but with more traditional flavors. Aside from Martin’s attendance at Penn State’s prestigious, week-long Ice Cream Short Course, all three founders have little to no culinary or business experience.
However, the innovative trio has masterfully crafted “super-premium,” “Philadelphia-style ice cream” – which is a combination of cream, milk, sugar and flavorings as opposed to “French-style” or “custard-style” that uses those ingredients plus egg yolks. Little Baby’s also has a line of equally delicious and creamy, non-dairy, vegan-friendly ice creams as well as ice cream sandwiches with a different variety of vegan cookies. The once weekend hobby has turned into a full-time venture for the threesome with 16 part-time employees on board, a small fleet of souped-up trikes, and now their very first ice cream parlor, a.k.a. World Headquarters, that just celebrated its grand opening earlier this month. Check out Pulp Lab’s Q&A exploring the odd “Land of Little Baby’s Ice Cream” with co-founder Pete Angevine.
PL: Where did the name Little Baby’s Ice Cream come from?
PA: It was just something that was constantly tossed around between friends a few years ago. it doesn’t have too deep of a meaning. I’m a little baby. You’re a little baby. It’s OK.
PL: What’s more difficult – being in a band or running an ice cream company?
PA: Running an ice cream company is way more difficult than being in a band because it really matters.
PL: What are the most important lessons that you have learned from being in a band that you apply to your business?
PA: I think that Martin, Jeffrey and myself all share a “band on tour” mentality in which things need to be taken care of straight away – all hands on deck. If a van breaks down on the side of the road, everyone gets out to help assess the problem and fix it. Everyone is willing to do what needs to get done. We all come from a background that encourages creativity, individuality, hard work, and requires some amount of branding and self-promotion.
All of these qualities have seeped into what we’re doing now with Little Baby’s. To me, it’s pretty much the same thing as being in a band: the same energy, the same part of my brain, the same motivation. But now I don’t have to live in a smelly van, and I get to sleep in my own bed next to my wife every night.
PL: What’s the key to making smooth, rich dairy and non-diary ice cream products?
PA: Well, for the Philadelphia-style ice creams, much can be attributed to our friends at Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, PA who provide our 16% butterfat content dairy! They source their all natural milk and cream from seven family-owned farms in Franklin County, and are just about the nicest folks we know.
As for the non-dairy products, that is our big, magical secret. They are primarily made from coconut and Martin Brown’s delicate and prudent hands in our Frankford Avenue production facility.
PL: What’s your best-selling ice cream? Which flavors are you most proud of?
PA: Earl Grey Sriracha and Birch Beer Vanilla Bean are perhaps two of the best-selling and two of my most favorite. I am especially proud of them because they are absolutely delicious and because they are endemic, or they only exist in the Land of Little Baby’s. One can’t find them anywhere else. They were 100% fantasy, and now they’re 100% ours.
PL: What flavor combinations have you tried that were a complete failure?
PA: Champagne and Lucky Charms, et al.
PL: How do you usually come up with your flavor combinations?
PA: Inspiration can be found anywhere! Other foods, creative misinterpretation, funny jokes, alliterations, rhymes, accidents, actually experimenting with food. There is no real process. We do what we feel.
PL: Where did the idea for the YouTube video commercials that have gone viral come from?
PA: I helped facilitate the videos that were made by a handful of old friends – all of whom live in different cities and have never met each other: Doug Williams, Matthias Bossi and Jon Guez. These are brilliant men with bold and beautiful ideas. Their imaginations have no inhibitions!
PL: With so much exposure so quickly and in a somewhat controversial way, you are bound to have plenty of fans and haters. What’s the best and worst thing that has been said about Little Baby’s?
PA: Since day one, we’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response. To see the joy and surprise and revelatory jubilation we’ve created for people has been rewarding. We’ve even seen our “Ice Cream Is a Feeling” tagline come to life when certain customers have had real nostalgic, emotional experiences whilst eating our ice cream. That’s meaningful to us.
Of course, anything new or different or bold will have detractors, and we do. Though, honestly, most of the flak we’ve gotten recently has been based on the videos that Doug made, and come from people in faraway places that have never tried our ice cream. Whatever. I like to remember that all great art, whether it be Stravinsky or Billy Joel, is divisive. I’d rather have people reacting strongly in one way or another, even if it’s negative, than to not react at all. Little Baby’s is about stoking the community in our own distinct way. I’m as inspired by Malcolm McLaren as I am by Ben & Jerry.
PL: You aspire to bring people out of their comfort zone to try something new. What have you eaten out of your comfort zone that you discovered enjoying?
PA: Earl Grey Sriracha ice cream! Ethiopian food. Tripe.
PL: You recently tweeted, “Having a store is weird!” Why is that so? Would you rather be working the “Flavor Blaster One” or the store?
PA: We’re getting used to scooping ice cream not on three wheels, it’s new, it’s different, it’s air conditioned. In almost every way, working in our World Headquarters is pretty pleasant compared to riding a trike halfway across town and carrying lots of heavy stuff. Also, our store itself looks pretty weird, so there’s that.
PL: Are there any toppings at your store? If so, are there any unusual ones, or are they pretty normal?
PA: These will rotate all the time, depending on what seems like a good idea that day, what ingredients are available, etc. Currently we have two different types of vegan cookie crumble, roasted sesame seeds, crushed wasabi peas, Rice Krispies and candied cinnamon peanuts.
PL: What ice cream do you usually order or purchase at a regular ice cream shop or store?
PA: Regrettably, I no longer have any time to go to a regular store. Maybe in the winter. I’m looking forward to going back to San Francisco, America’s ice cream mecca, hopefully in the winter. I’ll get as much as I can when I’m there.
PL: What’s your favorite Little Baby’s flavor to eat?
PA: Pizza ice cream!
So now that you’ve seen Little Baby’s eerie YouTube video and their logic-defying flavors, it’s time to taste why – “Ice Cream Is a Feeling.”
Little Baby’s Ice Cream
2311 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia – Kensington