Coolhaus Founder Natasha Case Eats Artisan Marshmallows in L.A. and Guacamole for Dessert at Art Basel
It's amazing what a hobby can turn into. Natasha Case and Freya Estreller launched the first Coolhaus truck, serving architecturally-themed, exotic ice cream sandwiches from an overhauled postal van, at Coachella in 2009. Today, the partners have nine trucks and one cart in four cities (L.A., New York, Austin, and Miami), and just opened their first brick-and-mortar shop in Culver City last month. The two are almost inseparable, whether sharing burritos, sushi, or pasta in L.A., or sampling their own ice creams at the trucks. "I sample a little for quality control," says Case. "And a little because I just love ice cream. But you always have 'quality control' in your back pocket as an excuse." See where the two fuel up around L.A. and while serving Miami's Art Basel, in this week's L.A. Diet.
Wednesday, November 30th
We just got back from Austin that morning and Freya and I headed straight to the shop. First thing I did there is make myself a hot chocolate, it's sort of my ritual. I made the chocolate chipotle one with cinnamon and cayenne; it's my favorite lately, with a little salted caramel whipped cream. I checked in with my staff to make sure everything's working properly. Owners always look at the details. The roller skate sculpture, maybe, needs to be moved. You know there's always something.
Then I had a meeting with our social media person, went through some new strategies. And we were organizing holiday stuff at the store, gift boxes, pints, and mason jars. Doing some merchandising. For lunch we went to Royal/T. We always get the fried rice ball with spicy tuna on top. Freya got a veggie burger, and we shared, as we often do.
Back to the shop for a meeting with this woman who works with us, on a new project we're doing called Coolhaus Records. We want to do digital downloads at the store, sell records at the store. Use the truck to help launch albums. We're an ice cream company, but I want to empower our staff to do more. We've made her master of this program.
We had a friend's birthday at Osteria Mozza for dinner. Two friends who launched with us at Coachella, they've seen the whole growth of the company, they've been with us since the beginning. I had the ravioli, with the brown butter and egg inside. Two mozzarella tasters, one with radicchio with walnuts, the other was with fig. Then we shared a bunch of pastas--the macaroni and red sauce, it's so simple and so good, another was a seasonal with eggplant that was really delicious. And we had two desserts, the chocolate cake with boozy ice cream, and a sweet potato-based dessert. It was fabulous actually. They're vegetarians, so we always eat veg there. We had some wine and cocktails. There was this really good one with bourbon, honey, and lemon, and my friend had a negroni. And we had a really delicious minerally white Italian wine. That was a very delicious decadent meal.
Thursday, December 1st
We were heading to Miami for Art Basel later that day, so both Freya and met at the shop. I had an iced Blue Bottle coffee, a chicory New Orleans-style coffee at the store. A little touch of sweetener, a little whole milk. I sampled some of our seasonal flavors, the blood orange cranberry, the sweet potato marshmallow, which is on its way out, and the bourbon pecan pie. Our customers have to get them while they last, but us too!
Jessica Goryl, our pastry chef, has been working on these artisan marshmallows for us. They're for gifts but also for our hot chocolate. Vanilla bean and candy cane. The candy cane has little cane crumbles in it. I don't buy marshmallows that much, but I absolutely love to have them. Back then it was just me and Freya making our own ice cream, but Jessica really gets how to do what we need, making sure the consistency is right, that it will last on a truck, in freezers. Now we're making 10 times as many now as when we started.
Before we headed to LAX, we stopped at Pinches Tacos in Culver City and Freya and I split a breakfast burrito. Not really cheap at Pinches. Then we headed to LAX to hop on the plane to Miami. My one guilty pleasure at the airport is that I will go to Starbucks, so I got the hot chocolate on our layover in Charlotte. That airport has rocking chairs everywhere, it's really great. I also have a weakness for the Auntie Em's pretzels.
Got to Miami, and we stay at this place called the Buena Vista Flats. It's like an apartment, the place reminds me of Palm Springs. It's also connected to a bistro, the Buena Vista Bistro. We got in quite late, so we ate there. I got mussels with saffron cream sauce and fries, and a side of spinach for some greens. I had a Fin du Monde beer. And Freya got the beef bourguignon. We pretty much always order two things and share. Then, exhausted, just went to bed.
Friday, December 2nd
When we woke up, we got coffee from the patisserie. Freya made a delicious breakfast in the room, an omelet with parmesan, and a kale salad with anchovies. She's queen of making delicious eggs in the morning.
Then we went out with the trucks. We had one at Wynwood, which is sort of like the arts district of Downtown L.A. There's a big lot where a lot of trucks park. The trucks in Miami are an interesting mix of South and Central American food, a lot of arepas and pupusas, and then us. It's really fun to be on the truck, which we don't get to do any more. There isn't a lot of ice cream in Miami, maybe one other person doing it. So I sampled, for quality control.
The other truck was across from an Absolut party. It was pretty cool, some weird art made with bottles and things like that. So Basel. By the time I got there, all they had to drink was Cointreau, vodka, and no ice. So they gave me that in a cup, and I took it back to the truck and put a scoop a blackberry ginger sorbet in it. There was a little club soda in there. It was such a good cocktail! Drank that right down.
We had a late night meal at one of our favorite places in Miami called Pubbelly. There's a sushi component, a gastropub, and tapas, all on one block. Everything on the menu is awesome. We had the wagyu beef sushi with avocado, and we had this crab BLT sushi with soy paper, crab, bacon, and blue cheese. We also had kimchi wings, then some soju cocktails. One was like a pina colada and jalapeno, and the other was basil and berries.
Afterwards, we went out to two different places. It was Art Basel, you know? We went to the Electric Pickle, where it was sort of this electronic thing going on. The other was a hip hop party in downtown Miami. We got back really late.
Saturday, December 3rd
Got up really late and went to straight to the trucks, probably around noon. I went to the one at Gen Art, which was one of the big tents for Basel. They had this smart car installation, and they had us in that. Big turnout, it was fun. Freya went to the Wynwood lot to work with our managers.
We took a break and went back to the office. It was kind of a whirlwind that day, so I didn't really eat that much. Then we went out with the truck to 2nd street that night. There were tons of people, galleries, and parties everywhere.
We were pretty tired, and just went back to our apartment. Freya cooked dinner. We're using all of our groceries since we were leaving soon and wouldn't be back for awhile. So we made a tuna casserole with the kale and cabbage. It was actually really delicious. We also got a tiramisu from the patisserie, which was awesome.
Sunday, December 4th
Woke up, made coffee in the apartment. We got a little ham sandwich from that patisserie. They make their own bread, which really makes it. Just simple ham and cornichons. Then we went to the truck to help, and it started to rain off and on. It wasn't as busy. We were in that Gen Art tent early evening, then we went to Electric Pickle to work a party.
Later we met some friends at Mercadito. I got this really good cocktail, "Big Nose Goes to Mexico." It's like guava, a little ginger, and they bring out a flaming lime, and push it into the cocktail, so it's a little smoky with tequila and some peppery salt rimming the glass. Freya got a mango and mezcal cocktail. I'm in love with the smokiness of mezcal, we'd love to try and do an ice cream with it. We got two different guacamoles, a regular one, and one with sweet potato and cinnamon. It's like a dessert guac. And a bunch of tacos to share, fried tilapia, short rib with mole and cabbage, and steak. And then we split a super-aged reposado tequila after the meal, as a digestif.
That was the end of our night, then back to the apartment. I always watch Homeland, so that's what we did. And last week's episode of Iron Chef, which was incredible episode.
Monday, December 5th
We got up and made coffee. Freya made breakfast again, basically another omelet. Just trying to clean out the fridge.
We went to the office because we had our first wholesale meeting with a restaurant owner from Tantra. This is our first ever wholesale account, for them to buy the ice cream in gallons and make their own sandwiches. So I sampled the ice creams while I was making a sample box. The biggest thing for me is texture, making sure it's right. I know the flavors are good, but you need to make sure it's smooth and has that good mouthfeel. I tasted the balsamic fig and mascarpone, sour cherry ricotta, pistachio black truffle, brown butter candied bacon, blood orange cranberry, spicy pineapple with cilantro and serrano chile sorbet, and the strawberry mojito sorbet. I was told they like luxurious flavors and good colors.
There was supposed to be a gym workout in there, but I failed. Then we went to Gigi's, which is sort of like an Asian gastropub close to our apartment. We had udon carbonara that was really good, and a green salad. For dessert, a chocolate dumpling with banana and Nutella inside, sort of like a dim sum dumpling but sweet and more Western. We came back to the Buena Vista Flats, to the apartment, and finished off some red wine we needed to finish.