Communal seating and dishes of ice cream built for two. Layla Isaac’s transition from ice cream chef to retail shop owner sticks to the theme and name of her Tacoma food business - Ice Cream Social.
Sometime in June, Isaac intends to open her first ice cream cafe on Sixth Avenue. Isaac is just getting started on the space, which will have a menu of ice cream sold by the cone, bowl or pint. She described an ice cream parlor atmosphere with plenty of group seating.
Isaac is working on the shop at the same time she’s preparing for a busy farmers market season. She’ll be at opening day Thursday at the Tacoma Farmers Market selling vanilla bean, chocolate peanut butter cup, strawberry, Valhalla coffee, salted caramel and coconut chocolate chip ice creams (see more below about the farmers market opening Thursday). This year, she’s also selling at the Proctor Farmers Market - this Saturday is her first time selling there.
Isaac’s business began in the summer of 2012 at Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue farmers market, located about 500 feet from where Isaac will open her ice cream cafe. At that time, she used a local restaurant’s kitchen to produce her ice cream, but switched to a commercial kitchen space she had custom built at the downtown Post Office building (that will remain home to her production operation).
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Isaac’s business grew out of her love for home entertaining. The former stay-at-home mom to six children is a self-taught dessert chef. Isaac worked a few years as a baker at Tacoma’s Hello, Cupcake, but otherwise what she’s learned has been through her own research. She dabbled in cakes before settling on what she saw as a shortage in Tacoma - small batch ice cream made from scratch. Her oldest daughter Sayge is a business partner, the other family members are chief tasters.
Isaac’s ice cream flavors include the usual standards, but also lean more fanciful - strawberries with mascarpone or maple with candied pecans; and ice cream flavored to mimic buttered popcorn. Ingredients such as star anise, roasted bananas, fig and lavender are favorites. She partners with local food businesses, using Mad Hat’s Earl Grey tea in one ice cream and Valhalla’s Ethiopian Harrar coffee to flavor another. Diners can find her ice creams served at local restaurants (see the list below).
Isaac’s storefront will be in the former home of Shampooch (which moved several blocks away). Yes, beer fans, that’s right next door to The Red Hot’s current location, which soon will be moving a door down in the other direction. The joke in Isaac’s circle of friends (a joke started by Pint Defiance’s Barry Watson) is that a pilates studio ought to move in between the tavern and ice cream shop. Will there be a beer-and-ice-cream partnership between The Red Hot and Ice Cream Social? One could only hope (by one, I mean me).
Isaac’s not in a hurry to expand her menu quickly, but she did share a few ideas for what might come next for the cafe menu. “We’ll look into the future doing ice cream sandwiches. It will be choose your kind of cookie and mix and match with the ice cream,” said Isaac. She added, “In fall and winter, we’re looking at hot desserts - individual pies or anything you can serve hot with ice cream. I’d love to do some really interesting desserts, a chocolate bread pudding or a peach tarragon tart with a caramel ice cream on top. I want some interesting flavor profiles.”
Ice Cream SocialWhere: 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; facebook.com/icecreamsocialcart or icecreamsocialtacoma.comOpening: June 2014 (approximately)Find Ice Cream Social at these farmers markets: Thursday Broadway Market and Saturday Proctor Market. Find Ice Cream Social in local restaurants:Maxwell’s Speakeasy + Lounge, serving old fashioned vanilla, salted caramel and usually one of Isaac’s seasonal sorbets or a rotating flavor.Hilltop Kitchen, serving salted caramel and other rotating flavors, such as blood orange with chocolate swirl.Gateway to India, serving mango sorbet, coconut (vegan), pistachio and ginger.Morso Wine Bar, serving vanilla bean and bold flavors, such as roasted banana or dark chocolate.Taste of Peru, serving quinoa ice cream and lucuma, made from the starchy Peruvian fruit of the same name.
Tacoma Farmers Market openingThursday is opening day for the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market, open every Thursday at South Ninth and Broadway. Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue Farmers Market opens Tuesday, May 6, at Sixth Avenue and North Pine Streets.