I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. No, we don’t mean to be cliche, but it is the last week of summer, so today and tomorrow we’re celebrating the treat that’s hard to get enough of. Who better than to chat with on all things cold and delicious than Doug Quint and Bryan Petroff – founders of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck? They’re the bonafide experts on everything ice cream, and they joined us in saying farewell to summer with a bang…
From start to finish what would be your ideal food day?
Bryan: I’d start with an early morning orange juice and cheddar-jalapeño pretzel from a vendor at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Then, a hearty breakfast of the crawfish étouffée omelette, and a side of ham from Mother’s Restaurant in New Orleans. While I’m in New Orleans, I may as well have some beignets too. Lunch would have to be seaside seafood: Either oysters at The Marshall Store in Marshall, California or lobster rolls at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast, Maine. Happy hour tiki bar fun at Trader Vic’s, followed by an outrageous meal with lots of bubbles at Joe Beef in Montreal, followed by gelato at Otto in New York City. Late night would be more cocktails, this time at a trashy dive bar, like Coal Yard in the East Village. Before calling it a night, I’d need something greasy to sop up the alcohol with: 3am slices from Joe’s Pizza on Carmine in the West Village, or bacon-wrapped dogs with caramelized garlic, charred jalapeños and onions from Rosa, the hotdog lady in front of the Faultline Bar in Silverlake [in Los Angeles], or chorizo tacos from La Pasadita in Chicago.
Doug: My favorite breakfast is oatmeal made with too much milk. I add too much brown sugar and too many raisins, so that I’m both tweaked up and regular. Lunch will be a nice big salad and there will be lots of properly salted (read: doused with salt) beets on there. Around 3pm, I’ll realize that no salad will ever keep me going for long, so I’ll have a slice from Koronet Pizza on Broadway at 110th. Their slices are so massive that I’ll be good until about… 3:45. For dinner, I want wings from Pok Pok. Three orders of them. Before I go to bed (at 10:30, like clockwork…Get it?) I have a big glass of Ronnybrook Dairy skim milk – the only skim milk that tastes like anything.
What were your favorite ice cream flavors as a kid?
Bryan: I was always a purist and still am. I would rather stick with vanilla, and flavor everything else around it. My favorite ice cream concoction was and always will be the hot fudge sundae – with peanuts, whip, and a cherry. That, to me, is childhood in a glass. My first introduction to sundaes was at Friendly’s. The Reese’s Pieces Sundae? I was blown away!
Doug: Vanilla soft-serve with chocolate sprinkles, from the Tastee-Freez in Pittsfield, ME. No substitutions.
Do you think there is a nostalgia factor when it comes to ice cream trucks? How so?
Bryan: We didn’t have ice cream trucks where I grew up (Central Florida). My only real association to them is from living in New York City, so to me they feel more like a truly New York experience. My nostalgic moments come from roadside ice cream stops, like Tastee Freez. Sitting at a picnic table, eating a hot fudge sundae, watching the cars go by.
Doug: Not for me. The first time I was exposed to an ice cream truck was in 1982, on my first trip to New York City. It was right outside the window for six hours at a time, and that’s when I first learned that the Mr. Softee jingle was a gateway to psychosis.
What Big Gay Ice Cream flavors are your personal favorites right now?
Bryan: I’m a seasonal dessert person, so I usually love whatever we are featuring for a limited time. Currently it’s our Violet Beauregard (our blueberry Gobbler sundae). In the winter, it would be the Mexican Affo’gay’to: Spicy homemade hot chocolate poured over vanilla ice cream. I also love our spicy chocolate sauce (Awesomesauce). Oh! And our shakes. I’m a sucker for shakes.
Doug: I just came back around to the Salty Pimp. I eat one every six months and my ego swells up until I’m unbearable. Because that is one of the best ice cream anythings, ever, and it’s ours.
Where do you love to travel? What won’t you travel without?
Bryan: My absolute favorite place to travel is the Southwest United States for road trips and hiking. Southern Utah has some of the most alien and magical landscapes on earth. There’s something about getting behind the wheel and just driving out into the wilderness with no one around you for miles. You really feel like you’re the last person on earth; exactly what a city boy needs to put things back in perspective. For those trips I won’t travel without great backcountry guidebooks (that are up to date), my National Park Pass, sunscreen and a hat (of course), and water – gallons of it, for both me and the radiator. I also like packing Herban Essentials wipes: I take them out of their packs and stick them in my vehicle’s A/C vents.
Doug: I like the woods of Northern Maine. I’m easy about traveling… I am the sort of person who is fine grabbing his keys, wallet, and phone (and ten chargers for it) then walking out the door. I’m good with sleeping under a lean-to with my rolled-up pants for a pillow. I’d be hard pressed to travel without the dog, though.
If you could take the truck anywhere, where would you go?
Bryan: Chalmun’s Cantina, Mos Eisley, Tatooine.
Doug: That huge motorcycle rally in Sturgis. I also want to take it to the Grand Canyon so I can “Thelma and Louise” with it – but not for a few years.
What are your favorite food cities? What restaurants do you go to in each?
Bryan: Travel for us is typically limited to when we travel for work or during winter downtime. Montreal (Joe Beef, Liverpool House, Le Vin Papillon, Impasto, Réservoir, Léché, Nora Gray, Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon), pretty much anywhere and everywhere in both Santa Fe and New Orleans, Chicago (Ruby’s Fast Food, Pho 888, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, Aviary, Yusho), Las Vegas (Lotus of Siam, Art of Flavors gelato), and the Portlands (Oregon: Sunshine Tavern, Blue Star Donuts; Maine: Eventide Oyster Co., Standard Baking Co.). Hells’ Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah is a special, off the beaten path place. And I have to admit, since moving to LA to open our shop downtown, I continue to fall in love with the variety of food and restaurants there.
Doug: There’s good food almost everywhere – you just have to look for it. That said, every time I go to Philadelphia I come back distended with delicious food. I’m eager to get back there for another meal at Zahav. Beyond that, all the Vetri restaurants, Tony Luke’s for the pork and broccoli rabe, and a few dozen Federal Donuts, please. Philly is currently winning.
Are you a sweet or savory person? Or both?
Bryan: Both. There’s something magical about that combination. That’s why I can’t do brunch. I can’t decide which direction to go: eat everything, and then roll back to sleep. Day wasted.
What’s ‘the new potato’ in ice cream right now?
Bryan: Making ice cream fun again. I think everyone got so caught up in the preciousness of it all, they forgot why they loved ice cream in the first place.
Doug: Putting down your phone and licking before it melts down your arm. Instagram be damned.
*Bryan Petroff and Doug Quint, photographed at The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann