Support Local: Lulu’s Ice Cream
June 9, 2017
I have never really cared for guava. I can tolerate the tropical fruit in it’s liquid form, but when it’s smeared neatly inside a puff pastry, I always opt for pastelitos de carne, until recently when I tried it on ice cream.
To be exact, I ate goat cheese ice cream with guava sauce cascaded over the creamy, nitrogen blasted mound tucked inside a freshly made waffle cone. The seeminly odd pairing was impeccable and gave me a fondness for guava, and was just one of about a dozen combinations on the menu at Lulu’s Ice Cream, a hand-crafted nitrogen ice cream shop in Miami that uses fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
I stopped by Lulu’s and chatted with owner Luisa Santos about selling ice cream in her dorm, adopting a cow, and living every kid’s dream of owning an ice cream shop.
You have a degree in political economy, what triggered you to start running a creamery?
I love ice cream, right? And it started as me trying out this new way to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen. it was a really cool, new way to bring cow to cone. So I can get milk, the cream, and the sugar and freeze it in the shop. So it wasn’t that I made this switch, but rather I was studying and playing with this until eventually this thing grow bigger than my major. So I approached that. Started with the farmer’s market in D.C. and around Maryland, and then it grew into a company.
So what makes liquid nitrogen different than what you’re accustomed to eating?
So there’s two differeniators for Lulu’s, and liquid nitrogen is only one of them. How we make our base is different because we adopted our own cow, her name is Lulu, and we work with one farm called Dakin Dairy Farm, a Florida farm where we get our milk and cream from. Many nitrogen shops and regular ice cream shops use premade ice cream base, which comes in a powder or liquid form that you just add flavoring to. We don’t do that. We also source locally and try to work with farmers in Homestead to get our fruits. The second big difference is the nitrogen. So what nitrogen does is freezes ice cream to -321 degrees Fahrenit, creating a smaller ice particle and making a smoothier texture. That adds to the experience and allows us to freeze the ice cream fresh. So when you come in, we’re freezing it for you. So both of those things combine are what really defines Lulu’s.
What was your family and friends’s reaction when you decided to open up shop?
My family has always been supportive with what I wanted to do and have always believed in me, which is a huge thing I’m grateful for. It was still a hard thing for them to handle that I was graduating Georgetown and opening up an ice cream because I always thought I would work at the UN. So supportive but also confused. And even a lot of my mentors who I respected greatly told me to get one high paying jobs I can get with my degree, save money, get experience and then do it. But in my head, I was like “why not just try this? Worse case scenario I can still do what you’re telling me.”
So what clicked?
A few different things happened. One, we served 150 servings out of my dorm room for students going a trick or treating, and it hit me that we can actually do it in two hours using this method. We would sell at a table in front of my dorm room and people would buy it. It was hilarious. We snuck in a tank in the library during finals and sold ice cream. This is the perfect thing. Instead of studying for my finals, I was making ice cream. But it was when I submitting cover letters to a few jobs that I found out that I wasn’t legible to apply because I was still a permanant resident, and not a citizen for government clearance. I took it as a sign that I should open my ice cream shop.
You collaborate with a lot of other buisnesses, farmers and people in the community, how does that manifest in the work you’re doing here?
So I tried Yoko Matcha, I think week two when they opened. We got to talking and decided to do some matcha ice cream. They came over and did some testing, and a month later we had the matcha flavor collaboration. We also had Uber reach out for Uber Ice Cream. That day we did 15 live parties and delivered 2,000 ice creams throughout South Florida. It was insane. The Dolphins are hosting an event here on June 15, and it’s because some of the people in the office live near by and this is their favorite ice cream shop. So it’s like, they find us and we make it happen.
So what are your favorite ice cream flavor and toppings?
My favorite topping, right now, is our chocolate shell that is made with a mix of cow chocolates, which is local bean to bar chocolate. And it’s melted chocolate that we pour on hot but then it hardens like a magic shell. It’s delicious. But before we had that, one of my favorites is the graham crumbled because it goes well with everything. We sauteed it with butter and sugar to make it delicious. And flavor, I’m on a guava and goat cheese kick. That one used to be a seasonal flavor, but people were asking about it so much that we ended up making it year round.
That’s such a peculiar taste pairing that you wouldn’t think to use together. How did you come up with flavor combinations?
We have a suggestion box, so a lot of our customers give us a lot of ideas. But that one is because I grew up eating guava and cheese. It’s really big in my culture, and so my mom, who runs our kitchen said we have to try this because that was her favorite ice cream growing up as a kid. And I loved goat cheese, so we went that route and it was amazing.
Why is it important to support local businesses?
As a local business, we have limited resources and we rely heavily on the local support. We can only thrive on local support and local buisnnesses often carter to their communities more directly. So it’s a give and take. When you support local businesses you’re supporting your community and in turn, giving back to you. And if you want to look at it through an economic sense, sales taxes are discretionary taxes that go to your county and benefit the schools and infascture locally. So that’s a win win for everbody economically. Plus, these are your neighbors and it feels so nice to be able to walk with your Panther coffee and go to Yoko and say hi to Chié and Evelyn or Zak from Zak the Baker. It’s makes you feel like you have a community to rely on.
For more information, visit Lulu’s Ice Cream.
This is a piece in our series spotlighting small businesses part of our Support Local initiative.