WASHINGTON - If it's too hot and sticky to walk to the store to pick up a refreshing treat, you're not completely out of luck. One local resident is finding an unconventional and convenient way to cool down the city's ice cream lovers, just in time for the dog days of summer.
When Victoria Lai was living in New York and in between positions as an attorney, she began working in a pie shop.
"I really, really loved it. It made me so happy to be around food, to be creative, to be doing something with my hands," says Lai, who now lives in D.C.
When she moved to Washington, she wanted to maintain that level of creativity with food, so she started a blog called Ice Cream Jubilee and began experimenting with different flavors of the frozen treat.
"It's a great medium for me, and a very tasty one," Lai says.
But what started as a blog for Lai has turned into a booming local business that still goes by the name, "Ice Cream Jubilee."
In the summer of 2012, Lai began doing public tastings for her ice cream creations, after attracting more readers to her blog.
She dabbled into a little bit of catering and then moved to a commercial kitchen space in NOMA, a neighborhood in Northeast D.C., where she started making ice cream to sell to a select number of small, local stores and markets.
And this July, Lai launched her ice cream delivery business.
"When I would bring ice cream to my friends, just because my freezer was overflowing with different flavors, they would say, ‘This is fantastic and you got it to me -- that makes it even better,'" Lai says.
The response and encouragement from her friends is what inspired Lai to venture into the delivery business.
Lai uses bike couriers to deliver her homemade ice cream to customers. Right now, her delivery business is just in D.C., but she hopes to fulfill requests to expand to Virginia and Maryland.
"(Customers) are really going out on a limb because we're a new company and we're in a few small grocery stores ... but we're not a traditional name brand yet and we don't have traditional flavors," Lai says. "Cardamom might be a bit of an experiment for somebody."
And that is where she is not exaggerating. Lai's ice cream includes exotic and unique flavors, such as mango habenaro, honey pinenut, watermelon rose sorbet and Thai iced tea.
Lai says she thinks in flavors and colors.
"I start seeing potential ice cream flavors in almost everything I think about and I eat," says Lai, who adds that one of her favorite things to do is to turn cocktails into ice cream -- like her gin and tonic sorbet.
Lai balances her ice cream business with being an attorney, a task she says takes organization and planning.
"I don't think it's any more than my friends who are training for marathons or triathlons," says Lai, who says when you find something that makes you really happy, you just do it. "For me that's ice cream and not exercise."
For those looking to make ice cream at home, Lai has a few tips:
Start With Traditional Ingredients
Lai makes a base that uses cream, whole milk, egg yolks, sugar and flavoring.
"You'll be surprised at how quickly and easily these simple flavors, together, will make a fantastic product," she says.
Once you have these ingredients, Lai says it's important to perfect your base before moving on to experiment with different flavorings.
Experimenting With Different Flavorings
Once you have your base down, Lai says to experiment with different flavors, but always keep in mind water content.
If you want to take it to the next step, think about water content you are adding to your flavors. For example, blueberries have less water than apples, making them a good fruit for ice cream. On the other hand, a cantaloupe or melon will be better in a sorbet because of the higher water content.
Regardless of the flavoring you choose, Lai says you'll be able to taste the difference between homemade ice cream and the stuff the large corporations make.
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