Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spotlight- Here's the scoop! Winning combination: Coolhaus LA ---> NYC

The winning combination: Coolhaus = Freya Estreller and Natasha Case 
My cousin Freya Estreller and her partner Natasha Case started baking cookies, making ice cream, and combining them into "cool houses" five years ago. With common backgrounds in design and real estate (Freya in commercial real estate development and Natasha as an Imagineer at Disney), they began creating homemade ice cream and cookies with local ingredients they found interesting. They began to mix and match, testing their creations out on friends and family. In those early days I can’t say all of the amalgamations were a recipe for success (I still remember some sort of brown and yellow banana surprise Freya whipped up that resembled…well…something you would not want to put in your mouth).

After a few successful creations they began naming their ice cream sandwiches after architects and architectural movements that inspired them - and eventually decided to take their new found passion (dubbed "Farchitecture," or Food + Architecture) to their hometown streets in Los Angeles. As their little ice cream houses started to gain a following they decided they needed wheels to make an impact. So after scouring the pages of Craigslist they found the perfect solution-a beat-up old postal van (and I am not exaggerating when I say it was beat-up). Just around the time they acquired their new wheels, the 2009 CoachellaValley Music festival was gearing up. The two Farchitecture enthusiasts thought it would be the perfect venue to vend their cool idea!  

But that poor postal van was never going to survive a drive all the way to the desert! Lucky for the girls, they had an AAA membership. With one phone call for roadside assistance (and a brilliant acting job by Freya), that postal van was towed all the way from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley Music Festival (130 miles!) With close friends and family in tow, they made their debut, and, well...gourmet ice cream sandwiches in the middle of the desert...success!

One of the very first food trucks to hit the streets of LA, Coolhaus has led the way for other trucks to follow suit. Today, Coolhaus operates a national fleet of 11 mobile ice cream trucks and carts (5 in Southern California, 3 in NYC, 2 in Austin, and 1 in Dallas). The trucks can be seen vending throughout each city and at large public events, blowing guests away at privately catered parties, and giving away treats as part of unique consumer giveaways and brand activations. Fans can also visit Coolhaus at its two Southern California-based storefronts in Culver City and Pasadena, or pick up a pre-packaged ice cream sandwich, pint of ice cream, or hand-dipped ice cream bar at one of 1,500+ gourmet markets in over 40 states.

Freya and Natasha have also just released a new cook book called COOLHAUS: Ice creambook which shares their coolest creations like, like the BuckMINTster Fuller (Dirty Mint Chip Ice Cream with Chocolate Chip Cookies) and the Frank Behry (Strawberry Gelato with Snickerdoodles). Daring flavors range from classic (Cookies and Sweet Cream), to boozy (Bourbon Manhattan), to vegan (Lychee Martini), and even savory (Fried Chicken and Waffle).

I felt lucky enough to be in Los Angeles to celebrate their 5 years of business at their 5 year anniversary party (it was also a fundraiser to raise money for 9 dots) at the Unique Space in DTLA. Because of the festive nature of the evening, we saved a proper catch up for when we were all in New York City a few weeks later (photos below are from the anniversary party in Los Angeles). In between book talks, events and a launch party at the Soho House, Natasha was able to sit down with me in the Big Apple and reflect on the past five years. 

What's an anniversary party without an ice liquor luge?! This guys a pro!

KG:What have been your biggest challenges over these past five years? 

NC: Not getting lost in the day-to-day of the business (the trees), but really being sure you see the forest for the trees. I am always working on keeping my big picture goals and vision in my back pocket, and make time for them each day---but it's challenging!

KG:What has been the biggest surprise over the past five years?

Natasha: Certain products performance surprises me. Sometimes we can be legends in our own minds (we say LIOOM at Coolhaus), because we think we are known for, famous for, will only ever be able to bring to market the core product we launched with: ice cream sandwiches. However, there are still so many people who are learning about Coolhaus---we are still relatively small and growing so rapidly, we can actually introduce new products and they can succeed just as much if not more! For example, we launched our hand-dipped ice cream bars this year. The most popular bar is Tahitian Vanilla Bean dipped in Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate & Pretzels---and it is out-performing our ice cream sandwiches by volume rate now!

 All you can drink specialty cocktails in your very own Coolhaus mason jar! 
KG: What was the most fun event you catered?(Will Ferrell's bday?!)

NC: Will Ferrell's birthday, which we have catered multiple times, is super fun---but there have been so many! One highlight for me was getting to cater the Forbes 30 Under 30 Party at John Paul Dejoria's house in Austin, TX. I not only made the 30 Under 30 list, but we also got to do some amazing networking at the party (ie meeting JP Dejoria and giving him not one, but TWO Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches!), but to have our product on-site right there for service as I was talking it up... that was so rewarding.

Freya Estreller's new venture! Ludlow Jello Shots! Jelly shots featuring cocktails like Bacon Old Fashioned, and St. Germain Greyhound w/ Pop Rocks

Hundreds came out to help the girls celebrate 5 years of sweet success! 

KG: What is your favorite ice cream/cookie combination?

NC: Pine Nut Rosemary cookie with Honeycomb ice cream (and add a bit of Olive Oil gelato to it for an extra Italian kick!) or Gluten-free Coconut Almond Chip cookie with Salted Chocolate Almond Joy ice cream. YUMTOWN, one way ticket!

KG: Now that you guys are fully bi-coastal, what is the biggest difference in consumers NYC vs LA? 

NC: It's such a different pace, honestly. NYC really keeps you on your toes---the experience of the day, time, the street is so concentrated---so you can get a lot done quickly or encounter a lot of obstacles, or both at once. There's a kind of high that doing business there gives you. It's also so seasonal---so that experience is even more concentrated into essentially 5 months of the year. LA is a less dense, more sustainable... and this may sound weird... but more spiritual place to do business. I feel in LA I can really meditate on my goals and dreams for Coolhaus, because there's less obstruction and just more room for reflection and growth as a CEO in that way. Of course, it's also beautiful all year, which means work is less intense but is always running. LA and NYC truly balance one another out perfectly---it's great to take the best of what both have to offer.

Friends, family, foodies and architects alike came out for the evening. Check out renowned architect Mark Mack in the promo video for Coolhaus cookbook
Maple flapjack cookie with bourbon pecan pie ice-cream and edible wrapper! Yum!
Guests also enjoyed enjoy free food by Pizzanista! and Free Range LA, an open bar with craft cocktails, kegs and beer floats by Golden Road Brewing, 
KG: You guys are both major foodies. What are your top 3 restaurants in Los Angeles? 

NC: Sotto on Pico Blvd---it's part of the Bill Chait group, which has most recently become known for Bestia, downtown---but I think Sotto is equally as good (in fact, I prefer their pizza amongst other dishes), and at this point just way less hectic to get a seat at! We love Foodshop, an underground supper club in Venice Beach founded by fellow UCLA Architecture alum---in particular their Korean and burger dinner are not to be missed! Also, I cannot get the ginger scallion lobster of Newport Seafood in the San Gabriel Valley out of my mind! They are opening an LA location near where we live, which could be dangerous

KG: Top 3 restaurants in NYC? 

The clam pizza (summer only) at Franny's was so good it literally made me giggle and Co Pane in Chelsea (we sublet 2 blocks away in Summer 2012) is consistently on par for pizza as well (goes down great with anything on their fantastic wine list!). we had a great meal recently at RedFarm in the West Village---in particular the Katz's Pastrami egg roll. Pylos in the East Village is AWESOME Greek food. 
Super great new band out of Glendale, CA called De Lux keeping the dance party going
This guy loveeeees De Lux 
Like...really loooooves them!
The Coolhaus truck. Converted postal van pimped out with chrome rims (or Rem's), a pink top, and a fold-down bar and table.
KG: What is the next step for Coolhaus? 

NC: Our long game is really the wholesale/retail distribution---we want to continue to grow the channels we already have in terms of sell-through, product performance, and great representation of the Coolhaus line (ie we have two new awesome sandwich flavors [Double Chocolate cookie + Peanut Butter ice cream = "IM Pei-nut Butter" and Snickerdoodle/Chocolate Chip + Salted Chocolate ice cream = "Rem's Coolhaus"], 3 new hand-dipped ice cream bar flavors, and 5 pints (the highlight for me is our Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone which is already doing great!). We also want to add market channels, like additional gourmet grocers, but also we are expanding most in food service---we launched as the dessert partner for Umami Burger this year, Bareburger (organic burgers) in the Northeast, and Ike's based in SF. Those are all 20 locations quick service restaurants that we love. We are becoming more and more available at movie theaters like the Laemmle and Landmark, music venues like the LA Forum for whom we created an exclusive flavor, sports stadiums and other venues. Last, I'd like to continue to develop our product line in both ice cream and ice cream novelties, but also non-frozen sweets and beverages, and we are eventually plotting a Coolhaus home line [really bringing the Haus to Coolhaus!]... very excited for all of it. 

KG: What first comes to mind when you see this photo? 

NC: How much and how little has changed at once.

The original postal van. Its come a long way since its debut at Coachella in 2009! Original Coachella crew of family and friends! Ice Cream! Get your Ice Cream!  

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