There's a new sweet treat in town, perfect for Houston's hot summers: Ricca's ice cream sandwiches. Tallent Ricca launched her frozen desserts in June, gaining a loyal and growing following. The Houston native doesn't have a traditional culinary background, but credits her grandmother in sparking her interest in cooking. Travels across Europe and Saudi Arabia inspired Ricca's grandmother to marry her Italian cooking with new ingredients she encountered overseas. This is what helped Ricca to go beyond traditional ice cream flavors and combine unconventional ingredients to her mini masterpieces.
You don't offer vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and other traditional ice cream flavors in your sandwiches. What should people expect instead?
I build each sandwich using a cookie, ice cream and a schmear that adds extra flavor. On the roster are: peppermint stracciatella (a peppermint stracciatella ice cream with peppermint ganache and chocolate macarons), peanut butter and chocolate (Bolivian chocolate gelato and peanut butter chocolate schmear) which is dipped in chocolate, and lemon blackberry goat cheese. That one is my best-seller. It has goat cheese ice cream with a blackberry ripple and lemon curd nestled under two lemon macarons. The motto I use to describe my sandwiches is a singular indulgence. Each bite is an indulgence and should be enjoyed. I make everything from scratch, but I do use Trentino Gelato in select sandwiches.
Are there any other flavors available?
I also have the Fruity Pebble. It's a sandwich I made for The Pride Festival and Parade in June. The ice cream is vanilla with Fruity Pebbles cereal folded in. It's enclosed with a vanilla macaron dusted with crushed fruity pebbles. All of the signature sandwiches are listed on the website, and the seasonal ones will be announced on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I try my best to use all local ingredients to make our ice cream sandwiches. Also the packaging is made of recyclable material and the ink used on the label is water-based ink.
Do you use other cookie variations for your ice cream sandwiches?
Yes, I make sandwiches with more than macarons. Before selling ice cream sandwiches, I started Ricca Co. as a cookie baking business. The most popular cookies were the peanut butter and chocolate chip. I sold to my family and friends. It wasn't until I put ice cream between them that I received a bigger response. I changed courses and switched the business to ice cream sandwiches.
Bernie's Burger Bus, Eatsie Boys, Green Seed Vegan, Good Dog Hot Dog, and Fat Cat Creamery were once a mobile food units. After growing their fan base, each eventually opened their own brick-and-mortar restaurants. Is that your goal as well?
I'm hoping to go brick-and-mortar eventually. Really the route I'm working on now is making my services available for weddings, events, and food truck parks. I don't have a food truck but I do have a cart to sell the ice cream sandwiches from. I think with selling at the parks, it will be a nice add-on for people after they've had lunch at the other trucks. In addition to the large sandwiches, I sell smaller, bite-sized sandwiches too— perfect for an after lunch treat.
Will you also go the route local ice cream purveyors, Fat Cat Creamery and Whipped & Licked Ice Cream, partnering with local retailers and coffee shops to sell your sandwiches?
I'm doing this now at Armando's and have been for awhile. Ricca Co. makes a margarita ice cream sandwich that Armando's sells in its restaurant. It's a lime macaron sandwiched between lime ice cream, a schmear of Cointreau-spiked lime curd, with a touch of sea salt. It's tart, salty, and sweet all at once. It seems to be a hit. The sandwich is available exclusively at Armando's. We've also approached other businesses in Houston who are interested in carrying our sandwiches. I hope I can get something in place.
Boozy ice cream sandwiches? Sounds amazing. Do you plan to sell more, possibly working with local breweries and distillers?
I would like to work with Saint Arnold, Karbach, and others in the future. I'm educating myself on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission law. Maybe you'll see more of Ricca Co. soon, but our main focus at the moment is building a presence at food truck parks.
· Ricca Co. [Official Site]
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[Photo of Ricca: @ricca_co; photo of lemon blackberry goat cheese ice cream sandwich: Jakeisha Wilmore]