Sebastian’s Ice Cream is acknowledged widely as the first artisanal ice cream in the country. This seven-year-old company has caught the imagination of loyal customers, most of them young, who find that Sebastian’s has elevated ice cream to a new level of fun and adventure.
The ice cream company’s head sorbetero (and founder) Ian Carandang, indeed, loves to surprise ice cream lovers with ingredients, flavors and names no one dared associate with ice cream before. Take a look at some of his imaginative concoctions: Chilly burgers, tibok-tibok, sapin-sapin, green mango and bagoong, mangga at suman, leche flan pizza, champorado, frozen taho, mango sans rival.
How does he do it?
Here, mostly in his own words, is how he works in Sebastian’s Quezon Avenue kitchen:
First off, he uses old-fashioned techniques, the way ice-cream is originally made: “We make the ice cream base with cream, milk, eggs and sugar, cook the custard base, then run it through the machine to churn and freeze. Mix-ins – like nuts – are added to the ice cream by hand as it comes out of the batch freezer.”
There are no automated machines used in production. Every gallon is filled by hand: the flavors with swirls like fudge are drizzled in between layers of ice cream. The Chilly Burger, for example, is filled with ice cream and meticulously rolled in nuts and chips by hand. The cookies used are supplied by an experienced baker working from her home.
The present kitchen is an improvement from the one originally put up. “It used to be just a pair of home-use electric ice cream churns which used rock salt and ice to freeze the product. Back then, I would make probably 10 gallons a month and I made everything myself.”
Early problems in production were in learning the idiosyncracies of making ice cream. “Great ice cream is a hassle to make, store and transport. It has to be kept in a cold enough state, because if it melts even a little bit and is refrozen, the texture is ruined and it has to be discarded.”
Once he got past that initial hurdle, ice-cream making was like any other craft, where one has to learn the rules and follow them strictly.
He credits his creative approach to ice-cream making to the American ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s which he tried at Duty Free Philippines in 1998. Its names and flavors and the sheer sense of fun that they evoke just blew him away, he remembers.
“There’s a sense of playfulness and creativity in their flavor combinations and names. Some of these can really be bizarre such as the ‘graveyard flavor,” but never boring. They resonated with me.”
He then ordered Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book from amazon.com.
It taught him a no-limits attitude to experimentation in ice cream flavors. “The book is my bible. It taught me fundamentals about ice cream which I still use today. Apart from the delicious recipes, the book also has a lot of material about how Ben and Jerry got started in ice cream. It is a joy to read….”
He sees to it that he introduces at least two new flavors to Sebastian’s line every month. The passionate sorbetero that he is, Ian would often run countless experiments to identify and put together components and make them work. Sometimes, though, he would simply mix one element with another to create a whole new ice cream flavor.
His passionate approach to ice cream making seems to be paying off. Ian and his creations have been written about in newspapers and magazines and his enterprising life and creative pursuits have been featured in television shows as well. Sebastian’s Ice Cream has been cited and rated topnotch in numerous blogs over the Internet.
Adapted from: Dreamers Doers Risktakers Part 4 published by SERDEF and UP ISSI.
Photo: from Sebastian’s Ice Cream’s Facebook page.