Monday, August 20, 2012

Help Make Vegan Ice Cream Dreams Come True

If you've been reading my blog for longer than, oh, a day or two (hahahaha) you have likely heard me mention a lovely little ice cream shop called Sweet Ritual. They are a vegan ice cream parlor located inside another great Austin staple, the Daily Juice. Currently, Sweet Ritual specializes in vegan soft serve. They usually offer two flavors per week and have a myriad of sundae options on their menu. Shakes and coffee are a few more of their specialties. 

And I can't be modest in my adoration of this place. I love Sweet Ritual. Which is why I'm devoting another post entirely to them. Amelia, who opened Sweet Ritual in December 2011 with friend Valerie, asked me if I would be interested in telling my readers about a fundraiser the girls are having in order to add "hard-packed" ice cream to their current soft serve menu. They're doing this using a Kickstarter campaign, which is a "crowd-funding" platform that is extremely popular. Here's a video they made explaining the fundraising project.



I'm excited for this project for a number of reasons. Primarily it's because I'm extremely confident that Sweet Ritual's hard-packed will become the best on the market. Yes, there are a number of vegan ice cream options at my local Whole Foods and Sprouts, but they simply are not up to my standards. For instance, my local Whole Foods only offers a wide variety of Coconut Dream products and a couple other brands in flavors like "vanilla" (and I hate Coconut Dream. Yuck!). Even my favorite hard-packed ice cream, Purely Decadent by So Delicious, isn't as good as Sweet Ritual soft serve. You might be in a similar predicament. Adding another brand to the mix would be most excellent and the ladies at Sweet Ritual know their stuff. While it might be a long time before you'll see their hard-pack in stores nationwide, Austinites will at least have the option of getting some in their own town.

So, to try to get you on board, I asked Amelia if she would be willing to answer me a few questions about her company, her ice cream making process, and her business goals. Here's what she had to say.

Why ice cream? Some people love cupcakes, others are cookie fanatics. What makes ice cream so special to you?

Ice cream was always my favorite dessert as a kid. It was a ritual at our house that after we had put away the dinner dishes, my dad would break out a pint of ice cream and we'd eat it right out of the package. I like ice cream because, as you eat it, it changes in texture and forms. I named our shop Sweet Ritual because we are so ritualistic about the way we eat our desserts. I feel a sweet connection with the kid who scrambles his vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup into an ice cream soup, and then slurps it up on the spoon, because that's how I used to do it! We are really excited to offer a scoopable version of our ice cream to our customers. The number one request from our clients is either a soy-free or an agave-sweetened version. With the new machine we're raising money for, we will have complete control over making different ice cream bases. These can be anything from cashew-based to almond-based. Also, we can control the sweetness level, and use alternative sweeteners such as agave or stevia.

How do you come up with new flavors? Do you keep the season in mind? Or are your new additions based purely on curiosity alone?

When dreaming up ice cream flavors, I first consider what people like in Austin and what I can use to bring local flavor to the store. I'm so excited to do a chili mango flavor next summer! I'm also excited to be showcasing local vegan businesses and using their ingredients in our ice creams. We are working with Capital City Bakery for brownies and Celeste's Best for vegan cookie dough. I literally cannot wait to get the machine running - as soon as we get a good chocolate recipe down, I'm going to dive head-first into a white coffee/brownie bits/walnut crunch flavor. YUM!

And finally, what are your long term goals when it comes to Sweet Ritual? I remember you mentioning wanting to open your own parlor. Do you dream of several locations? Franchising? Vegan ice cream domination!?

Our long-term plans with Sweet Ritual do include a store front, but that may be a few years away. We are letting ourselves grow organically in the direction we are going now, which means staying small, but having very tight control over quality of ingredients and freshness of product. We're in the store everyday making caramel in small batches, or sifting cocoa for home made chocolate sauce. Buying this $10,000 ice cream machine will allow us to be able to wholesale our ice cream to area restaurants, so you can have a scoop of our ice cream alongside a fresh slice of pie at your favorite diner. Also, we'll be able to expand to San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, etc. with the wholesale product. It's a few steps away from world domination, but at least we'll be in more places than our tiny shop here in Hyde Park!

Mmm, I know that has me intrigued. If you are, too, head on over to their Kickstarter page and contribute. Perks for pledging include pints of hard packed ice cream, Sweet Ritual t-shirts, and even a private ice cream social for you and your friends! But you can also pledge as much as you feel comfortable, even just a few dollars. A lot of people will be very happy that you did!

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