A Detroit pastry chef is turning to one of the most iconic sweet and savory flavors of brunch — chicken and waffles — for a new line of hard scoop ice cream that plays with unexpected flavors.
Becca Graf, who works at Marrow in West Village, began experimenting with the art of ice cream making during the pandemic and is now ready to share her creations with Churned Detroit.
To kick things off, she’s collaborating with Rohani Foulkes of Folk in Corktown to introduce diners to Churned with an “Ice Cream Social Brunch — Evening Edition” pop-up taking place Thursday, Sept. 22. Tickets are $50 and includes a the following options: chicken and waffles featuring a Belgian waffle, fried chicken thighs, ice cream steeped in KFC seasoning and buckwheat, and covered in sriracha-infused maple syrup; lox bread pudding with everything bagel seasoning, local squash, scallion, smoked salmon, leek and cream cheese ice cream; cereal milk Fruity Pebbles pancakes, topped with crushed cereal sprinkles, coriander syrup, and Fruity Pebbles ice cream; or a Coco Froyo Parfait with house-made jam, local fresh fruit, house-made granola, and vegan coconut froyo. To drink, guests can choose between caffeinated or boozy beverages.
Graf first approached Foulkes about potentially hosting a casual pop-up at the southwest Detroit cafe and market to introduce Detroiters to her creamy, frozen concoctions but it was Foulkes who suggested they do more of a more sit-down affair and play with the brunch for dinner idea so Graf could showcase her versatility.
“So then I started like thinking of my favorite brunches and just thinking of like ice creams that could go with that. Rohani had asked for a couple of savory ice creams to make it so that it wasn’t like a sweet bomb for the whole evening,” Graf says. “Ice cream doesn’t have to be sweet. You know you just up the salt a little bit and you add in more savory flavors and and the sweetness goes away and it just becomes a frozen delight of what you want.”
Graf, who’s worked with chef Sarah Welch at Marrow, and previously at the now defunct Republic and the adjoining brunch spot Parks & Rec in the Grand Army of the Republic Building downtown, says she’d been interested in working with ice cream for a few years but that she didn’t get started until she experienced a laid off during the pandemic.
“I ended up going to work for a grocery store and I was just like, ‘this is like stifling my creativity, like, I need to be cooking something.’”
In addition with experimenting with savory flavor profiles, Graf emphasizes the use of locally-grown ingredients. She sources much of her ingredients from farmer Danny Lutz, founder of Maple Creek Farm, which specializes in supplying produce to local restaurants. He’d bring ingredients like sweet corn and blueberries.
If the idea of chicken and waffles ice cream sounds unusual, it shouldn’t. Consider how cream cheese can be used in both sweet and savory recipes and it’s really not far fetched at all. Savory ice cream has enjoyed relative popularity over the years, with brands like Jeni’s, New York creamery Van Leeuwen in collaboration with Kraft, and Chicago’s Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar have launched flavors like everything bagel, mac ‘n cheese, and sour cream and cheese potato chip flavors.
Graf says working with savory ingredients can present its obstacles. For example, she says, the fat contents in peanut butter along with the fat contents in heavy whipping cream have the potential to create too much cream, making it unstable.
“If you turn it for one second longer than it’s supposed to, you have pretty much your frozen butter,” she says.
Graf is up to the challenge. The hope is for Churned Detroit to become a retail opportunity for her in the event she were to decide to move on from working in a traditional restaurant setting and strike out on her own.