Jules Exum

Roxana Jullapat's old school ice cream flavors are some of L.A.'s best and the perfect antidote to over-the-top food trends.

June 14, 2017

Last week, pastry chef extraordinaire Roxana Jullapat started serving some of L.A.’s best ice cream at Friends & Family, the new bakery/cafe she opened with chef Daniel Mattern in May.

Jullapat can’t wait to make ice cream with all kinds of summer fruit. A raspberry chip flavor is in the works. Plus, she’s resurrecting one of the greatest-hits of her dessert past, which she first made at Lucques more than a decade ago and has taken with her from restaurant to restaurant: It’s a baked huckleberry meringue with blueberry ice cream and blueberry compote. It’s been a bestseller everywhere Jullapat’s served it, including Cooks County, the last restaurant she ran with Mattern.

Jullapat is excited about changing her ice cream selection on a regular basis. But what she won’t be doing is creating ridiculous, over-the-top ice cream. She says it’s unlikely that she will have any savory ice cream. She won’t add crazy toppings. She certainly won’t spend time on unicorn-themed Instagram bait.

“We’re about to have a really hot summer, and a pretty summer like every summer in L.A.,” Jullapat says. “I’m really looking forward to making ice cream, covering the gamut with boysenberries, olallieberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines and all of that kind of stuff. When you have that sort of raw material, why would you put potato chips in there?”

Jullapat smiles when I say it seems almost rebellious to emphasize traditional flavors like vanilla and cookies-and-cream in 2017.

“It’s amazing how, like, being traditional and having some restraint can be the new revolution,” she says. “I’ll go to places and try different things and have things as outlandish as, say, lox in ice cream. I can’t say with any level of conviction that it works. If there is something that’s naturally savory, it’s really hard to make it come to the sweet side in a balanced way.”

So Jullapat is focusing on childhood taste memories, premium small-batch ingredients (like Compartes chocolate and Counter Culture coffee) and the happy-making qualities of classic flavors.

“This is totally not factual, but I definitely think ice cream has some antidepressant qualities,” says Jullapat, who recalls eating a lot of sundaes and putting caramel sauce on scoops of mint chip as a child. “It gives you this instant moment of happiness, like everything is OK.”

It’s a little before 11 a.m. on a Monday when I try all of Jullapat’s ice creams. This might seem a little early for dessert, but the way Jullapat sees it, there’s never a bad time for ice cream. And it’s fine to have ice cream as the main part of a meal if you want. Jullapat remembers growing up in Costa Rica and eating with her family.

“There would be days with a sad excuse of a grilled cheese for lunch,” she says. “But for dessert, there would be copious amounts of ice cream. And everybody was allowed to have a second helping—as much ice cream as you wanted. We would finish the tub. There were no limits.”

Friends & Family has a similar do-as-you-please vibe. A few minutes after I finish my ice cream, L.A. taco expert Bill Esparza, author of the new L.A. Mexicano book, glides in on his skateboard to grab a bite. Food writer Jessica Ritz walks by and waves at Jullapat, who’s sitting with me at the window. Friends & Family has clearly become an industry hangout, but there is also a family scoping out the pastry case. At 2 p.m., it will be “ice cream o’clock,” with all scoops discounted from $4.50 to $3 for two hours. But there’s no judgment at all if you can’t wait that long for a cone.