By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor
Flavors can carry you to another place. They can help conjure memories of somewhere you have been or inspire you to travel somewhere. For example, the taste of vanilla can transport you to Tahiti or Mexico, lavender may take you to the south of France and sticky rice with mango is equated with Southeast Asia. At Wanderlust Creamery in Tarzana, California, memories or dreams come to life through ice cream. Every flavor tells a story of where the owners have been or where they want to go, and they aim to take customers on that journey.
Wanderlust Creamery is the creation of Adrienne Nicole Borlongan and her partner, JP Lopez. After studying food science at Cal State University Northridge, Adrienne, 30, aspired to work in Research and Development in food manufacturing. After an internship with The Cheesecake Factory, she realized she wanted more creative freedom. She went to work at restaurants and has been bartending for SBE Hospitality for the past few years. While Adrienne played with ingredients as a bartender, she also liked to play with flavors in her home kitchen on her free time. She began making macarons as gifts for her friends, playing with unique flavors.
JP Lopez, 32, has worked in restaurants his entire life but studied business and worked in commercial real estate. With pressure from his parents to follow a career path, Lopez went to law school and has been working as an insurance defense attorney for four years.
Dating for 10 years, both Borlongan and Lopez had always wanted to own their own business. With Lopez’s business sense and Borlongan’s creativity, they were looking to create something that would not be gimmicky or faddish. Both love ice cream.
“Ice cream is about flavor and texture,” says Borlongan. “It is a great platform to mix flavors, and people are more willing try to unique combinations.”
Perhaps it was meant to be, as Borlongan’s grandparents met in an ice cream factory in Singapore. In November 2014, Borlongan and Lopez decided to open an ice cream shop.
With ice cream shops opening up across Los Angeles, Borlongan and Lopez — who both grew up in the West San Fernando Valley — thought that the Valley was underserved. They intentionally looked for a place in this locale and found a former Cold Stone Creamery space in Tarzana that had been sitting empty for six years. Fortunately, the space came stocked with a commercial ice cream machine. They made a few design changes to the interior and less than a year later, they opened Wanderlust Creamery.
The Ice Cream
In the state of California, an ice cream shop is required to buy a pasteurized base. But this base does not offer choice or flexibility. Wanderlust Creamery became a certified micro-dairy plant and can pasteurize in-house. They make their own ice cream base from 100 percent organic milk sourced from a grass-fed dairy, giving Borlongan freedom to customize the base how she wants. Some flavors do not require egg in the base and others need more or less sugar.
Wanderlust Creamery offers 14 flavors of ice cream, including one sorbet, every day. The flavors are seasonal and a couple of them change every few weeks. Each flavor is inspired by Borlongan’s desire to travel and memories of where she or friends have been.
Honey Lavender with rose crystals (France): Inspired by a recent trip to France, Borlongan, who loves anything with lavender, also discovered rose candy and loved how the delicate flavors work in harmony together.
Fig Leaf + Pistachio (Mediterranean): On a trip to Croatia, Borlongan and Lopez had a dessert with figs, mascarpone and honey. Once home, every day while walking to the gym, Borlongan would smell the fig leaves on a neighbor’s tree, reminding her of that trip and inspiring this flavor.
Abuelita Malted Crunch (So-Cal Childhoods): Growing up in Los Angeles, Borlongan’s brother worked at Thrifty’s and chocolate malted crunch was her favorite flavor. Inspired by that memory, she works with Abuelita, Mexican hot cocoa that has cinnamon notes.
Sticky Rice + Mango (Southeast Asia): The one vegan flavor on the list, Borlongan makes her own rice milk and uses coconut milk and coconut cream for a creamy texture that would fool any non-vegan.
Earl Gray (United Kingdom): The Earl Gray tea is topped with Bergamot olive oil to bring out the citrus flavors of the tea, and with Maldon sea salt, also a product of the United Kingdom.
Cacao Butter + Passionfruit (Brazil): Inspired by a Brazilian dessert, the cacao butter has all the flavor of chocolate but is just cacao butter, otherwise called "ghost chocolate.”
Tonka Bean (South America): The tonka bean grows on a flowering tree in South America and has a spicy, warm vanilla note.
Pretzel + Rugbraou (Iceland): After a friend came back from Iceland and told Borlongan about Rugbraou, Icelandic Thunder Bread made with sweet cream and caramelized rye crumbs, she was inspired to infuse the milk with toasted pretzels and caramelized rye to create this savory flavor.
Hojicha Burnt Honey (Japan): This flavor was created out of Borlongan’s desire to go to Japan. The milk is steeped in green tea, resulting in a light and toasty ice cream.
Thai Tea (Thailand): Borlongan recalls always wanting to drink Thai Tea as a child and created this tannic ice cream.
Smoky Road (Pacific Northwest, USA): Lopez’s favorite flavor is rocky road, so Borlongan played with the ingredients, altering them a bit. The ice cream is made with chocolate, marshmallow swirl, burnt almond and Alderwood smoked sea salt.
Vietnamese Coffee (Vietnam): Made with dark French roast and 10 percent roasted chicory, this ice cream is dark and earthy and will satisfy any coffee lover.
Sorbet of the Week: Sorbet flavors change every week. One week, the flavor was olive oil, vanilla and mandarin, inspired by a macaron in France.
Wanderlust Creamery curates all of the toppings. There are no gummy bears or sprinkles but rather toppings such as rose crystals, mint crystals, cognac fig sauce and yuzu honey. Each ice cream flavor is accentuated with a different topping, such as the honey lavender with rose crystals. The waffle cones are made fresh almost hourly and come in flavors such as vanilla with brown butter, ube (purple potatoes) and black sesame.
While the most popular flavors are Pretzel + Rugbraou, Sticky Rice + Mango, Earl Grey, Honey Lavender, and Smoky Road, what Borlongan and Lopez have found so interesting is a customer’s willingness and interest to try unique flavor combinations. When Wanderlust Creamery first opened, they offered a plain vanilla flavor but no one ordered it. Instead, Borlongan created the tonka bean ice cream and now it is one of the most popular flavors.
The Future for Wanderlust Creamery
Wanderlust Creamery opened at the very end of summer (August 28th) and they have had a steady flow of business since opening. Lopez has taken a leave from the law firm and loves working in the store, saying, “it is rewarding and fun and I like making people happy.” Borlongan still bartends a few nights a week but is responsible for making all of the ice creams with the help of a sous chef.
Borlongan and Lopez have quickly found their groove and have a balanced dynamic. After 10 years together as a couple and only a few months as business partners, it is about communication. She, the hardcore foodie, is the creative side and handles the ice cream and food. He, the business side, handles contracts and leases. They continue to learn as they go, focusing on quality and attention to detail. Wanderlust Creamy is just beginning, and their future is before them.