A Simple Ice Cream Bar for Uncertain Times
Brandon Lee, sous chef of MW, makes scoops in classic flavors.
Buttermilk ice cream with blueberry compote and mac nut crumble
Photos: Martha Cheng
For a while there, ice cream was getting crazier and crazier—new businesses scooped flavors including pizza, unicorn poop and burnt hay. But as the world feels increasingly precarious, I’m scaling back my exposure to crazy. Which makes Ice Cream Bar Hawai‘i a welcome taste in my bowl. The new business by Brandon Lee, sous chef of MW and previously chef de cuisine at Piggy Smalls, debuted recently with vanilla bean, strawberry and mint chocolate crunch—nothing earth shattering, certainly, but there’s been enough earth shattering lately.
I loved Ice Cream Bar’s sundae kit ($20, enough for four servings). With buttermilk ice cream, blueberry compote and a mac nut crumble, it yields a sundae that’s improbably light thanks to the slight tang of the ice cream—not too sweet and rich, yet still creamy—with the blueberries cooked just enough to bring out their sweetness but keep their shape. Topped with crumble, which has the taste and crunch of toffee, each spoonful reminds me of blueberry pie. Lee’s vanilla ice cream ($10), is a just-right version of the classic—somewhere between the dense heaviness of Haagen-Dazs and the fluffiness of cheap brands—and with a full and pure vanilla flavor.
Lee says when it comes to flavors, he likes “to keep things simple, to remind us about the simpler times.” He’s been working on Ice Cream Bar for a year now, drawn to ice cream’s nostalgia. “Like many local Hawai‘i families, when I was a kid, my mom and dad were always busy working. I always looked forward to the weekends as they would take my sister and I to our local ice cream store. Eating ice cream can bring back sentimental memories.”
Check Ice Cream Bar’s Instagram every Tuesday for new flavors, and pick up at Artizen on Fridays. In addition to the weekly specials (last week: shiso, black sesame and pistachio), Lee will always have vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Well, chocolate once he’s done tinkering with his recipe. For his base, he uses premium eggs from Waimānalo’s OK Poultry, some of Hawai‘i’s most premium eggs, and a reflection on the quality of Ice Cream Bar’s ingredients: few, simple and good.