Little Fox Cups + Cones was a pretty quick response to the pandemic actually. Before the shutdown, I had been searching for an opportunity to open a restaurant for the past few years and nothing really seemed to fit. I have always known that I was going to be in the food and hospitality industry. I really love it. There is something great about being able to take care of people in a setting that they have chosen to visit, and it is incredibly energizing when they leave feeling well taken care of. I have worked in a number of different restaurants in and around as a bartender which is a job I have always loved so much. There is a creative art to bartending, but there is also a really rich history and a deep sense of personal connection that is the most fulfilling. There are so many amazing bartenders that are intensely creative and inspiring. I have been fortunate enough to work alongside some of the most talented in our city and have learned so much from them. I think the little lessons that I've learned along the way have really shaped me, the way I care for our guests, and ultimately the way that I view ice cream now.
When the shutdown first occurred, I was desperately looking for a little hobby to keep myself busy. The doors to many of the restaurants around San Diego were shut for an indeterminate amount of time and the one that I was working at was no different. I had just finished a cocktail competition days before where I created a number of different recipes to showcase a bourbon from Heaven Hill. I made a toasted corn heavy cream for one of the cocktail ideas for the competition. I decided not to use that recipe and I had a ton of it leftover. It had the best flavor and I really did not want to waste it so one day while I was pacing back and forth out of boredom, I decided to make ice cream with it. My daughter and I had dipped little mini apples in caramel not too long before and we had a ridiculous amount of the caramel leftover too. It gave me the idea to make something that tastes like caramel popcorn—a treat I absolutely love for the salty-sweet aspect. To get that satisfying crunch that you get with caramel popcorn for the ice cream, I made a batch of honeycomb and tossed that in right at the end of churning it. I have to say, I was kind of blown away by the flavor. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I found an outlet where I could create new flavors while pairing different ingredients just as I did while bartending. I got pretty hooked right away and I couldn't stop making ice cream thereafter.
My brother-in-law, Charles Koll, has Viewpoint Brewing Co. in Del Mar. When Covid first hit, he did as many others and converted his full-service restaurant into a weekend drive-thru with the help of our talented friends Kaitlynn Wolfe and brewer Moe Katomsky. After the first few weeks of seeing that off the ground, I somehow convinced them all to let me sell ice cream to the visitors of the drive-thru and from that, Little Fox was born. It was really neat to see some of the same people return every weekend to get ice cream from us. They would often mention that it was a nice distraction from being stuck at home and that really made me feel like we were doing a little more than selling ice cream. The tacos became a natural progression as people would always ask us if we offered cones for the ice cream. We chose not to do so because of the risk and instead I looked to one of my favorite ice cream treats from my childhood, the Choco Taco. It was a perfect self-contained little ice cream treat that people could hold to eat like a cone. From a creative standpoint, I thought that the flavor combinations were endless and the fact that I could play with all sorts of compositions just like a cocktail made the concept very appealing. We have experimented with flavoring the waffle shells, making our own extracts with spirits I've loved from my bartending days, conceptualizing an ice cream flavor after a grilled cheese and taking literal cocktail recipes and turning them into an ice cream taco. And we haven't even scratched the surface of possibilities. This really is so much fun and each new flavor concept takes us on an enjoyable game of trial and error.
I would not be here without some of my nearest and dearest family and friends though. As I venture into the world of owning a small business, I realize that nothing about it is easy despite how fulfilling it is. I'm pretty stubborn and independent and I have never been one to ask for help but I have quickly realized that I would have failed without it. Even just the help of a listening ear can sometimes make all of the difference. If Little Fox can do anything for our community in the future, I hope that it is able to serve as an example to anyone with even an inkling to want to start their own venture that they can do it if they put their heart and mind to it. Yes, the ice cream that we make is from scratch and made with all the love we have. The fact that we found a little market who appreciates it is a very lucky little fact but I hope that one day we can be more than that. I hope that one day we can be the push others need to have confidence in themselves and their abilities to follow their passions and that Little Fox can be one of their support systems through it all. Even if that just means being there when they are able to celebrate one of their successes with an ice cream taco.
Basically, my fridge is always filled with ingredients for testing new ice cream flavors and little ice cream experiments I am working on. I am so obsessed with playing with new flavor ideas that we barely have any room for normal food in our fridge these days. The latest flavors we are working on include peanut butter and fluff ice cream (based on the novelty sandwich from my childhood), and mango and french earl grey tea ice cream. I can't wait to finalize these flavors and share them with the visitors to our window.
We always have some sort of delicious bread there, which is a major food group of mine. Right now I am on a rosemary sourdough kick, but that changes all of the time. I am playing with a lot of different teas at the moment, to flavor ice cream, so our cabinets are pretty stocked with different varieties to test. And there is always some sort of baked good. They are usually hidden on the highest shelf and I tend to be the only one that knows about them because I am really not that great at sharing (so don't tell anyone!).
My favorite tools are my fine-mesh sieve and mortar and pestle. I think that a fine-mesh sieve is so great for improving texture in anything like sauces and purees, but it works especially well when making ice cream. I have found that I prefer the ice cream flavors best when we start with a nice smooth base and then add our own homemade inclusions versus freezing a base with something like bits of strawberry for example. I have also found that I use my mortar and pestle more than I ever thought that I would. I love it for crushing whole spices that we use in ice creams because with the mortar and pestle, we can still get a really nice bold flavor from the cracked seeds and spices. Rather than with pulverized herbs and spices that tend to be incorporated into the cream, we can strain them off when the flavor hits the perfect point and we have a little more control over the end product.
Our neighbor is the whole reason we are able to sell ice cream to our community the way we are. There is no way we could be here without Heidi Ledger and her lovely team at her shop Thread Spun. If you've had the chance to visit us at our little window, you’ll know just how itty bitty the shop really is. Well, the square footage we consume is actually a decent size chunk of Heidi's back office that she has graciously allowed us to take over and sling ice cream from. Heidi is just about that though. She goes to great lengths to support her surrounding community and she has never even thought twice about the idea of giving us space (even if I am perpetually late to opening the window because I can't restock the ice cream fast enough). If you are looking to support a shop that is consciously minded in everything from the products they carry in-store, the way they care for their employees, or to the sustained impact they have on the surrounding community, look no further than Heidi's little shop, Thread Spun.
In addition to Heidi, I have been so lucky to have been surrounded by a really tenacious group of women entrepreneurs who have been my support throughout the whole year. One such woman is our other neighbor, Betsy Smith. She owns her own hair salon, Sunny Hair Days, and has found her niche in the sustainable hair market. She has made it her goal to source products with a low environmental impact on both our bodies and the environment. Betsy has been a constant source of inspiration for Little Fox as we source our own ingredients for the ice cream.
Our friend Erin Pomidor from Suha Design has also been instrumental in getting us to where we are now. She and her fiance own a successful design-build van company. They rent out one of their vans to travelers looking for adventure weekend getaways. You really should book a weekend away with one of these beautiful vans and venture throughout California to see all of the beauty this state boasts. A weekend away like that really puts the phrase, “the great outdoors” into perspective and is a critical reminder as to why it is important for us to consider the environment when we are faced with certain decisions surrounding our business.
If you come to north county, you will have to stop for a coffee at Ironsmith Coffee Roasters while you are in town. Not only will you get a beautiful cup of coffee, you immediately feel like you are a part of the Encinitas community. It is one of the most local spots we have. If you are lucky and you get there early enough, you should treat yourself to one of the handmade cookies or pastries in the case. They are all made by the owner's wife through her business called, Flour Patch. She puts a whole lot of pride and care into each treat. They are absolutely stunning.
I actually love how competitive and fast-paced the San Diego food scene is. It almost feels as if a new spot opens every day with the owners of each new concept sort of leapfrogging over one another. It makes a city where complacency is not really an option and therefore we have diverse and innovative choices to decide from. I have no doubt that someone will come along and make a better, more creative ice cream taco than we do, but I am mentally preparing for that day and thinking about all of the new flavors and ideas we can come up with, how we can source more sustainable ingredients, and what partnerships we can create to keep ourselves relevant in an ever-changing food landscape.
You’ll find Little Fox Cups + Cones featured in Edible San Diego’s Guide to the Coolest Treats on page 30 of our summer 2021 issue. Here’s a free digital version that you can print and tack on the fridge.
Address: 1114 N. Coast Hwy 101, Suite 4, Encinitas, CA 92024
Phone: (978) 994-1745