Ah, frozen custard. I love the stuff. I obviously eat a lot of frozen treats, like ice cream, froyo, gelato, etc. I like them all, but frozen custard has a special place in my heart. You don't see it often in the Bay Area, but where I went to grad school in Virginia, it was a thing.
For the uninitiated, frozen custard is, well, frozen ... custard. A custard base that is frozen. What sets it apart from ice cream is the egg yolk content, a defining characteristic of any custard. Like gelato, is it generally made fresh and in small batches in shops, rather than commercially, and can be served at higher temperatures than ice cream. It is quite rich due to the addition of the egg yolks obviously, but I find it more pleasantly creamy and soft than traditional ice cream.
It turns out, the Bay Area does have one frozen custard operation, a food truck: Frozen Kuhsterd. Well, not quite a food truck, but a mobile stand. They participate in Off the Grid events around town, and are available for catering. Frozen Kuhsterd has been on my radar before, but I hadn't ever come across their stand until my work group held a picnic in Golden Gate Park, and we got to vote to select our vendors from the Off the Grid lineup. For the savory food, we went for the epic garlic noodles from An the Go, and for sweets, it was Frozen Kusterd. (I swear, I didn't rig the ballot box. I just have ... influence!) Finally, I'd get to try the custard.
Of course, we were in Golden Gate Park, so even though it was warm and sunny in the rest of the city, it was totally freezing and cloudy in the park. It wasn't remotely ice cream weather. But, it was my opportunity to finally try the custard, so, I seized the day.
|The Mobile Setup.|
I did my research beforehand, and eagerly ran up to the stand the moment I arrived to scope it out. Frozen Kusterd is known not only for the fact that they make the only custard in San Francisco, but for their amazing flavors. I knew they offered all the classics like vanilla (and vanilla malt), chocolate (and dark chocolate, and chocolate malt), strawberry (and port wine strawberry), coffee (and white coffee), cookies n creme, chocolate chip, rum raisin, etc, but also some very fun tempting flavors such as peanut butter and jelly, salted chocolate peanut butter, black sesame, cheesecake, maple butter, kettle popcorn, ube, and even the questionable salt and pepper potato chip or sweet corn. And that is just the standard flavors! They also offer premium selections, many boozy, like coffee mint mojito, fresh mint white chocolate, matcha white chocolate, spiked cereal milk, pumpkin cheesecake, spicy pumpkin chocolate pie, red velvet cake batter, banana rum, and yuzu sake.
Thus, I was fairly disappointed when I saw our menu. Vanilla bean, Four Barrel Coffee, or Guittard Chocolate. I guess the event planner was trying to please the crowd, but, those are pretty much the most boring flavors ever.
I also researched toppings before showing up. Frozen Kuhsterd is known for some ridiculous pairings, like ice cream sandwiches using sliced Dynamo Donuts as the "cookies". OMG. Or sundaes built on a foundation of sweet potato fries, bacon waffles, or funnel cakes. Toppings can be chunks of bread pudding or boba. Did I mention, OMG?
Our toppings however were more ... tame. For sauces we could select from burnt caramel, chocolate sauce, or condensed milk. Dry toppings were almonds, cornflakes, Oreos, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or sprinkles.
A little deflated, I stepped up to order.
|Cinnamon Toast Crunch Custard, Burnt Caramel, Cornflakes, Sprinkles.|
I had to rule out the coffee flavor immediately due to the caffeine. I also rarely really like chocolate ice cream (I know, I'm weird), so, vanilla it was. I figured I could spruce it up with toppings at least.
I was the first person to opt for vanilla, since, well, it is vanilla. When the server went to scoop it, he gave it a funny look. He pulled out a sample spoon. He tasted it. "That isn't vanilla", he said. My heart skipped a beat. Yes! Something more exciting!
It turned out to be Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavor. I went for it, even though I could kinda care less about Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Still, better than vanilla, right? It had a very, very slight cinnamon flavor, but was mostly just sweet. I think they were going for the cereal milk concept popularized by Momofuku Milk Bar. But for me, the flavor fell flat.
I asked for topping recommendations, and the scooper suggested burnt caramel sauce and cornflakes, so I took his suggestion, and added sprinkles for fun.
The burnt caramel sauce was warm, which was nice. It was a thin style, not thick. But it was just way too sweet for me, and I didn't pick up any subtle burnt flavor. Caramel, not burnt caramel. The sweet cereal milk base with the sweet sauce didn't really work, I needed some contrast. I agreed with his suggestion for cornflakes, even though I didn't really want them, but I knew I'd want some crunch. They were, well, cornflakes. Ojan really liked that component, but I didn't see why I'd ever want cornflakes on my ice cream.
The sprinkles turned out to be the little ball kind, rather than sticks. I actually like these more, since they add a bit of crunch too. They were cute and colorful, the best part of my creation.
As you can tell, I was pretty let down by my treat. I kept taking more bites, hoping for it to grow on me, and finally realized that I just truly didn't want more. I rarely don't finish a dessert, but my heart just wasn't in this at all. I gave it to Ojan, who also didn't want it, who gave it to another friend. It still went unfinished.
After I warmed back up, I stepped up to try again.
|Guittard Chocolate, Condensed Milk, Sprinkles.|
The flavor was very mild, not a rich, deep chocolate. But it was creamy, smooth, and really quite nice. I liked it far more than I expected.
I also wanted a sauce, and since I didn't really like the caramel, and didn't want more caffeine from the chocolate sauce, I opted for the final option, condensed milk. It was sweet, creamy, milky, and not what I'd ever think to put on ice cream, but it totally worked. A unique offering for sure.
And of course, more sprinkles.
Overall, this was far more successful, and, even though I was freezing, it disappeared.
I also tried a bite of my coworker's creation of chocolate with chocolate sauce and Oreo. His was clearly the best, the chocolate components all worked together nicely.
Still, I have no reason to return for anything I tried. I was glad to have finally tried Frozen Kusterd, and would certainly still like to try some of the more interesting creations, but their basics were just that: basics.