Thursday, August 03, 2017

Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos

Ice Cream Tacos.  From a food truck.  Made with liquid nitrogen.

Yup, a trendy food mashup.  And yup, tacos are a fitting mashup concept for San Francisco (I'm looking at you sushi burritos).  But I prefer to think of these a bit more old school: just think of them as Choco Tacos.  You know, the most awesome frozen packaged ice cream novelty of the late '90s.  Except, these are customizable Choco Tacos, made to order, with organic local ingredients.
"What's an ice cream taco? Glad you asked!  We take a freshly baked waffle taco shell, stuff it with your favorite ice cream and then dip it into various chocolate or peanut butter dips."
Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos is a Mountain View based food truck and caterer offering, well, ice cream tacos.  They have no physical store front, but you can find them at all the big food truck events (Off the Grid, etc) around the Bay Area all summer.  I recently attended an event catered by them.

I was excited by the concept, to be honest.  I love ice cream, and who doesn't love customization and getting to see liquid nitrogen come out?  They freeze the dips using liquid nitrogen, to order.  Of course.

Rocko's prides themselves on quality product, not just gimmick.  All ingredients are organic and sourced locally, and, they mean it: Straus Family Creamery and Clover for the dairy (milk, cream and butter), local organic eggs, Oakland based TCHO chocolate, even the vanilla comes from a place in Santa Cruz, the flour from San Carlos and Capay Valley, and the oil from San Leandro.  They do not make their own ice cream, but it comes from Leslie's Dessert Werks, based in South San Francisco.

I was glad to try it, but it really was better in concept and novelty than practice, sadly.
Custom Made Ice Cream Taco!
I customize my taco, and watched the creation be dipped into the chocolates and liquid nitrogen in front of me.  It was fun to customize, and fun to watch.

They also make dipped to order "Ace"-Cream Cake Pops, made from cake and ice cream balls dipped in your choice of chocolate, dipped frozen bananas, and frozen s'mores tacos (with warm toasted marshmallow instead of ice cream inside), but the event I attended had only the tacos.
Taco Ice Cream Stand.
For catering, they offer up a cart for mid-sized events (minimum 50), a full truck for large gatherings (100+), and drop off pre-packaged goods for smaller events (packaged on dry ice).

This was a mid-size event, so we had the cart.  The little generator and liquid nitrogen tank sitting on the sidewalk were a bit funny to see (and made me wonder a bit about what kind of permits they needed to get ... )
Friendly signage explains the concept, complete with illustration.
Options for the day.
I'm not sure if cart options are always more limited than truck options, or if this is just something our hosts selected, but we could only pick from 4 ice cream flavors (Espresso, Mint Chip, Salty Caramel, Peach Ginger), 4 dips (Milk Chocolate,  Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate,  Peanut Butter), and no toppings.

Rocko's normally offers about a dozen flavors of ice cream (including vegan options), the 4 dips, and a bunch of toppings.  Toppings usually include pretzels, cocoa nibs, pistachios, almonds, coconut, and toffee, all for an additional $0.50.  A single dip is always included, extras are $0.25.

In some ways, our simple menu made my decision making easier?
Liquid Nitrogen!
Of course, the fun here is the liquid nitrogen, which the taco is dunked into after dipped in the liquid dips.  This causes it to solidify.  And it is fun.
All Packaged Up!
Right after dipping and freezing, the taco is wrapped in parchment paper, and handed over.
Salty Caramel Ice Cream Taco with Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and White Chocolate Dips. $5.
"Waffle Taco + Ice Cream + Dip."

For my creation, I picked the salted caramel ice cream (although I almost went for mint chip, and wished I had), mostly based on reviews I had read.

I was really excited to try the peanut butter dip, but, it didn't seem like it would go with salted caramel, (or mint chip for that matter, and definitely not peach ginger!), so I opted to just get all the other dips.  All tacos were pre-dipped in milk chocolate, so I added Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate, which she dipped one end in each.

White chocolate was sweet and tasty.  The dark was fine but unremarkable, even though high quality TCHO.  I really liked the texture of the chocolate, they both got really snappy, and the liquid nitrogen process clearly works well for this.

The taco shell (e.g. waffle cone) was actually really good, and my favorite element.  It was not too hard nor soft, pleasantly sweet.  Soooo many better than the taco part of a real Choco Taco, or any ice cream novelty sundae cone.  Clearly fresher.

The ice cream is made by Leslie's Dessert Werks.  It was the real downside to my creation.  The ice cream was far too sweet.  I didn’t taste the salt.  And the ice cream didn’t seem particularly good quality, it was not creamy, was rather icy and crystalized.  Maybe the refreezing causes this?  Even as it melted, it just got more grainy, rather than smooth and creamy.

I appreciated the serving size, just 3 1/4" long, filled with 1.5 scoops of ice cream, and not unreasonable for a single portion.  A standard taco is usually $5 (+$0.50 for toppings, +$0.25 for additional dips), which seems a bit high for a small portion though.

Overall, this was fun to try, and I did like the shell and dips, but, alas, the ice cream didn't complete the deal.  I also did want more crunch, and wished I could have added nibs, nuts, or really any of the toppings.
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