How did Flores and Anabelle Topacio, his partner in life and business, come up with such a long and unusual name? Together, they tender several reasons. Reason one, it sounds sweeping. Flores: "We want our place to be thought of like a big, blank palette. We're not just doing ice cream." Reason two, it's a feminist commentary. Topacio: "When we were building out the space, we were surprised at how the contractors and electricians would only make eye contact with Ian. They just assumed that because he's a man, he was the owner and I was like his assistant or something." Reason three, just to mess with people. Topacio: "We love hearing little kids try to pronounce it."
Both grew up on the West Coast. Topacio recalls trips to the Thrifty ice cream counter for square-shaped scoops of chocolate malted crunch, while Flores still smiles when he speaks of Mrs. Fields and It's-Its. Topacio is a CIA graduate and has worked at Chez Panisse and Brickmaiden Breads in Pt. Reyes. Flores cut his teeth within the Wolfgang Puck empire, first at multiple Spago locations and then at CUT. Not surprisingly, the couple met at a book signing for Spago pastry chef Sherri Yard. Job opportunities brought them to the Bay Area: Topacio at Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland, and Flores as closing pastry chef at Postrio.
When the shop opened, Flores recalls "we just made shit that we liked." The ice cream board typically lists 10 choices; rarely are they the same as the day before.Ballpark, a blend of Anchor Steam ice cream studded with chocolate-covered pretzels and peanuts, has generated the most buzz so far ― which is why Topacio and Flores purposefully limit its appearance on the flavor board. "We don't want to have a signature flavor that we're stuck having to make every day" says Topacio. "We're developing a strong trust with our customers."
Other early favorites include Old Fashioned (a mix of Makers Mark and cherries), Burnt Sugar, and Croquatino, a caramelized hazelnut creation that Flores says "is seemingly gone within five minutes after we put it out." Sunset magazine recently profiled the couple's interpretation of the Fudgsicle, a stickless hunk of frozen 64 percent and 70 percent Valhrona chocolate blended with Straus cream. On the candy side of the counter, Topacio's coconut marshmallows have become so popular she says people get pissed off if they sell out. Future ice cream flavors may include absinthe, corn and cheese, red bean, halvah, fig, and something called sea foam.
The idea for an ice cream shop came soon after the birth of their daughter, now eighteen months old. "We were thinking that a business with fixed hours that closed early would allow us to see our daughter more" says Topacio. Things haven't exactly worked out that way. After three months, business is so good the couple is spending more hours at the shop than anticipated.
"We're just two people" says Topacio.
Flores's parents, visiting from L.A., have been watching their granddaughter, but they need to return. Earlier this month, Topacio and Flores decided to close the shop for eight days for what they called "reflection and restructuring," and to explore childcare options. "We've been shocked by the positive response and totally underestimated the neighborhood's demand "exclaims Flores. The shop reopened last Friday.
Flores waves off obvious comparisons with Bi-Rite and Humphry Slocombe. "There are a lot of good ice cream places in the city and we're happy being one of them," he says. "We're humble, we're stunned, and we're flattered that people give a fuck."
Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous: 699 22nd St. (at Third St.), 970-0750.