I wasn’t expecting the experience that was the unboxing of Oaté, a hard scoop ice cream collection. Taken aback, by the sliver of metallic package, I opened it to reveal a sexy black tin which housed their plant-based desserts. Never tasting oat milk ice cream, nor understanding how one gets milk out of oats, my expectations were low. I decided to do the taste test with my big sister. She has a discerning palate; plus, my first job, at age 15, was at Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors—so, aficionado here. I figured my sister and I could dislike the ice cream as a team. (Note: I wanted to like it. The brand is Black owned, female-owned. But oat milk ice cream—I don't know.)
I took the pint called Taste of Freedom; my sister had Blush Cake. Sis gasps, “This is the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my my life.” I respond to the creamy, lush taste in the same vein, “This is the only ice cream I ever want.” Whipped. Indeed.
Courtney Blagrove, and Zan B. R., are radical ice cream makers. The sisters own NYC's first oat milk ice cream shop—Whipped Urban Dessert Lab, located in the city's Lower East Side.
Zan, a lawyer with an extensive background in research, replies to our query of why an oat milk ice cream shop, “We noticed a lack of a good plant-based substitute for ice cream. We found that a lot of individuals are either lactose-intolerant or are have lactose sensitivities.”
The artisanal confectioners sense of compassion don't stop with their hard and soft serve delights. Courtney and Zan are on a mission for BIPOCs to achieve equality in fair hiring standards for executive and mangers in the culinary industry. On their IG page, they make this powerful statement:
“Whipped is a women and Black-owned business and we urge you to stand against racism and not fuel the system of inequality by turning away. Overt and covert acts of racism occur every day in America and the current documentation is simply a partial unmasking of the everyday struggles experienced by Black people.”
Coming from a “people eat with their eyes first” point-of-view, the presentation is unique, fun, and even photogenic. “Social media is a huge part of spreading the word of our business and people love posting something colorful and vibrant," shares Zan. "It really makes the page pop."
In the beginning, the business-minded siblings certainly had set-backs. Testing the waters with a small pop-up shop in Brooklyn in December 2019, they decided to create a brick-and mortar location in Manhattan, with a grand opening in February 2020. Courtney, who has a PhD in nutrition and metabolism, recalls, “The first week was great!” But the looming pandemic put everything to a halt. “People started taking shelter in place seriously in March. We were open for two weeks, and then we had to close down.”
Reopened, now they have long lines on the daily. “If you come right when we open you should have no problem getting in," confides Courtney. "Other than that, there’s a 30-minute to an hour wait.”
Nonetheless, we think it's definitely worth the wait.
"My sister and I continued our Oaté ice cream experience—scooping Malted Espresso, PB Chocolate and the Urban Dessert Lab’s version of Cookies and Crème. After the taste test, I pointed out that there was a printing error on the pints. Refusing to believe that the women who make the best ice cream in the world would make a mistake of any kind, my sister analyzed the gold-rimmed cup and researched something online. Squinting and sure of herself, she says,”This is by design. It stands like this…”
One of the smartest traits of the Oaté pint packaging, a conversation piece unto itself, is that it stands upside down. “There’s actually a functional purpose to it," explains Courtney. "It prevents freezer burn.” What a super fresh idea.
"It’s the look. It’s the taste. It's the process of putting the ice cream together,” Zan says in reference to their "line and layer" technique. “We don’t focus on putting the topping solely on top. We line your actual cone or cup with the topping, making sure you can get the sauce or topping in the middle of enjoying it.”
Whipped Urban Dessert Lab ships nationwide, free, via goldbelly.
For more info, visit urbandessertlab.com.