Jenna Isaacs is churning ice cream in her “gnome cave,” the 10-by-10-foot commercial kitchen space below Viva Modern Mexican, the downtown Santa Barbara restaurant located in La Arcada Plaza. “I was inspired to try and make a product that is definitely a sweet treat,” explains Isaacs, “but that doesn’t have any of the chemicals, fillers, or stabilizers you sometimes find in non-organic ice creams.”
She’s selling her creations under the brand Ice Cream Gnomes, an inside joke between family and friends about secret dessert deliveries that grew into a lovable brand name. She relies on organic dairy and eggs from vendors such as Lily’s Eggs that she combines with ingredients sourced from farmers’ markets, like citrus from Mud Creek Ranch and herbs and spices from Earthtrine Farm. She’s also been using craft food products made by Santa Barbara artisans as well, such as honey from Dylan’s Raw Hive Honey.
Currently available at Viva but with pop-up possibilities on the horizon, Ice Cream Gnomes’ flavors are rotating frequently, but there are currently nine to try, including the vegan rose lychee raspberry and marzipan cream. There are more than a dozen new flavors expected to emerge over the next few weeks. Explained Isaacs, “I wanted to ease people in with these first flavors before I do anything too wild.” She will also do custom ice creams for catering events.
Here are some of the existing flavors.
WHISKEY: Turning a childhood treat into an adult dish: whiskey ice cream. The ice cream is flavored with a heaping of Jameson Caskmates whiskey for a boozy punch and then enhanced with pieces of peppermint bark for a little crunch of Christmas in each spoonful, carrying over that holiday coziness to the springtime.
S’MORES: On the opposite end of the spectrum is this kid-friendly, “ooey-gooey” flavor. Chocolate ice cream combined with pieces of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker, and the result can be enjoyed by all ages.
MILK TEA: Although a cold dessert, Issacs created this flavor to guarantee a warm, fuzzy feeling. “I wanted you to feel like you’re out with an ice chai tea, just enjoying your day,” she explained. The milk tea ice cream emulates chai with black tea, cardamom, and espresso flavors, and is topped with an activated charcoal whipped cream with hints of almond, vanilla, and cinnamon.
MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE & CHURRO CON LECHE: This reached immediate success on the Viva menu, prompting the restaurant to add Ice Cream Gnomes’ Churros con Leche flavor to the menu as well. This sweet treat has a milk gelato base, semi-sweet chocolate shavings, salted cinnamon caramel, and pieces of churro.
Ice Cream Gnomes is currently available at Viva Modern Mexican (1114 State St.; (805) 965-4770; vivasb.com) and through delivery apps like Doordash that service Viva.