Yesterday, we spoke with Doug Quint, the endlessly amiable co-proprietor of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Today, our conversation continues, as Quint enlightens us about staying cool, Neil Gaiman’s ice cream cone, and his newest Golden Girls-inspired creation, the Sophia.
What have been some of your more popular flavors?
People really want stuff with good sea salt on it. It’s fun to win people over with it — there’s still a section of eaters who see salt as table salt. They don’t realize a good salting just enhances everything and doesn’t make stuff salty. So that’s been fun to turn a lot of people onto. As well as olive oil — it just makes so many things better.
Are you planning anything new?
There are definitely some things we’re going to rotate out and bring in. We did a cone we created for Neil Gaiman that’s got to come back. It was called American Globs, a play on his book American Gods. We got pretzels from Martin’s Pretzels and smashed them up and rolled a cone in that and dulce de leche, and dipped it in chocolate. It was a huge monstrosity, globs of hot love. He gave us full permission to knock off his books for more cones — he knows what he’s in for, and that it could be dangerous.
I love the idea of integrating as much as we can from the Greenmarket, because it’s right there. There’s an orchard there that sells apple cider doughnuts, so I’m going to test an apple cider doughnut sundae. Next week, after I go on break, I’m really planning on getting my mojo back.
Tell me more about your new truck jingle, which was written by Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s.
I’m going to have it converted to a bells sound — I think that ice cream trucks should play bells. We’re going to release it Sunday on iTunes, and by the middle of the fall I’ll have it programmed. But I won’t play it while I’m parked — there’s a zoning law that says you can’t play ice cream music when you’re parked.
After last season ended, you went back to performing bassoon. Will you be doing that again this year?
Yes. Winter is looking good: I’m going to Boston and Florida. Last summer, I tried to do the truck and play bassoon, but this summer, I wanted to give [the truck] my full attention. I had too much to learn about this strange thing that we stumbled into. And I also felt that the customers we had last summer, everyone treated us so nicely, so this summer I felt like I owed it to them to get my act together and do this thing right.
The heat’s been so awful this summer — are you able to stay cool in the truck?
There is air conditioning in there. Otherwise, the ice cream would melt before you get it out of the window, and my sanity would be in question. The real hassle is that I have to load and clean the ice cream truck. And also, honestly, I just feel sorry for the people in line. The heat just makes people sullen and sad. And the extreme heat changes our menu — when the heat flares up, you have to bring in things that aren’t as sweet, like peppermint syrup. There are very few things that you can put on dairy that are going to refresh you when it’s 98 degrees out. Peppermint syrup and cocoa nibs were a big seller when the temperatures hit 90.
This summer you came out with the Bea Arthur, a vanilla cone with dulce de leche and crushed Nilla wafers. Are you planning any other Golden Girls-inspired cones?
I have cannoli shells, and I’m waiting to make our Sophia cone when it gets a little cooler. They’re going to be time-consuming to make, and I don’t want them to melt. I’m waiting for October — people are saying, “You must be ready to shut down,” but September and October are better not only for sales, but to create things. But we’ll close after mid-October: Ice cream trucks are meant to go away for the winter.
Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?
Lately we’ve been eating at the Red Hook ballparks. We really have been addicted to that. It’s funny, because I spent the last 21 years in New York looking for decent Mexican food, and suddenly I’ve found it. I also love to eat at Franny’s in Brooklyn. Bryan [Petroff, Quint’s partner] used to live in Brooklyn, but we live in Washington Heights now. Recently we got a car, so we’ve been going to Red Hook. In the summer I want to eat outside. I don’t mind eating at a picnic table, and I love the idea of getting different courses from good trucks.
Do you have a favorite pizza or burger place?
My instant reaction is to say all these things that come from food trucks, because they’re my friends. I have so little time to eat that I stumble over to my friends and let them feed me. Schnitzel & Things’ schnitzel burger — Jesus Christ, it’s wonderful. It’s like a heart attack. That would be my last bite. Pizza is always just a statement: You agree with it or not. I don’t want to have a favorite. But the best and most recent pizza I had was from Veloce on Sunday.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if you eat ice cream when you’re not working.
I eat it as a dessert, but I don’t have it in my own freezer. The last scoop I had for dessert was at Henry’s Public, and it was fantastic. But I don’t have a particular place I like. Ice cream just stumbles into my mouth, or not.