Summer’s on the horizon and we couldn’t be more ready. Kicking back. Hitting the road. Bound for the beach. But why settle for the same old hot-weather tropes when, with just a little help from your fellow alumni, some truly unique experiences are just waiting to be had? Here are some certified blue-and-gold tips for an authentically offbeat Bruin summer.
Coolhaus, the architecturally inspired, gourmet ice cream truck business started by former Bruin architecture student Natasha Case M.A. ’08 and Freya Estreller, couldn’t have had a hipper starting locale: the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Turns out the popular pre-summer event provided the perfect launch platform for Coolhaus’ sweet-and-savory ice cream treats.
“We were 25 years old and had no start-up capital,” Case says. “The only way to get out there was with personal credit cards, social media and a truck.” Purchased on the cheap, the truck (an old postal van) was inoperative. Undaunted, the duo invested in a platinum AAA membership and had the vehicle towed to Coachella.
Their efforts paid off. Today, Coolhaus is globally informing the masses about architecture and design. Says Case, “Ice cream is a canvas, a way to make those worlds more fun and accessible.” The pair has expanded the brand, with trucks in Los Angeles, New York, Austin and Dallas; two brick-and-mortar L.A.- based storefronts; and distribution to national grocery store chains like Whole Foods, Kroger and Safeway, and even retailers in the Philippines and the Cayman Islands.
Architecturally inspired ice cream wasn’t always Case’s life mission. After graduation, she worked at Disney Imagineering as an architect. When layoffs hit, Case tried to soften the blow for her colleagues via a former UCLA project: Farchitecture = Food + Architecture. Disney employees lined up for Case’s ice cream sandwiches, named after architectural movements and architects — e.g., the Frank Gehry-inspired Frank Berry, a snickerdoodle cookie/strawberry ice cream combo.
When Case received her own pink slip, she and Estreller decided that “if Ben and Jerry could be successful with rock ’n’ roll ice cream, we could do the same with architecture and ice cream.”
This summer, Case says, the cool kids will be consuming Coolhaus’ “Vietnamese Iced Coffee” and ice cream flavors such as “Spicy Pineapple Cilantro with Serrano Chilis,” “Blueberry Sweet Corn,” “Dirty Mint Julep,” “Avocado Sriracha,” “Southern Belle” and “Thai Tea.”
For New Yorkers battling summer humidity, Case recommends spicy sorbets. The treat she targets for Angelenos? “Iced coffee with a scoop of ice cream.”
Cool as Ice
Roberto Sequeira M.B.A. ’07 wants you to slow down. In fact, he’s all about freezing moments in time. Literally. The Bruin got the idea for his luxury ice company, Gläce, while attending UCLA Anderson School. His mission: Get people to revel in the moment.
Gläce was born in one of Sequeira’s M.B.A. classes, when the instructor asked the students to come up with business concepts. Turning the assignment on its head, Sequeira and his classmates developed a set of criteria for finding the “perfect” business. They considered watches, cars, clothes and shoes before arriving at ice.
“The business had to be simple, niche, high-margin and luxury,” Sequeira recalls. And ice “is a $4-billion-a-year industry, 100-percent commoditized, with a good marketplace. But no one had made any improvements on it since the early 1900s, when refrigeration was invented.”
After graduation, Sequeira couldn’t forget the idea. In building an ice business, ordinary cubes posed three challenges: the quick melting and dilution of a drink; the fact that there’s nothing special about ice; and the fact that everyone usually makes their own.
Where luxury ice made a true difference was as a complement to fine spirits. Designing an ice for special moments was Sequeira’s goal. He hit the mark in 2008 with the slow-melting Gläce, which has become known for its clarity, consistency and zero-taste profile. How the $24.99 pouch of ice is produced remains a closely guarded secret.
Critics lashed out, saying that “the brand represented everything they perceived wrong with America,” Sequeira says. “But the whole idea behind developing slow-melting ice was that I saw a world going too fast toward Red Bull and vodka. We’d lost that relationship between a bartender and client and what happens when people slow down enough to enjoy a drink.”
And Sequeira knows just how to rekindle that relationship: “A nice, smooth, citrusy Scotch over Gläce is the perfect fit.”
On most summer days, author and UCLA English Professor Emeritus Carolyn See Ph.D. ’63 draws her inspiration from hikes along the cliffs of Pacific Palisades, taking in the ocean views before settling into her couch for a longhand writing session. But when the winner of the Robert Kirsch Body of Work Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship isn’t writing a novel (she’s authored nine), the now-retired book reviewer for The Washington Post is reading. Here, she shares some of her favorite books for summertime.
Scoop, By Evelyn Waugh
Where to read it: “On the beach, straight up.”
Her take: “Scoop is about William Boot, the writer of an obscure nature column for the Daily Beast newspaper. He says things like, ‘Featherfooted through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.’ There’s another character named John Boot, who’s a swashbuckling foreign correspondent. The two get mixed up, and poor, feather-footed Boot finds himself in the middle of a war in Africa. It could have been written yesterday, especially when you look at places like the Sudan or Somalia and at what makes news and what is news.”
Running With Scissors: A Memoir, By Augusten Burroughs
Where she wouldn’t read it: “In a restaurant. I did so one night and had to leave because my hysterical laughing caused an uproar.”
Her take: “It’s about Burroughs’ horrendous childhood growing up in an insane family. You think it can’t get any weirder, then you turn the page and it’s weirder. Those who had dysfunctional childhoods of their own will love it.”
In Defense of a Liberal Education, By Fareed Zakaria
Where to read it: “With a gin and tonic on any country club terrace.”
Her take: “It’s very virtuous and high-minded. Zakaria says there’s no point in getting any kind of education that teaches a trade or skill, because by the time you finish studying, they’ll be obsolete. He suggests learning critical thinking and to be conversant about the arts so you can look at everything with an educated, skeptical eye.”
A Room With a View, By E.M. Forster
Where to read it: “Someplace beautiful with a breeze.”
Her take: “It’s a very touching story that reassures anybody can find love if they just tell the truth, are true to themselves, try to be authentic and don’t go down a primrose path of doing what they’re supposed to do.”
China Dolls, By Lisa See
Where to read it: “In a garden gazebo.”
Her take: “This is my daughter Lisa’s most recent book. She writes historical Chinese novels where people talk in literary Chinese fashion. It’s set in World War II and follows the fortunes of three giddy girls. It’s very racy, but written with elegance and taste.”
Not Your Father’s BBQ
Anyone can throw a few hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill for a backyard barbecue, or fill a basket with sandwiches and a grocery store fruit salad for a picnic in the park. But with a little imagination and daring, you can create a summertime meal that’s truly inspired, says chef Brian Huskey ’03.
A contestant on Season 11 of Top Chef, the Pasadena native encourages aspiring gourmets as well as regular folks who simply enjoy cooking to try different flavors without complicating matters too much. “The biggest issue people have when they go crazy gourmet is that they overthink their dishes,” he says. “Especially when you’re off-site, it’s all about creating very simple flavor bombs.”
While it’s easy to plan your menu off a set theme, Huskey suggests improvising a bit. In addition to exploring the stalls at the Grand Central Market, he likes to wander through the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets to see what they have to offer. “When you’re getting fresh produce or fresh ingredients, usually it’s the execution — cooking it properly and seasoning it properly — that’s the most important thing,” he says.
One simple summer idea is to roast a nectarine or peach in the oven, which caramelizes it, then add some savory thyme. Pick up a fresh baguette and some ricotta cheese, smear the cheese on top of the bread slices, place the fruit on top of that and add a drizzle of honey.
“It’s fantastic, and it’s easy,” he says. “Just serve it at room temperature and call it a day.”
For a main dish, Huskey suggests shrimp rolls with aioli on brioche. It’s similar to an albacore tuna salad, but you can spruce up the mixture by poaching shrimp and adding some wine, herbs and vegetables. Put it on ice in a cooler and carry it out. Pair the sandwiches with a simple tomato and mozzarella salad — but perhaps switch that up by adding opal basil instead of the usual Italian basil.
“Just a little twist of another varietal of basil will really change the direction of your dish and make it a little more Asian,” Huskey says.
Most important, don’t worry about making mistakes. “It’s a matter of being comfortable and being adventurous enough to try it for yourself,” he says. “That’s the beauty of cooking.”
Huskey’s newest adventure is Tackle Box Local Grub Shack, a quick-serve seafood place on the beach in Corona del Mar that he’s opening with Wahoo’s Fish Taco co-founder Ed Lee. The eatery offers elevated versions of poke, fish and chips and lobster rolls, as well as breakfast sandwiches and acai bowls, in a casual setting. “It’ll be fun to just do simple, honest food that people can relate to, right on the water,” he says.
For a simple and delicious sauce that goes well with fish, potatoes or any kind of meat, try Brian Huskey’s Mojo Verde:
8 oz. parsley, chopped
3 oz. cilantro, chopped
3 oz. garlic clove
5 oz. serrano chili, seeded
6 oz. red wine vinegar
2 oz. lime juice
4 oz. canola oil
2 oz. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
salt, to taste
In a blender, add all ingredients except canola oil and EVOO.
Slowly add oils, blending until smooth.
Adjust seasoning to taste.