Happy ice cream from a Komi sous chef is our ultimate summer craving



A happy camper with Happy Ice Cream. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Gourmet restaurant Komi has reinvented itself as a Greek-inspired vegetarian dish called Happy Gyro since the start of the pandemic. The tofu-skinned gyros and hyper-seasonal pizzas, along with a fun selection of natural wines, have attracted a loyal following. But has the sleeper struck? Good ice cream. The frozen treats come in chef flavors like olive oil with cocoa crumble or sheep’s milk ricotta with sungold tomato honey. You can get them take out by the pint or by the scoop of a sidewalk cart parked outside the restaurant.

Happy Ice Cream is the brainchild of Ben Brunner, pastry chef at Komi for a decade and responsible for its desserts. His ice cream has long been a part of Komi’s Mediterranean-influenced tasting menus, but it wasn’t until last year that he turned to pints of oatmeal cookies and ice cream at Komi. grated chocolate, lime pie frozen yogurt and blackberry-geranium sorbet.

“To be honest, focusing on ice cream was a great escape from the pandemic – it gave me a pretty cathartic creative outlet. I think people have picked up on this joy. Right away people really reacted to the ice cream and we started selling pints, â€says Brunner. (Like his famous shy interview boss, Chef Johnny Monis, Brunner only answered questions via email.)

The sous chef Ben Brunner is at the origin of Happy Ice Cream. Photograph courtesy of Happy Ice Cream.

Bruner only has two small ice cream makers and packs the very small lots by hand. He says this process makes a big difference to the quality, as it’s able to build up layers so you get the texture of, say, crumbled polenta or brittle cashews with every bite. The Wisconsin native says the rich custard-style ice cream he grew up with inspired many flavors, while others (like cocoa crumble olive oil) are a throwback to Komi. Brunner continues to take a gourmet approach, even for the occasional cone, using what’s in season at the farmers market and local farms.

“When strawberries aren’t at their peak, for example, we don’t make that flavor anymore,†Brunner explains. Meanwhile, a New Orleans-style coffee ice cream uses two different coffee steeping processes “to access different flavor profiles and accents.” Of course, you won’t find your standard waffle cones either; Brunner makes their own cones with a bit of sourdough and three different types of sugar for a “pronounced flavor profile of caramel, hazelnut and honey to really complement the ice cream”.

Komi / Happy gyro owner Monis notes that even ice creams that seem deceptively simple are exceptionally precise and take a lot of work. “When people don’t know why ice cream is so good, that’s what they taste like: the full attention of a chef who puts all his immense talent into ice cream,†he says by e- mail.

Ice cream is offered at premium prices: $ 15 a pint or $ 6 for a single scoop ($ 8 for a double) in the cart. You can find four flavors rotating daily in the basket, weather permitting, Tuesday through Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Check Instagram to see what is picked up each day.) A wider selection of flavors is available if you order a pint of Happy Gyro takeaway menu. The cart will also be available for weddings and events, and Happy Ice Cream has offered delivery “telegrams” for special occasions.

Happy Ice Cream and Happy Gyro will be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Co-owner Anne Marler is vague about Komi’s return or whether the take-out concepts could one day move to a new space.

“We feel like we’re sort of home to a natural wine bottle shop, pizzeria, and scoop shop under one roof right now, all of our favorite things,†Marler said via email. “That’s where our hearts are right now, so we don’t really want to put the genie back in the bottle. We are having fun and not setting any dates on anything or planning too far in advance just yet. “

Happy ice cream. 1509 17th St., NO.

Jessica sidman

Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind the DC food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian as of July 2016, she was culinary writer and columnist Young & Hungry at the Washington City Paper. She is originally from Colorado and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.


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