When he isn’t running a Peruvian ice cream shop cafe on weekends around the corner of Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood, Jonathan Alvarado works as an anesthesiologist at a veterinary clinic in Manhattan. Dealing with animals, he says, is something he does well. Unexpectedly, making ice cream is also something he does well. After watching the frozen yogurt and ice cream booms pass through the culinary ecosystem, Alvarado said he taught himself how to make ice cream and followed by starting up this shop on the side. Closed during the winter months, Creme & Sugar has just opened its doors for another summer.
What makes Cream & Sugar different from, say, the Carvel down the road or even the recognizable bougie chains, are the flavors. Immediately, my eyes are drawn to the lower half of the sharpie-drawn list: plum shiraz, raspberry riesling, chocolate chip bordeaux.
Alvarado is nowhere near the first person to combine wine and frozen dessert—every summer someone in Williamsburg tries to make it happen—but there’s a charm to his approach. Instead of being blended in, the deposits of alcohol come in small, whimsical bursts that evoke rum-filled chocolates.
But the good stuff is on the line above. Lucuma, a native fruit to Peru. Maracuya, or what’s known as passion fruit. Vanilla Pompano, a vanilla native to South America. “I’d say about 80 percent of people who come in are Peruvian,” Alvarado said. Most of New York’s Peruvian community has moved southward, to New Jersey, but this doesn’t bother Alvarado much, “when we like something, it’s worth the distance.”
Lucuma, for instance, are large, orange avocado-shaped fruits. They taste like butterscotch. In ice cream form, they come in bright tangerine-colored dollops. These were flavors Alvarado grew up with and if you have time to stay a spell, he will expound further on the colorful superiority of the ice cream culture of his native Peru. “Everything over here is just different kinds of vanilla and chocolate,” he says. His list of flavors changes regularly and your standard sprinkles, jimmies and chocolate coating are available on demand.
Alvarado is frank and unassuming and speaks with the polite sturdiness of a man who attends to beloved animals. Other items that he imports from Peru include bottles of Inca Kola—a brand of green-ish yellow soda that he claims is the most popular soft drink in that mountainous South American country—and chicha morada—a dark purple corn-based drink that Vice writes “looks remarkably like blood.” Both are rich and almost cloyingly sweet, and delicious on hot days. The chicha morada, Alvarado said, is often used as a non-alcoholic sangria substitute.
Peruvian blankets, hand-woven purses and stuffed llamas are also available for purchase. The most loving import, however, are the coffee beans that Alvarado imports himself from Peru’s Chanchamayo Valley. He roasts and brews a traditional drip and alternatively makes another invention of his, “Nazca cold brew,” which is named after the region and ancient culture of the same name. These takes on coffee are earthy, smart and, if anything else, are worthy for their independence from the standard line of Brooklynite roasters.
Nestling his project in a quiet corner of Ridgewood, in between Polish hair salons, funeral homes and the anachronistic storefront of Morscher’s Pork Store, Alvarado is humble and ambitious, boldly and confidently doing his own thing. A clerk at Morscher’s said that once school’s out and the heat is so heavy you could cut it, kids line up next door. A true taste of summer.
Creme & Sugar is currently open on weekends, from noon to 8pm. Keep updated on hours, events and additions to the menu via Instagram.
Cover photo courtesy of author.
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