Two years ago, Hot Cakes' Autumn Martin was close to opening her dairy-free, plant-based ice cream spot, Frankie & Jo's, in Wallingford. She got cold feet, then, about becoming MiiR's neighbor in the new Brooks building.
With a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, a crowdsourcing campaign, and a talented business partner in Kari Brunson of Juicebox, though, Martin's getting ready to bust out some nut milk.
Kari makes amazing juices and nut milk and she is super spunky, so I knew she'd be the right fit.
"Last spring, I was just really feeling it," Martin tells Eater, of being invigorated to create the new shop. "I nailed down most of my recipes and decided to work with a partner on the project. Kari makes amazing juices and nut milk and she is super spunky, so I knew she'd be the right fit."
At the time she approached Brunson, Martin had already written a business plan, and since coming together, the two have been scouting locations and working out the details of their partnership. Despite a desire to open this summer, both restaurateurs are currently operating their own individual businesses; Brunson's Juicebox juice and cafe business is on Capitol Hill, and Martin oversees her award-winning line of caramel sauces, molten chocolate cakes, chocolate sauces, and two Hot Cakes cafes in Ballard and Capitol Hill, as well as working as GM of the latter.
Frankie & Jo's — named after Martin's now-deceased grandmothers — is what she calls her "heart project." In 2000, while in culinary school, she realized she was allergic to dairy. But between her love of lactose and the demands of cooking with dairy to create her caramel sauces and cakes, she didn't give it up completely until just a few years ago.
In the new shop, Brunson and Martin will make frozen treats with ingredients like fresh cashew milk, dates as a sugar source, and juice sorbets. "After a year of trying to make a perfect vanilla flavor, I realized nothing could be store bought," Martin explains of the need to make everything from scratch.
Not only will they make their own nut milk in the traditional way, which involves soaking nuts overnight to sprout before blending them, but the women will also bake with nut meal from the process. Waffle cones will be made from oat and almond flour with maple. Only honey in a few of the flavors keeps the shop from being completely vegan, and Hot Cakes' vegan caramel sauce and chocolate sauces will also make appearances on the menu.
Eventually, Martin hopes to pasteurize the vanilla recipe and sell it wholesale, including it in Hot Cakes cafes, but says that's "way far down the line" at this point. Right now, the chocolate-date-coconut cream variety is climbing the charts as her favorite. "It's just the richest flavor, and it's just those three ingredients plus salt! It's hard to tell it's so healthy."
Unlike non-dairy ice creams at Molly Moon's, Bluebird, and on grocery shelves, Frankie & Jo's ice cream will not contain any gum stabilizers, giving it a short shelf life in order to maintain the natural food profile.
Martin and Brunson are currently trying to raise 50 thousand dollars in funding through Community Sourced Capital, and are looking for a location. While a couple options, including one on Capitol Hill, are in the race, Martin thinks a little neighborhood spot elsewhere might be just the right fit.