“It’s not like I sought it out; it’s something that just came to me.”
That statement could probably be said for a variety of things for different people, but for Bridge Ho, that something is ice cream.
“It’s just a great medium to taste different flavor combinations, and I just love desserts, so that’s how it came about with ice cream,” said Ho.
Ho lives in Oakland and is the founder of Little Spoon Creamery, which is so new that the only place you can find it is at the Temescal farmers market on Sundays, but Ho is working on that.
Little Spoon has a definite Asian identity, and Ho, who is Chinese-American, is sensitive to the fact that many East Asian people are lactose intolerant.
“I’m slightly lactose-intolerant myself, but this is why I make it a mission to have a lot of non- dairy flavors,” Ho said. “I always have several vegan flavors, as I want to make it accessible to everyone.”
Creamy vegan flavors, like Matcha and Thai Tea, are made with coconut milk, and there are sorbets, too, like Apricot Tamarind.
More unusual Asian flavors include Lychee, and even more uncommon are the Soy Sauce Swirl, Chrysanthemum Tea & Honey, and Maple Chinese Sausage.
“I use a lot of Asian flavors and ingredients that I’m familiar with and that I grew up with,” said Ho.
“Chinese sausage is in fried rice a lot, and it’s a dried, cured sausage that is savory with a little bit of sweet, just like bacon,” they said (Ho identifies as gender non-binary, and prefers they and them pronouns). “A maple base makes sense since it’s very similar to the popular maple and bacon combination.”
Ho’s favorite Asian flavor is Chrysanthemum Tea & Honey — out of the rotation currently but it may come back soon — which is inspired by the tea they drank growing up. “It’s a popular drink at dim sum restaurants, which is really close to home for me. It’s something that I love, so I wanted to share that.”
The Soy Sauce Swirl is inspired by the nearly ubiquitous salted caramel.
“Salted caramel is the ice cream that made me fall in love with ice cream,” said Ho. “When I was getting started, salted caramel could be found at every single ice cream store in San Francisco.”
Ho went on a tasting tour to all of them to taste their version of salted caramel.
“I tried to dissect the flavor to see what worked for each of them, so this is my twist on it.”
Ho makes a caramel out of soy sauce, and then swirls it into the vanilla base.
“I really love the salty and sweet thing, and it also has great umami flavor so I think it really works,” said Ho.
Ho grew up in San Francisco. They have fond memories of going to the corner store for ice cream with their grandpa, and like for so many people, ice cream was reliable medicine when Ho was feeling down. But food wasn’t Ho’s only passion, they studied art in school.
“I’ve always been creative, and loved making things,” they said. “Food was always a medium as well.”
About two years ago, Ho began with working with some others on a food truck idea that combined Asian and Latin flavors, and at the same time, began playing around with ice cream.
When the food truck idea fell through, that’s when ice cream came more strongly into focus.
“I just really loved making it, but especially when it’s Asian-inspired; it just had this connection to me that made a lot of sense as I was not just making flavors that I liked, but flavors that resonated with me and were close to home.”
Ho especially enjoys people of various Asian backgrounds reacting to Little Spoon’s flavors, especially witnessing these customers “feel validated by seeing ingredients that aren’t traditional or common.” Ho said, “That part has been really fun.” The name Little Spoon is a play on words in that it’s both a small spoon but can also be related to cuddling, which makes eating it like an affectionate embrace.
Ho started out as many people do, by having friends be testers. That grew into doing pop-ups and small events. Ho has participated in a small business incubator program through Impact Hub and has also attended Penn State’s Ice Cream Short Course, an annual seven-day workshop that takes students “from cow to cone.”
Many of the larger commercial ice cream makers have attended it. “It’s very food-science based, with some really interesting technical aspects,” Ho said, noting that the course took their ice cream to a new level.
Ho’s foray into the farmers market is the first time Little Spoon ice cream is available to the public, and the response to it has been incredibly positive so far. Ho has been talking to restaurants as well, to help grow the business next year.
If so far this hasn’t given you a hankering for Ho’s ice cream, perhaps learning about the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos flavor will.
“I always used to eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and ice cream together, so I made a dust out of the Cheetos and put them in ice cream,” Ho said.
While the ice cream base is from Straus and is organic, and the fruit often is too, don’t ask if the other flavors are organic. Ho laughed saying someone wanted to know whether the Chinese sausage was grass-fed. The answer, as with the Cheetos, is no.
And while it has nothing to do with how the ice cream tastes, Ho feels it’s important to state that theirs is a business owned by a queer transperson. (As stated above, Ho actually identifies as non-binary but feels trans is more of an umbrella term for people like them.)
“I want to be visible as a queer trans person of color business-owner,” they said. “In this day and age, I think it’s important that folks are visible, as it gives inspiration to other folks. I didn’t see a lot of role models growing up as I didn’t know a lot of queer Asian folks. Plus, visibility is a good thing so we queer owners of color can support each other.”
Additionally, Ho said, just as they are sensitive to all food allergies and sensitivities, it’s important to be inclusive in other ways as well. “As I progress and scale the business I hope to give back to the queer trans community,” they said.
Find Little Spoon Creamery from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at the Temescal Farmer’s Market, 5300 Claremont Ave. (between Cavour and Clifton), Oakland