Ice Cream Social: Q&A with Jesse and Javier Zuniga

Ice Cream Social: Q&A with Jesse and Javier Zuniga

We got the scoop! The ice cream maker duo behind Bad Habit ice creams and NYC restaurant Caleta dish on what their favorite flavors were as kids, what restaurants and people inspire them, and what they'd bring from their menu to a desert island...

Q: What was your go-to flavor at the ice cream shop as a kid?

Javi: Gianduja

Jesse: Salted Caramel

Q: Most valuable lesson you took away from your years in the kitchen at NYC institutions like Wildair, Lilia, and Contra?

Javi: If you want something done, do it yourself.

Jesse: Communication is key.

Q: What was your favorite flavor you ever created for Bad Habit? What about the pint that took the craziest process in terms of recipe development?

Jesse: Hands down, Sweet Corn!

Javi: We made a Chocolate-Fernet ice cream a couple years ago with Faccia Brutto when we were still producing out of our apartment that is still one of my favorite ice creams; it was the first time we did a collaboration with a brand we really admired and it opened us up to the idea of collaborative ice creams which are now a staple of the Bad Habit flavors we serve at Caleta… coming up we have collabs with Ghia, Fine & Raw Chocolate & Mike’s Hot Honey. The craziest in terms of recipe development was probably creating sorbets that we now offer at Caleta. We wanted fresh flavors that were unique but also a creamy (albeit dairy free) product. Now we run sorbets like Kiwi & Chamomile, Pomegranate & Lime, and (soon) Plum & Honey.

Q: What inspired you to open Caleta and what has been the most-rewarding part of the process?

Javi: We wanted to blur the lines of a traditional ice cream shop. Caleta in Venezuelan slang is a secret/hidden way of doing something, which fits perfectly because we are adamantly not a scoop shop and not necessarily a wine bar.

Jesse: The most rewarding part of the process has been managing to open up such a new concept; it’s one that historically done well in European cities but hasn’t been seen yet in New York. Despite that, we’ve been warmly welcomed by the neighborhood and our regulars.

Q: You're stranded on a desert island and get to bring 1 item from the Caleta menu with you. What's your choice!

Jesse: Pickled Mussel Toast - fried sourdough slathered with gochujiang aioli, pickled mussels escabeche, and fresh oregano.

Javi: Our Shrimp Cocktail - the sauce is one I did R&D for a long time and it’s so rewarding seeing the surprised look on people’s faces when they realize it isn’t as traditional as it might appear at first.

Q: What dessert do you go for when you get sick of ice cream? (And does that ever even happen?!)

Jesse: Whenever I want something more than a cup of ice cream, the first thing I ask Javi to make me is the Hojicha & Caramel Tart we serve at Caleta. The tart dough is perfect, the roasted green tea ice cream is not too sweet, and the caramel sauce is just enough to feel decadent.

Javi: A Strawberry Tart, for sure. That’s my all-time favorite dessert…We even sliced into that at our wedding instead of a traditional wedding cake.

Q: What restaurants and people in the food world inspire you?

Jesse: Cervo’s in Manhattan, Julius in Berlin & Apollo Bar in Copenhagen

Javi: Geist & Relae in Copenhagen, Ester in Australia

Q: Favorite spot for scoops besides your own?

Javi: Our local deli for a pint of Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road.

Jesse: Sweet Rose Creamery in L.A.