New Zealand-style fresh fruit ice cream shop arrives in northeast Portland, just in time for winter
Nico Vergara was traveling through New Zealand when he first tried the island nation’s signature style of ice cream. During his visit to Auckland, Vergara approached what looked like a converted horse trailer and, as tourists do, ordered a flavor he had never seen before: hokey pokey, a combination of vanilla ice cream and honeycomb caramel.
That’s when things got weird. Instead of putting the two ingredients in a cup or cone, the clerk dropped them both into a mechanical funnel and pressed a button, crushing the ice cream and candy together in a dreamy mix.
âI was just crazy intrigued by it,â Vergara said. “And then we had this funny conversation, where I was like, ‘What is this? “”
âIce cream,â they said.
“I understand, but what just happened? “
As Vergara soon learned, what had happened was his introduction to a style of ice cream he would help bring to Portland, and which would soon form the basis of Nico’s Ice Cream, a new ice cream store that is scheduled to open in northeast Portland this fall.
After returning to Portland in 2016, Vergara met the owners of Zeds Real Fruit Ice Cream, a New Zealand-style ice cream truck that started out in Southeast Portland and now spends her summers at the Zoo. Oregon. But after moving to Texas to open a Zeds outpost in Austin, Vergara returned to her hometown to start her own business. After debuting with a few pop-ups earlier this year, Nico’s Ice Cream landed a prime spot at Prost Marketplace, Portland’s premier food cart, where it served waffle cones filled with fresh fruit ice cream to the pastel shades from July to September. (Nico’s cart at Prost is where I first tried the style – consider me a convert.)
In November, Vergara hopes to open a new brick and mortar store in a former pottery and plant store on Northeast Fremont Street. This new ice cream from Nico – Vergara hopes to bring the cart back to Prost next year – will serve waffle cones filled with Tillamook ice cream and Oregon-grown berries mashed in a New Zealand-built Little Jem blender.
Although it looks like soft serve ice cream, New Zealand style ice cream actually gets its texture from the opposite angle. The traditional soft serve is made from a chilled liquid mixture that is frozen and aerated to order. At Nico’s already frozen ice cream is smashed into a funnel using a motorized auger – imagine the drill-shaped plastic anchors used to hold the beach blankets in place and you’re close. In New Zealand, the style of ice cream is often found on berry farms, and the Little Jem company prides itself on exporting its machines to Japan, the UK, and the US.
Although Vergara’s first taste of New Zealand-style ice cream involved candy, Nico’s ice cream sticks to berries, with blueberry, raspberry, puppet, and strawberry options available, all kept frozen to preserve. the texture. Vegan pints will be made using Eugene’s Coconut Bliss. Once the store is operational, Vergara hopes to develop its own ice cream and waffle cone bases, and could even revive its “Nico’s at Night” pop-up, which featured ice cream mixed with Fruit Loops, Reese’s Puffs or cinnamon. Crunchy Toast.
The Grant High School graduate is well aware that November is not a great time to open an ice cream shop in Portland. But that doesn’t stop him.
âIn my opinion, there will never be the perfect time or the perfect place to do it,â Vergara said. âI had been looking for a brick and mortar for a while, and that space came. It’s in my neighborhood, it’s on a big street and has character. I didn’t want to let this go.
During the winter, Vergara plans to keep her neighbors in Rose City Park and Cully warm by offering filter coffee and local pastries. He’s already reached out to a friend and former collaborator – Lisa Nguyen of HeyDay, the mochi donut maker who has plans for her own brick and mortar at the CORE food hall in southeast Portland.
Nico’s Ice Cream plans to open its new store in November at 5713 NE Fremont St., near Peter’s Bar & Grill and across from Fire on the Mountain Brewery; Instagram: @nicosicecream