With the heat of summer already on Santa Barbara’s heals, locals and visitors alike will be looking for a refreshing treat as a reprieve from the season’s anticipated dry spells. Fortunately for Rori’s Artisanal Creamery patrons, a unique new seasonal flavor will be bringing out the best in not only a classic ice-cold treat, but also a well-established local school.
The Howard School’s pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students will be working together with Rori’s Artisanal Creamery to invent five artisanal ice cream flavors, one of which will be selected and served as the creamery’s featured summer flavor.
It was actually Rori’s son who had the idea for his school to participate in the creation of the seasonal flavor.
“He wanted his classmates to have a chance to experience the process of creating an ice cream flavor from scratch,” said Rori Trovato, owner and founder of Rori’s Artisanal Creamery. “One of our priorities for the seasonal flavor is always to use it to promote small businesses through featuring their products — like the local honey from San Marcos Farm in our current seasonal Honey Brittle Ice Cream. In the case of The Howard School, 30 percent of the proceeds from the Summer flavor will go back to the school, so it’s a win-win.”
Trovato also made it a priority to educate the children on taste combinations and the role that quality ingredients plays in the integrity of a final product. She instructed a flavor-balancing class to each grade, letting them mix and taste ingredients like fresh lemon, sea salt, and bittersweet chocolate, while teaching them how to “round out” a flavor.
After the flavor tutorial, grades paired off and composed their own flavors.
“It’s really fun for the kids to see something they came up with come to fruition,” Trovato said. “Especially in the sense of them understanding that ‘I made a product and people are actually buying it!’”
Collaborating with Rori’s Creamery on this special project is right in line with The Howard School’s teaching.
“We emphasize hands-on experiences at The Howard School,” said Joel Reed, the headmaster of the school. “We’re very grateful for this fun opportunity for the kids to really be a part of something that the whole community can enjoy.”
Students from each flavor-creation group have already begun doing their field trips to Rori’s factory and making their specialty ice cream. During their visit to the creamery, the fifth- and sixth-graders got to temper chocolate, roll it out and break it up for their flavor of Orange Pomegranate Sorbet with Chocolate Shavings.
“I was really surprised at how little sugar the kids wanted in their flavor," Trovato said. "But the sorbet turned out to be a delight with an initial sour taste that was very sophisticated, followed by the sweetness of some delicious chocolate shavings. I was very impressed.”
It’s clear from the way Trovato speaks about The Howard School that she is also very impressed with the nonprofit private organization her son attends.
“I took my son into the school and within two minutes they figured out how to really reach him," Trovato said. "I used to have to prompt teachers about what was going to excite my child so that he wanted to learn, but I don’t even have to think about that at The Howard School; everyone loves it there.”
Trovato professes that one of the reasons she loves The Howard School is because of the intentional way that the school gears its teaching toward each individual student. According to the ice cream virtuoso and full-time parent, Howard’s teachers are able to teach each child at his own specific pace. She’s found that this allows teachers to appreciate the different areas in which each student excels or needs extra attention.
“The school really listens to you and you have a real voice," she said. "It’s been a wonderful experience for my entire family.”
Rori Trovato herself is no stranger to creating wonderful experiences for families. She gave up selling wholesale and went full-time into the retail industry simply because she was able to see firsthand that buying a cone of her hand-crafted ice cream made both children and adults remarkably happy.
According to Trovato, ice cream can make screaming kids stop crying and just put everyone in a great mood.
“It’s not the same as some other product like coffee where people have the same thing everyday and are sometimes grumpy, sometimes not," Trovato said. "When it comes to ice cream people have already made the decision to treat themselves and they’re happy about it.”
But to Trovato, sharing her ice cream made of the purest ingredients is not just about uplifting people’s moods.
“I want kids to not only enjoy the pleasure of sweetness," Trovato said, "but if I can teach them something about the integrity of what they’re tasting and how to make it really good, that makes the enjoyment of it all the more fun."
Even though using high-end organic products and milk from Strauss Family Creamery in Petaluma (where cows are humanely treated and pasture-raised) can hike up production costs, Rori’s Creamery has offered the Itty Bitty Cone for only $1.50 ever since it opened. And 80 percent of people who order it are adults.
“We have tiny spaces we want to offer giant experiences in,” Trovato said. “If we can support local businesses through those experiences and help everyone win at the end of the day, then that’s what we truly love.”
So whether the summer season ends up calling for a few big scoops or just a tiny dose of refreshment amid fun in the sun, The Howard School flavor will be a must-try during the next few months. The specialty flavor will be sold at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery in both the Public Market on Victoria Street as well as the Coast Village Road location in Montecito.
“It’s simple, it’s ice cream,” Trovato said. “But it can bring a community together.”
— Leigh-Anne Anderson represents The Howard School.