Photo by Ruta Smith Incorporating local products was part of the initial business plan for Off Track owners Alissa and Marc Zera

Sharing Scoops

Off Track Ice Cream’s traditional and vegan scoops already incorporate local ingredients, but owners Alissa and Marc Zera are taking it a step further, churning out one-off flavors highlighting High Wire Distilling, The Harbinger, Springbok Coffee, Red Clay Hot Sauce and other Charleston-based small businesses. On Thursday, another new flavor will land in the Beaufain Street shop.

“That was definitely a big intention of ours before we opened,” said Alissa, discussing the local collaborations. “I remember writing about that in our first business plan.”

“We would go to all these restaurants in Charleston doing this same thing, and we didn’t see an ice cream shop doing that in Charleston,” Marc added.

Recently, flavors like High Wire rye-spiked cider and molasses cookie, The Harbinger “jam sesh” and Red Clay hot honey and biscuits featuring Off Track head baker Pippa Allen’s famous family recipe have popped up at Off Track.

“Every collaboration is kind of different,” Marc said. “The one with Harbinger, we didn’t really use any of their ingredients, but it was their brainchild to bring the jam sesh bar to life as an ice cream. Sometimes, we just find a local product that we want to feature and we put it on our ice cream.”

The first step to crafting each collaborative creation is forming the base, which features products from local producers like Lowcountry Creamery, Wishbone Heritage Farms, Bulls Bay Saltworks and Watsonia Farms. This step is key for each collaboration, Marc said.
“Our focus, first and foremost, is to make the ice cream base as flavorful as possible. Ice cream’s more of a science — you can’t just kind of throw things together,” Marc said. “Whatever the product is, it’s usually the star of the show.”

Photo by Ruta Smith

Off Track’s January collaborations feature two South Carolina businesses — Bodega at Uptown Social and Six & Twenty Distillery, located upstate near Greenville.

The Six & Twenty-inspired flavor — bourbon derby pie — featured a bourbon base with bits of Allen’s pecan pie mixed into the ice cream. For the Bodega collab, Off Track will provide the base, and Bodega executive chef Alec Gropman will bring the mix-in.

“Alec came in and talked to Marc and asked if we would be interested in doing a flavor collaboration with them,” Alissa said. “What Bodega is doing is really fun, so we jumped at the idea.”

The newest flavor, vegan chocolate babka, will debut Jan. 14 before Uptown Social hosts Off Track for a social-distanced ice cream party on Saturday celebrating the release.

“For this flavor, we created a chocolate hazelnut vegan ice cream using local Cocoa Academic chocolate and pure hazelnut oil,” said Alissa, who added that Gropman’s “mix-in” — chocolate babka — is based on his grandmother’s famous recipe. “It’s the best babka we’ve ever tasted,” Alissa said. “We fold chunks of this Bodega babka into our vegan chocolate hazelnut ice cream.”

The couple jumps at most opportunities to collaborate in Charleston, and while Alissa and Marc admitted that their locally-driven focus and constant flavor rotation isn’t cheap, it’s part of the business’ ethos to use products made by companies that care as much as they do.

“The ingredients that we purchase are very expensive, but overall Marc and I are very passionate about ice cream,” Alissa said. “By using these products, we’re using those people who have just as much passion in their business as we do in ours. It really goes a long way in a greater purpose than just selling ice cream.”