Santa Clara’s newest ice cream shop has opened at the former location of Mission City Creamery by Santa Clara University, and the concept combines childhood nostalgia with high end ingredients and a dash of science.
Lori Phillips, owner of Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos, said she loved Klondike Choco Tacos growing up, but her adult palette could no longer stomach the artificial sugar bomb.
“There are a lot of fake, artificial ingredients in an original Choco Taco,” she said. “It’s made with low-fat ice cream. It’s made with chocolate flavored syrup. So, there were a lot of things that I wanted to update and make better about a product I used to love … When I was making our version of the Choco Taco, I really paid attention to what ingredients needed to be in it and what ingredients I could strip out.”
As Phillips was procrastinating on writing the dissertation for her eventual doctorate in immunology, she purchased a waffle iron. A series of trial and error followed until she developed tasty and sturdy u-shaped waffle cone. She then began creating a no-filler ice cream to accompany her cones. With the perfect cone and ice cream in place, Phillips made simple sauces—milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and peanut butter—put together a list of toppings and brought a little bit of science into the product by dipping the whole taco in liquid nitrogen to solidify the sauce shell and ensure the product stayed cold while being consumed. Before taking the product to market, however, Phillips, her husband and some friends got together for a side-by-side taste test where she realized she had created a premium product to replace her childhood favorite.
Phillips said her goal is to have the best product with the best ingredients and she tries not to be “price sensitive” when sourcing her partners, which include Full Belly Farm and Straus Family Creamery, because the end goal is to have an organic product with no artificial ingredients.
“I’m very passionate about the products that I make and I look for people who are passionate about what they’re doing and try to bring that in … I try not to be very price sensitive. If I find a local producer that’s making something that I think is great, I want to work with them and it’s worth a higher price point.”
Rocko’s, named after Phillips’ rescue dog, serves its signature frozen taco treat in regular and gluten-free vegan, but her handful of flavors, some seasonal and vegan, can be purchased by the scoop. Additionally, Rocko’s has frozen bananas, a selection of Verve Coffee Roasters coffees and Ace-cream cakepops (named after her other rescue pup), which will be available on the Rocko’s menu soon. Another aspect of the business that will make Santa Clarans smile is that Phillips has retained Ken Wilson of the Wilson’s Bakery family as staff and hopes to work some of his family’s recipes into the Rocko’s offerings.
“I’m looking forward to taking advantage more of Ken’s baking prowess,” she said. “And that means that we will make the ice cream cakes in house and we will make the cookies for the cookies and cream in house.”
Since its inception in August 2012, the Rocko’s Ice Cream Taco truck has been seen along the Peninsula—where Phillips lives—and the Santa Clara location at 2905 Park Ave. marks the first storefront for Phillips’ ice cream treat. Rocko’s, which officially opened April 17, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visit www.rockosicecreamtacos.com and www.facebook.com/RockosIceCreamTacos for more information.