March is the time when the snowbanks of New York begin melting, the first flowers begins showing their dainty heads, and a Brooklynite’s thoughts gently turn to dreams of ice cream. Of all the many excellent ice cream parlors in the borough, and we have more than our share, perhaps there’s no more creative cone than those dished up at OddFellows. Powered by former wd~50 pastry chef Sam Mason, the Williamsburg ice cream parlor serves flavors that sound like an April Fool’s joke: Caramelized Onion, Cornbread, and Foie Gras. They also have a signature cotton candy cone, in which a scoop of ice cream is enrobed in a cloud of spun sugar. The Williamsburg location, which Mason and partners Mohan Kumar and Holiday Kumar set up in 2013, is doing so well that they expanded into the East Village last year, and are eyeing potential spaces in South Brooklyn.
Mason’s most recent project, he told me, was working out a formula for really good vegan ice cream. “I’m not saying vegans are desperate when it comes to ice cream,” Mason said. “But so much of it isn’t that great.”
Mason has been manipulating textures to replicate the creaminess and butteriness usually given by dairy projects. “I’m used to having this stuff come a little bit easier,” he said, though he’s determined to make it work. By this summer, they’ll be a permanent vegan option on the Oddfellow menu, alongside five or six mainstays like chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter and a couple experimental flavors.
Mason estimates that there have been 150 flavors in all since Oddfellows started operations, with only a few bombs. “I made a curry coconut that I though was delicious, but apparently it didn’t work for everyone,” he said. Other entries in the Oddfellows pantheon include Miso Cherry, Chorizo Caramel Swirl, and Tobacca Leaf Smoked Chili Huckleberry. “At the end of the day, it’s ice cream,” Mason said. “It’s really hard to screw it up.”
And there are more unusual flavors on the way. When we spoke, Mason was working on a sourdough toast flavor, and a baked bean one (“bacon, brown sugar, cinnamon, but no onions”). The cotton candy cone also changes out frequently. When I visited, he was serving up a pretzel-flavored ice cream enrobed in a chocolate cotton candy. “I wanted it to be a mustard flavored cotton candy, originally,” Mason said. “But you can only go so far.”