Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
If you head to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this Saturday, you'll find a new stand with an interesting name: Cremeux Ex Machina. What do they sell? It's right there on the sign (just under the purple cow): California-style gelato.
How does one make "California-style" gelato? First, you probably want some experience in making traditional Italian gelato. Once you've learned the ropes, you might want to find yourself a farm. A dairy farm, preferably, like the 470-acre organic farm that John Taverna owns in Petaluma. Then you set up production right on the farmland and you start making some gelato with the best local ingredients you can find.
That's a short version of how Cremeux ex Machina owners Jennifer Ko and Alex Saneski came to run their gelato business out of a dairy farm in Petaluma. The longer version includes the duo meeting as students at the French Culinary Institute in New York. Alex also has six years of experience working with frozen desserts, including three at Il Labratorio del Gelato.
The first iteration of Cremeux was actually started in New York. "We realized the fruit we were getting in New York was from Caifornia. So we figured we might as well move to the source," explained Saneski. So they headed west, back to Ko's home state. "But it was heard to find a diary who would sell only 20 or 30 gallons of milk. We didn't need that much for our production."
Luckily John Taverna had just such a dairy farm (he sells his milk to the likes of Organic Valley and Cowgirl Creamery) and was willing to rent them a small building on the farm and give them access to milk. Now when Ko is dreaming up flavors she's literally staring at the source. "The Jerseys are mild mannered, sweet, social cows," said Ko. "We cut out a window from our facility so I can watch them in the pasture."
Their gelato is made in small batches using the Jersey cows' milk. Gelato traditionally has less than 10% fat, and Cremeux's hovers around around 5.5%, though that changes seasonally, depending on the grass that the cows are eating. Ko and Saneski don't add cream in order to let their flavors shine.
Petaluma is already pretty local, but Cremeux takes it one step further, using the goods from their new Saturday digs. For example, the popular Salty Caramel flavor is topped with a burnt caramel sauce from Recchiuti, which is located just inside the market. When I visit, there are crates of tayberries and figs waiting to be brought home to their kitchen on the farm. And as I try the White Nectarine Sorbetto, Alex points behind him. "That uses fruit from Tory Farms. It's seriously good. You should go try some."
It's not every day that you can pop a few stalls over to try the ingredients in their raw form, but that's the best part about "California-style" gelato; what they really mean is hyper local.
Note: Cremeux Ex Machina are at the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturdays. Prices: Cups ($4), Pints ($9)