By Brianna Chu
This phenomenal ice cream shop began…as a New Year’s Resolution. Back in 2015, Adrienne Borlongan and partner Jon-Patrick (JP) Lopez made a resolution, at the behest of his parents, to start their own business. Borlongan had always known she would run her own food concept one day, but hadn’t particularly known what that concept would be. Since she was already making quite a bit of ice cream at the time, they thought: why not an ice cream shop? Sure enough, before the end of the year, that resolution became a realized business: Wanderlust Creamery, an ice cream store serving up flavors inspired by travel and unique tastes from around the globe.
Originally, Lopez merely encouraged and supported Borlongan in opening Wanderlust, but wasn’t wholly involved as he already worked full-time as an attorney. Within a week of Wanderlust opening, however, Lopez made the decision to invest all his efforts into their small business after being surprised at the success and attention Wanderlust had attracted so quickly and early on.
Lopez’s previous experience in the commercial real estate industry actually led the couple to their original location in Tarzana; their first store had previously been a Coldstone Creamery, and thus was already equipped with the appropriate space and materials. However, the space had been vacant for eight years, and the landlord was happy to negotiate and rent the property to them for an excellent price.
Every year since, Wanderlust has opened a new location: in 2016, Smorgasborg LA; in 2017, Atwater Village; in 2018, Venice; and finally, this October, Wanderlust Creamery came to Pasadena! Despite being a small, family-owned store, Wanderlust Creamery has still kept up with the rising minimum wage, expanded every year, and never had to compromise their brand or flavors. Borlongan is understandably proud of this incredible accomplishment.
Borlongan draws her inspiration not only from foods she’s tried on her travels, but also from her travel experiences. As examples, she points to Wanderlust’s “Breakfast at Café du Monde” and their “Vietnamese Rocky Road” flavors. The former is a combination of creole coffee and beignets, and the latter paints a flavor journey that follows her own road trip along the Hai Van Pass, integrating coffee, raw cacao, and condensed milk marshmallows. Even her friends’ trips or souvenirs they bring back, or their own childhoods, spark Borlongan’s imagination. She utilizes her degree in food science to the fullest degree, carefully formulating each recipe by considering factors like: the ideal butterfat content for different flavors, when to include or exclude eggs from recipes, what amount of air should be whipped into their ice creams – all to ensure the perfect texture and taste for every single sweet offering. The end result of Borlongan’s labors? Unbelievably creamy, smooth, and almost gelato-like ice creams that taste so much like the foods after which they’re named that it’s strikingly uncanny. With my friends and family, I’ve had the great pleasure of sampling quite a few of the flavors that have been available at their Pasadena location: salted duck egg yolk yema, “the white,” the ube malted crunch, the mango and sticky rice, green mango sorbet, thai iced tea, sakura, baraka coffee, and biko. (Go with lots of people and share, that’s all I’m saying! And yes, I went back consecutive weeks to catch those limited-run flavors.) If you’re an ube-lover like myself, definitely get the ube cone. The biggest takeaway from all of the flavors was the uncanniness – like they had taken the essence of the flavors and simply made them ice cream. For me, personally, the flavors that truly blew my mind were the mango and sticky rice, the thai iced tea, and the biko. To taste these foods that I eat, drink, or cook quite frequently, and to taste them, perfectly preserved as ice cream flavors, was a truly mind-boggling experience.
When Borlongan and Lopez initially opened Wanderlust, they avoided mentioning that the store – and then the chain – was a Filipino-American owned business, since the business isn’t only inspired by their childhood flavors, but the couple’s global travels and adventures. However, Borlongan decided last year to feature some flavors that harkened back to their childhoods during October, national Filipino American History Month (FAHM). What she didn’t expect was the joyous enthusiasm that greeted her decision; and as such, Wanderlust repeated their special #FAHM flavors this October, too! Borlongan is amazed by the change that’s occurred over the years, just from her childhood to now. She recalls growing up and her mother buying two separate cakes for her birthday: an ube one for her, and a chocolate one for the other kids who thought ube was weird and yucky. Now, flavors like ube and taro are making their way into being considered mainstream. She thinks that by waiting to share these flavors until after they had cultivated a diverse customer base, Wanderlust has been able to share these snapshots of what it was like to grow up Filipino-American with a wider community. It’s a great introduction to Filipino-American culture for those unfamiliar with it, and for those who are Filipino or Filipino-American (or at least for my mom and myself, respectively), it’s a memory-sparking experience. My mom and I tried the green mango flavor together, and immediately started joking about whether we should have brought bagoong with us.
There is still one more week left to October, so if you want to try some of these exclusive flavors, head to Old Town Pasadena to give them all a taste yourself! I have literally gone every week this month to try them all out, and I highly encourage you to do the same!
59 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105