Two new places to get ice cream in the Bethesda area
Two stores featuring homemade ice cream opened in the Bethesda area in March: Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream & Treats in Bethesda’s Westbard neighborhood; and Sugar Fox in Chevy Chase, D.C. At Sarah’s, owner Sarah Park features 39 flavors of ice cream, sorbet and ices, as well as ice cream sandwiches, milkshakes, ice cream pies and cakes, sundaes, puffles (large bubble waffle cones), bubble tea and coffee drinks. Sugar Fox is a tiny shop that offers eight flavors of ice cream and sorbet from a rotating menu. The shop also sells milkshakes, cupcakes, sheet cakes and custom cakes. We talked to the owners of both shops to get the scoop on their treats.
Playing It Cool
When Sarah Park immigrated to Montgomery County almost 20 years ago, the Korean journalist gave up chasing scoops. She took up the edible kind in March when she and her daughter, Annie Park, opened Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream & Treats, taking over the former Wow Cow space in the Kenwood Station shopping center in Bethesda (which also houses a Whole Foods Market). Over the years, the Chevy Chase, D.C., resident had a cleaning business, worked for a CPA, was a bank cashier and worked as a secretary for a general contractor. She opened and owned Fresh Deli in Hyattsville from 2010 to 2018 and then retired. But it turns out retirement wasn’t for her—ice cream was, and now she turns out such intriguing flavors as lavender-honey, apricot-pistachio, cotton candy with rainbow sprinkles, and cherry blossom festival.
You were a journalist in Seoul, South Korea, but decided to immigrate to the United States. Why?
It was 1999 and the new millennium was starting. I was 39, so at 40, I wanted to build a new life. I was divorced. My daughter [Annie] was 9, and it was hard for me as a single divorced mother in Korea. It’s looked down on. I was oppressed in Korea and I wanted to live freely. I went to [Montgomery County] because it was the only place I knew someone—my cousin’s husband’s brother.
What was your first job?
I was a cashier in a deli for $8.50 an hour. The owner was my sponsor and I got a green card. I worked there for four years. I learned conversation there and about American food. I met [life partner] Rollin [Amore] there. They had a small soft-serve ice cream machine. Cleaning it is not easy work, but I volunteered for it. I loved it. Maybe that was when my interest in ice cream started. I loved people enjoying ice cream.
You came out of a short-lived retirement and went into the ice cream business. Why ice cream?
Ice cream was my hobby. When Annie was younger, I baked and made ice cream. Rollin loves ice cream, so I started making it for him and for parties and holidays. Everyone loved it. I got [chef] David Lebovitz’s book [The Perfect Scoop] as a Christmas gift. That was a serious moment. I made every recipe and fell in love with ice cream. A neighbor told me I needed to do a business. That was December 2018. I found the Wow Cow space and that’s it.
How did you make the transition from home cooking to professional cooking?
I bought a commercial machine. I didn’t know commercial machines existed. Rollin did the research. He found an Emery Thompson [batch freezer] for $27,000. We watched YouTube [how-to] videos from them and they had a boot camp to learn how to run the machine. We attended the class. And that was it.
Tell us about the ice cream.
Most of them are 14 percent butterfat and we get all of our dairy from Cloverland Dairy [in Baltimore]. Oreo Lover is the top seller. So is Chocolate Velvet, made with Nutella. In the beginning, I wanted to use [egg] custard bases for the ice cream, but I experimented with eggs and without and discovered it’s not necessarily better with eggs. Now, only a few have eggs, like Matcha Green Tea and Cookie Dough.
The popular Ohio-based artisanal ice cream shop Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is supposed to open in Bethesda this fall. Are you worried?
Yes, of course that worries me, but I’m different. Rollin says it best: ‘Sarah’s here [in her store]. Jeni isn’t.’
Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream & Treats, 5241 River Road, Bethesda; 301-652-6823; sarahshandmadeicecream.com