We Like It: Cardi B Inspired Flavors and More at Ruby Scoops

Q&A with Rabia Kamara

Chef and Owner of Ruby Scoops Ice Cream & Sweets in Washington, D.C.

I remember being obsessed with Flintstones sherbet push-up pops.

What makes Ruby Scoops unique?

We're a DC-based black woman-owned business that specializes in handcrafted and locally sourced flavors. We handchurn all of our bases and make most of our mix-ins in house.


What is your earliest ice cream memory?

I had an uncle who drove an ice cream truck when I was a child and I remember being so excited when I heard the music travel through our neighborhood, because I knew that meant he was close and going to give us free ice cream. I also remember splitting a cone with my eldest sister before I was grade school-aged, and being obsessed with Flintstones sherbet push-up pops.


What is your most popular flavor?

Our bestseller is our Mango Sorbet, followed by our seasonal offerings. This week’s bestsellers were White Wax Cherry Sorbet and Sweet Adzuki Bean with Strawberries.


What is your favorite flavor?

I am forever a sucker for Vanilla or Nutella Swirled Banana. We have been focusing on African/African Diaspora- and Asian-inspired flavors, as I am a first generation American with roots in both cultures. I recently made Ripe Plantain Sorbet, Ripe Plantain Ice Cream, and a Sweet Red Bean Strawberry ice cream. They're all so good!


What is the most unique flavor your brand ever offered?

I've made a Kunafa ice cream (ricotta base with rose water, candied shredded phyllo, and pistachios). I've collaborated with breweries to make special edition flavors—my favorite was the Boogie Backyard Berry, made with Denizens Brewing Co. sour beer and macerated local berries that were cooked down into a swirl for a rich cheesecake ice cream. Most recently, I've been making spiked rum sorbets inspired by Cardi B—who couldn't even enjoy it them in her pregnancy! There's Party With Cardi, a piña colada inspired flavor with a hint of passion fruit, and I Like It Like That Rum Punch which is like eating a frozen scoop of one of my favorite cocktails.


Is there a flavor you love(d) that didn’t find an audience?

Sweet Corn & Old Bay Caramel! We received so many mixed reviews on it that it didn't last long—I still think of it often.


What inspires you and why?

I’m inspired by my family. I'm the youngest of the first generation of African-Americans in my family, and, as I move throughout the world and run this business, I always keep in mind the journey that my family took to get us to where we are. I am also inspired by my love of food, sharing food with others, and the memories we create around food. So much of my life and who I am has been shaped by the meals I've had, foods I've learned to cook, and the people I get to share it all with. We've been a vendor at Broccoli City Festival since 2015—we also take inspiration from hip-hop and R&B music. A couple who had their first date and shared our signature ice cream sandwich at the festival in 2016 has come every year since to celebrate their anniversary with some scoops. Creating relationships and memories like that keep me going.


How did you get into the ice cream business?

Once I began working in pastry, I realized very quickly how much I enjoyed making ice cream, and how, even more, I enjoyed watching people partake in the flavors I created. The further I moved in my career, my team was never interested in using the machine so I remained the sole producer and creative force behind the frozen flavors. I started toying with the idea of focusing on ice cream and sorbet alone and shared it with my loved ones. When an opportunity presented itself for me to give Ruby Scoops a test run at a local community market, we sold out. I was instantly hooked, and I left restaurants the following year to begin pursuit of my dream full time.


How did you learn to make ice cream?

Culinary school! We had a very quick module on frozen desserts and I was smitten pretty early on. I continued to reinforce that lesson by creating ice cream every chance I got for the remainder of my culinary education.


What is the secret to scooping ice cream?

The "gun show," of course! Knowing how to work your arms and the container you're scooping from works wonders. All jokes aside, scooping requires immense core and arm strength, especially if you're scooping nonstop for hours. Pro tip—the exterior always melts first, so scooping in downward from there helps as well.


Cup or cone?

Cake cone. If I can't have that, I vote cup.


What is your topping of choice?

Crushed Butterfinger, toffee bits, hand whipped cream, boozy caramels made from scratch, or Nutella.


What’s something surprising that you’ve learned about ice cream fans?

Ice cream connoisseurs always know exactly what they're looking for, from the flavor to the topping.


Best advice for those who want to get into the biz?

Go for it! Start testing recipes and flavors, find farmers' markets and local events where you can sample and sell, and don't be afraid to infuse parts of your personality and self into your brand and flavors!


Any industry mentor or person who inspires you?

I've always wished I had a mentor, but I've had the pleasure of working in some great places. I staged at Mindy's Hot Chocolate right after graduating from culinary school and fell in love with desserts all over again. Their dessert menu is massive, and their frozen flavors take up at least a third of the page. I love Mindy’s energy and passion, and how prevalent it is in every bite prepared in her kitchen.


Any advice for making ice cream at home?

If you don't want to commit to a tabletop freezer, go for a no-churn recipe! Fold one sweetened condensed milk into one quart whipping cream (I usually whip a little softened cream cheese in mine) and swirl in all your favorite mix ins. Let it set for at least 12 hours and voila—homemade goodness.

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Lauren Goldstein