Winter Comes to Spring: CSUN Alums Craft Ice Cream Flavors Inspired by ‘Game of Thrones’
A Flavor of Ice and Fire. Dragon Glace. Dothrocky Road.
“Game of Thrones” fans, meet the “Game of Cones.”
Wanderlust Creamery, the popular ice cream shop founded by California State University, Northridge alumni Jon-Patrick “JP” Lopez ’08 (Business Law) and Adrienne Borlongan ’09 (Food Science), is celebrating the final season of the HBO hit series with newly crafted flavors inspired by the show.
Each unique flavor of ice cream at Wanderlust is conceptualized based on different travel destinations around the globe. Signature flavors such as “Sticky Rice + Mango” and “Passionfruit Cacao,” available year-round, transport the palate to places like Thailand and Brazil, and keep loyal customers coming back for more. However, their seasonal varieties, rotating each month, are what get visitors on the edge of their seat as they discover new ambitious flavors they can only get at Wanderlust.
This time, co-founders Lopez and Borlongan, travel to Westeros and beyond. Taking their “seasonal” flavors in a unique turn, they’ve created eight new flavors for the eighth season of “Game of Thrones,” available from April 1 to May 31.
“We’re big nerds of the show,” Borlongan said. She even went so far as to dig deep into the pages of the George R. R. Martin’s original “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels to trace food excerpts that can serve as inspiration for the new flavors, she said.
In 2017, Wanderlust also had limited-edition flavors for the seventh season of ‘Game of Thrones’ available for a month. This year, taking the success of the previous project, they decided to keep the flavors around for twice as long.
A husband-and-wife duo, Lopez and Borlongan collaborate by using their individual expertise to carry the corporate and creative weights of running an ice cream business. Lopez is the entrepreneur between the two and runs the operations and management side of things. Borlongan, on the other hand, uses her food theory knowledge and mixology experience to conceptualize every flavor Wanderlust offers.
The couple met during college when they were both studying at CSUN, but it wasn’t until years later that the two decided to create Wanderlust. After graduation, Lopez practiced law and Borlongan worked as a bartender.
“It wasn’t really in the cards to start a business together,” Lopez said. “We didn’t plan it.”
The idea to build up an ice cream shop was the result of a vigilant eye in observing how the community responds to the food industry.
“We would go to these ice cream places outside the Valley,” Borlongan said. “We saw these people in line for 30 minutes, all for flavors they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
The couple took that thought and carried it through the form of a New Year’s resolution, Borlongan said. Then, in 2015, the first location of Wanderlust Creamery broke ground in Tarzana. Atwater Village and Smorgasburg Los Angeles in downtown Los Angeles followed suit. With the construction of their newest location in Venice, Calif., last year, dessert enthusiasts can now enjoy the travel-inspired flavors in four locations.
In just four years, Wanderlust already boasts a large social media presence, with more than 60,000 followers on Instagram. News website INSIDER featured it in a video with more than a million views in 2017, and recently named it among stores with “The Best Ice Cream in Los Angeles,” spreading word about Borlongan’s imaginative flavors far beyond L.A.
However, the most loyal visitors are in the Valley — exactly as they hoped.
“When we opened, we wanted to appeal to L.A. We wanted to beat the Valley drum,” Lopez said.
Wanderlust had the community buzzing from the moment it opened its doors, Lopez said.
“We were in shock by the response of the local community. We’ve been pretty lucky with how popular we’ve gotten in L.A.,” he said. “We’ve grown as one of L.A.’s born-and-bred companies.”
Lopez and Borlongan said they’re glad to be known as one of the ‘real’ L.A.-based companies, thriving alongside both national and international brands and companies that dip their feet in the local market.
Their seasonal ice cream flavors, like the current “Game of Cones” flavor series, is another way to connect deeper with the local community.
In line with Filipino-American History Month in October last year, Lopez and Borlongan celebrated their Filipino heritage alongside the sizable Filipino-American community in L.A. by creating flavors based on Philippine cuisine.
One of the most popular signature flavors is the “Ube Malted Crunch,” combining the popular Filipino flavors of ube (purple yam) and milk. The October-only flavors appealed to Filipino tastebuds, too, by incorporating ingredients such as salted duck egg, sans rival, pili nuts, green mango, barako coffee and more.
“I wanted to make flavors that you can’t buy at the store,” Borlongan said. Some of the fresh ingredients had to travel across the Pacific, plucked straight from the Philippine provinces of Bicol and Batangas, she said.
It turns out, too, that the ties between the founders’ Filipino culture and ice cream are much deeper than they initially thought. After Wanderlust opened, Borlongan said she was pleased to find out her late paternal grandfather worked at an ice cream store in the Philippines to make a living for his family.
The Filipino flavor series “went viral,” the couple said, and gained the acclaim of both returning customers and new fans. They plan to bring it back in October this year.
With a newborn son, Sebastian Felix, and twins on the way, balancing family life and their ice cream kingdom will be an unpredictable and hectic ride, they said.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Lopez said.
For the complete menu of Wanderlust Creamery’s signature flavors and ‘Game of Cones’ flavor series, visit their website.