Carnival Barker is a neighborhood ice-cream upstart that offers delightful flavors such as the Fat Elvis, with peanut butter, bananas, candied bacon and a honey swirl. It’s available at Bryan Street Tavern, among a few other restaurants and grocers around town. Carnival Barker all started with a TV show about ice cream college. Ice cream college is a real thing. It’s a seven-day short course at Penn State University, and Aaron Barker and his girlfriend, Sarah Miller, watched a show about it while relaxing in their hotel room in Austin last summer. “I started eating ice cream more, and making it at home,” he says. “I started making two or three batches a week.” Everyone loved his ice cream, and friends often put in orders. Barker had just been laid off from his job as a copywriter for J.C. Penney, and soon after, his dad died. He had a small severance and a small inheritance, so he decided to go to ice cream college in January. “It’s everything from the cow to the cone,” he says. “I was highly overwhelmed.” But for one thing, ice cream college taught him what he didn’t want to do with his ice cream. Big manufacturers send their employees to the course, and among other things, they learn how far ice cream can be stretched with fillers and still be considered ice cream. “We don’t use preservatives. We shop at the farmers market, and we buy local as much as possible,” he says. Other flavors include Nutella and vodka, cookies and cream (it’s ice cream that tastes like cookies; not vanilla with cookies in it), raspberry chocolate and s’mores. Good stuff, but nothing too avant garde. “I’m not reinventing the wheel,” he says. “What I’m trying to do is make a handmade, great quality ice cream.” He rents a commercial kitchen from a caterer, and he and Miller make ice cream at night. He’s in the market for a batch freezer that he can afford, but for now, he uses a 4-quart electric ice cream maker and rock salt. Carnival Barker isn’t making a profit yet, but their ice cream is selling. Bolsa Mercado in Oak Cliff sold out of their first order quickly. And the manager of City Tavern called to place a second order because employees ate all the ice cream before they could even put it on the menu. The goal is to open an ice cream shop eventually. “I love seeing people happy, and people smile when they eat ice cream,” Barker says. “I want to live being happy, and this is a step toward that.”
Reach Carnival Barker by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.