Photo credit: Christine Vanover

What do you get when you take two Las Vegas Arts District-based businesses, who have officially been open less than a year, and add in a global pandemic that threatens even the most “essential” industries? A new combination of flavor and creativity that tantalizes the taste buds and elicits feelings of joy and comfort during a time filled with added stress and uncertainty. We were fortunate to interview Valerie Stunning, founder and Head Creamstress of Paradise City Creamery, and Mario Enriquez, co-founder of Garagiste Wine Room & Merchant, about their recent collaboration resulting in decadent ice cream and wine pairings. It is pairings like these that demonstrate the beautiful resilience and grit of the entrepreneurial spirit and that show how even the most adverse situations can still allow for pleasurable experiences. 

Valerie Stunning 

What inspired you to create Paradise City Creamery?

Paradise City Creamery was born of my love for facilitating pleasurable experiences and my dream for a more curious, intersectional world. A lighthearted world where adhering to alternative lifestyles and dietary choices is engaging, exciting and fun! When people experience our dense, decadent flavors, I want to invite them to be curious, celebrate themselves, feel indulgent and not judged. 

How do you develop your flavors and naming conventions?

My flavor profiles and names are inspired by my experiences of the world. I’ve traveled a lot, lived abroad for three years and was a stripper for nearly a decade. In that time, I expanded my palate and learned to really appreciate the flashier, more indulgent things in life. 

How many different flavors have you created in total?

I love working with a limited menu. It allows me to be super intentional about our ingredient choices, waffle cone and garnish pairings. Between names and flavor profiles, each flavor literally has its own personality and every season we introduce, or re-introduce, four new ones!

Why did you elect to create products that are plant-based and gluten-free?

Because my body doesn’t f*ck with dairy or gluten. 

Had you ever considered pairing your ice creams with wine prior to teaming up with Garagiste? Why do you think this concept works so well?

I believe more is more, so naturally I thought of it, but let me tell you, you don’t know an ice cream and wine pairing until you’ve tasted our Hedonista (White Truffle + Burnt Honey Swirl) with Mario’s recommendation of COS ‘Pithos Bianco.’ That orange wine though! 

All of the pairings are like that. Taking our already elevated flavor profiles to that next level. I feel our collaboration works so well because Garagiste’s wines and our ice creams are both specialty and small production with limited availability. 

If you had to choose one of your ice cream flavors that best represents Mario, co-owner of Garagiste, which would it be and why? 

Mario is definitely Spoil Me Daddy (Dark Chocolate Stracciatella + Macerated Strawberries). What else do you call a guy who likes to shower people in bougie wine? That, and he really likes chocolate! 

Mario Enriquez

How did your collaboration with Paradise City Creamery
come about?

I responded to a Paradise City Creamery post on Instagram that they had posted shortly after Governor Sisolak’s order for non-essential businesses to close. They had mentioned curb-side pick-up in the post and I commented about adding their ice creams to our food offerings and working together out of our space at Garagiste since Artifice, where they normally operate out of, was closing.

What is your process in determining which wines to pair with the current week’s flavors?

First, I taste the ice cream! Then, I think about the main flavor components in the ingredients and try to find wines that are either congruent with those components or that might be considered a pleasing marriage of flavors. I think of it as, “what topping would I like to pour over my ice cream this week?” Except instead of chocolate or caramel syrup, my toppings are wine.

What is the most difficult thing about pairing wine with ice cream?

How do you pair wine with glitter and gold leaf? Ha ha! Just kidding. The hard part thus far has been deciding which component(s) in the ice cream should be the primary flavor pairing component and which should be the secondary or structural pairing component. Sometimes they line up, but most often, they do not.  

What has the local response been like to your wine and ice cream “Pleasure Packs” and which pairing has been the most popular so far?  

Since we’ve posted the first pairings, I think we’ve sold out of every flavor before each weekend has ended.  So I’d say the response has been phenomenal. It makes sense that people are looking for some way to brighten up their days during this stressful time of isolation and unknowns. Ice cream and wine have always classically been considered comfort items in and of themselves so it makes sense that people would naturally gravitate to a combination of both. 

I don’t think that I can definitively say which has been the most popular since we’ve sold out every weekend thus far. If I had to choose one that has seemed to be pretty popular immediately upon posting, it would have to be the Balsamic Burlesque ice cream with a Touriga Nacional from Portugal.  

Which ice cream and wine pairing (or pairings) has been your favorite and why do you think it works so well? 

Thus far, my favorite has been the Hedonista ice cream paired with the COS ‘Pithos Bianco’ orange Grecanico from Sicily.  The Hedonista has some very “in-your-face” flavors of white truffle and honey and you can pull a lot of similar aromatic and flavor components from wines in the style of Pithos Bianco.  Both of them represent an intensely hedonistic and indulgent approach to pairing.  

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