Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato Co. has perfected the art of gelato making, whether it’s scooped on top of a homemade waffle cone or infused with alcohol and served like a cocktail. But there’s a lot more to Bucket & Bay than craft gelato. Husband and wife team Jen and Boris Kavlakov tell us how they got into the gelato-making business and what we can expect from them in the coming summer months.
Bucket & Bay receives rave reviews from its customers. How do you manage to keep everyone consistently happy?
Jen: I feel there are two reasons why our customers like what we do. The first is that Jersey City is a melting pot. People come from different places, have traveled a lot, and are open to trying things that are different. We set off on our gelato adventure with the goal to do something meaningful that is true to who we are. For us that translated to creating gelato with sophisticated flavors that change with seasons and that are inspired by our global travels. We are very happy that our customers like our flavor ideas.
The other reason is the quality of the ingredients we select. For us to be truly creative, we have to start completely from scratch. That means no mixes or pastes, we need to know and select every single ingredient we use. For example, we have a direct relationship with a farm — Oasis at Bird-in-Hand — that provides us with a full-fat 100% grass-fed milk. Our customers asked us if they could buy the milk from us, realizing how unique it is. So now, we get deliveries from the farm to make gelato and to provide this beautiful dairy to our customers.
Your backgrounds were originally in finance and marketing. What made you go from corporate to craft?
Boris: Corporate life was not boring, it allowed us to travel and taste the world. But at the end of the day, you don’t have full control and you don’t own the final product. We wanted to find a way to express our passions and leave a mark that our children would be proud of. We feel we have found that in making craft gelato.
Jersey City is a melting pot. People come from different places…for us that translated to creating gelato with sophisticated flavors that change with seasons and that are inspired by our global travels.
Why gelato and not ice cream?
Jen: My grandpa made ice cream at home in Kansas. I was mesmerized. I even wrote down a recipe of my own as a kid. As we started considering our solo adventure, we thought ice cream — with its universal appeal — provided a perfect canvas for unlimited creativity. It also makes people smile! But ultimately we realized that we like the style of gelato better than ice cream — it has less fat molecules and it is served at a warmer temperature, which allows the flavors to come out more pronounced. And so our “craft gelato” was born.
What has it been like setting up shop in downtown Jersey City — particularly in the Powerhouse district?
Jen: Finding a location was one of the most challenging things! We were looking in Manhattan, Hoboken, and Jersey City. But I really wanted to be in Jersey City because we live here and are part of the community. We love our space at 150 Bay, the landmark headquarters of the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. Its rich history is exciting and we feel we are rekindling that with a new focus on quality and craftsmanship. The Powerhouse Arts District is in the midst of a complete makeover. It’s exciting to be a part of that!
Bucket & Bay has collaborated with various other local businesses in Jersey City (e.g. Modcup, Departed Soles, Choc-o-Pain). Are there any new collaborations in the works or plans to offer your gelato in local restaurants?
Jen: We love working with other local artisans. One of our newest collaborations is with Alex Mendelsohn from Órale Mexican Kitchen. We reached out to him to get advice on creating a special flight for Cinco de Mayo. We were blown away by his expertise. With his help, we’ve put together an exciting tasting experience that includes infusions with sotol, añejo, mezcal, and more. This will be a limited edition offering for May only.
We are also excited about the coming summer months when we’ll have our two custom built cargo bikes bring our flavors to more customers. When the weather is nice, we’ll be at Exchange Place and at the Hoboken waterfront (including select nights at Pier 13). You can also find our gelatos at Satis Bistro here in Jersey City.
This past winter you expanded your menu to include scones, cheese melts, and tea. There was even a limited edition gelato cake for Valentine’s Day. Will we see further expansion of the non-gelato menu this summer?
Boris: Handcrafted scones, curated teas, and fresh coffee are natural add-ons for us. For example, the cheese we use for our cheese melts is made by the same farm and with the same 100% grass-fed milk we use for our gelato. But we have etched in our brand name that we are the “Craft Gelato Co.” to remind ourselves what our primary passion is. So overall, we will try to stay focused on the frozen creations. We are currently upgrading our production equipment to be able to do more in terms of gelato cakes and other gelato creations and you can expect to see more of those very soon.
We’ve put together an exciting tasting experience that includes infusions with sotol, añejo, mezcal, and more.
Your gelato infusions and flavors are unique and the ingredients always compliment one another nicely. How do you come up with flavor ideas and how do you test them out?
Jen: Our gelato flavors change with the weather. One of the primary drivers is the availability of fresh produce. We do strawberry gelato only when fresh strawberries are available. As the spring herbs started coming to market, we got some fresh tarragon and that was our first fresh spring flavor this year.
Some flavors are inspired by events and our other interests. For example, the America’s Cup is coming to New York Harbor in May and for that we will do a batch of our Painkiller Sorbet. It is a flavor inspired by a cocktail that we first had while sailing in the Caribbean. It’s a favorite drink for all sailors! We’ll be serving the Painkiller gelato at the Manhattan Yacht Club race-viewing party and we’ll make some for our cafe.
What are some of your — and your children’s — favorite dessert spots?
Boris: Our kids’ all-time favorite dessert is s’mores, which they get when we go camping. We make them with vegetarian marshmallows and 71% Raaka chocolate. Otherwise, we love good bakeries, which in Jersey City means of course Choc-o-Pain with their exquisite fresh pastries; in Charlottesville, Virginia, that would include MarieBette Cafe; and in Manhattan, Sullivan Street Bakery on the Upper West Side, where the kids attend Bulgarian School.
Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato Co. | 150 Bay Street (btwn Marin & Provost) | www.bucketandbay.com
(All images courtesy of Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato Co.)