Vegan Ice Cream in Austin: Sweet Ritual Casts a Milk-Free Spell Over Your Ice Cream

September 23, 2012 10:03 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Sweet Ritual
In Austin, Texas, L. Amelia Raley dreams of foods that come southern-frozen, not southern-fried-- and totally animal-product free, like the stuff offered by Sweet Ritual, her vegan ice cream parlor in the heart of one of the most bustling cities in the South. Just like The Fiction Kitchen in Raleigh, Ms. Raley is shifting the focus away from the barbecued meats for which her region is known. (Photo: Kickstarter)

In Austin, Texas, L. Amelia Raley dreams of foods that come southern-frozen, not southern-fried-- and totally animal-product free, like the stuff offered by Sweet Ritual, her vegan ice cream parlor in the heart of one of the most bustling cities in the South. Just like The Fiction Kitchen in Raleigh, Ms. Raley is shifting the focus away from the barbecued meats for which her region is known.

We spoke to her about Sweet Ritual, growing up omnivorous, and her Kickstarter to raise funds for hard-packed ice cream. Here's whats she had to say.

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(If a vegan ice cream joint is totally your thing and you don't need any convincing, feel free to click here and check out her Kickstarter)

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FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith What inspired you to start Sweet Ritual?

Sweet Ritual's Amelia Raley: I was working in a vegan restaurant in 2008 called Dhaba Joy. They carried a sugar-free oat based "ice cream" that was palatable, and somewhat popular. The company went out of business, and our soft servemachine lay unused for about two weeks. The amount of customers coming in during that time begging for a dairy-free ice cream got the gears turning in my head. I made a blend of soy milk, tofu and coconut milk, and stuck it in the machine. I had no idea if it would work or not, and if I broke the machine ($13,000 or more) I knew I would lose my job.

My boss was an older Indian man, who called me into his office about a week later. I was scared, thinking I'd be fired for sure, because I didn't ask permission. "For this," he said in between bites of ice cream, "you should get a raise."

AS: Can you tell us a little bit about Sweet Ritual's mission?

AR: Sweet Ritual is an old fashioned ice cream parlor that serves delicious vegan soft serve, sundaes shakes, and coffee. Open since December 2011 in Austin, TX, Sweet Ritual aims to provide delicious frozen desserts to suit a variety of dietary needs and tastes in a bright, cozy, vintage atmosphere. You'll find classic favorites and bold new flavors with something to please nearly everyone. Sweet Ritual operates inside of Daily Juice Café, a juice bar and vegan/vegetarian café that has long been an Austin favorite.

AS: Why is Austin the perfect city for a counter-culture vegan sweet spot?

AR: Austin was ranked one of the top ten places to be vegan. Locals are always willing to choose locally owned, "Keep Austin Weird" businesses over chain stores. Although Texas is known for BBQ, there are a lot of people transitioning over to a dairy-free diet, thanks to locally grown enterprises such as the Engine 2 Diet.

AS: Have you always been vegan? If not, how or why did you transition?

AR: Well, no, I wasn't born vegan. My father worked in a factory farm and owned a BBQ restaurant, so I guess I feel like I have a lot of sins to atone for.

AS: What exactly is hard-packed ice cream?

AR: Right now we sell soft serve ice cream, which is soft and creamy and comes right out of the machine. Hard-packed is what you get when you pick up a pint of Ben and Jerry's or any other commercially made ice cream.

AS: How have you been advertising your Kickstarter?

AR: Through our network of fans, friends and supporters.

AS: Do you have a dream ice cream flavor that you want to veganize?

AR: After we master a basic vanilla, I really want to do an espresso/vegan brownie/walnut crunch!

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Check out the Kickstarter for Sweet Ritual here!



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