There is an old saying about life handing you lemons and turning them into lemonade. Josh Danoff embodies the Somerville version of that, turning kombucha into popsicles. But things haven’t always been so sweet. Danoff first moved to the Boston area a few years ago to care for his ailing father and when his dad died, Danoff decided to make a go of it here, creating a business and finding a community to call home.
Danoff is the man behind Culinary Cruisers, a mobile food cart mounted on a bicycle that has been at the Armory farmers market all winter. Danoff has been selling kombucha, a fermented tea elixir said to have many health benefits, out of the bicycle for several months. And now, Danoff is creating and selling popsicles just in time for the summer season.
“It’s scientifically proven that you cannot be unhappy and eat a popsicle,” Danoff said.
Joking aside, Danoff is using science to determine whether the health properties kombucha possesses can be maintained if the drink is transformed into a popsicle.
“You’re almost engineering popsicles,” Danoff said. “Tasting it is a job. It’s not so much if you like it, but what can make it better.”
In the meantime, Ocean Ave Pops has five flavors for you to sample: strawberry, banana with chocolate chunks, watermelon blueberry basil, coconut pineapple blood orange and ginger grapefruit. Ocean Ave Pops is named after Danoff’s father (who is said to have had an “epic mustache”) and the street he grew up on in Brooklyn. Though he is gone, his influence is still felt in nearly everything Danoff does.
Beyond creating a delicious product, Danoff wanted to make popsicles that were healthier and supported the local economy. To that end, he might even be bringing Ocean Ave Pops to Somerville schools in a bid to help them raise money with healthier treats now that bake sales are frowned upon. Danoff is working on incorporating wholesome ingredients, extra vitamins and using less sugar to make the popsicles even more wholesome and just as tasty.
“We could kind of fill a gap with something delicious,” Danoff said.
In the year or so since Danoff established Culinary Cruisers, he’s gone from working just a few farmers markets to appearing at a market or on the Greenway in Boston nearly every day of the week. And since he can’t be in multiple places at once, he’s started hiring people who share his passion for local, sustainable, wholesome food that tastes good.
Chloe Nolan, head of production for Ocean Ave Pops, is one such person. She’s the one actually making the popsicles right now, ensuring that each one uses only good ingredients (no fake stuff, preservatives or other funny business) and tastes great.
“It’s bringing people together who all have a varied skill set,” Danoff said. “There’s a sense of ownership. It’s exciting to be part of something new.”
Ocean Ave Pops are made at Kitchen Inc. in Union Square and the connections Danoff has made there have helped him expand his business beyond kombucha and popsicles. He’s now partnered with a hot dog vendor and Spindrift Soda to sell their products from his bicycle carts.
“The kitchen provides us with a sort of infrastructure,” Danoff said. “We can concentrate on now and also have a plan to introduce other products. If we see another company that’s doing something cutting edge, we can bring it to market.”
But all this growth hasn’t been easy. In the week before the popsicles debuted, Danoff said he didn’t sleep more than 20 hours and was at the kitchen early every morning and late every night. In the end, it was worth it.
“To see that look on people’s faces, how energizing, how exciting, it felt so good,” Danoff said.
Popsicle Flavors: strawberry, banana with chocolate chunks, watermelon blueberry basil, coconut pineapple blood orange and ginger grapefruit (This reporter has tried the banana and the watermelon and both were outstanding!)
Cost: $3 each
Where Can You Find the Pops?: Saturdays at the Armory farmers market until the Union Square market opens in June, then Danoff wil be at the Saturday and Thursday markets; Sundays at the corner of Memorial Drive and Flagg Street in Cambridge; Thursdays at the Kendall Square farmers market; Mondays and Wednesdays at Boston’s City Hall farmers market; Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Dewey Square farmers market; Thursdays through Sundays on the Greenway in Boston.
The Backstory: Kombucha Cruises Into Somerville (The first time I wrote about Culinary Cruisers earlier this year.)
Have you tried an Ocean Ave Pop? Which flavor was your favorite?