Summer of Sundaes at Jersey City's Milk Sugar Love

All I really need to say in this post is, "Milk Sugar Love ice cream sundae." .... and, scene. You should already be en route, running to Hamilton Park if you know what's good for you.

But this summer, Emma took it up a notch in a way that highlights one of my favorite things about Jersey City: local business collaboration. When we lived in Manhattan, everything felt (because it was) anonymous. It's every (wo)man for him or herself, and that seems to be how people survive.

But over here, on this side of the river, we manage to be a city where one can appreciate his or her neighbors. Where we can be friendly and say hello on the sidewalk. And where local businesses -- often even those who are competitive -- support each others' success and collaborate whenever possible. Everybody wins, and I love that so much about Chilltown.

So, what was wrong with a regular old ice cream sundae? Nothing, if you're a regular old ice cream shop. But Milk Sugar Love is not.

"Since we opened a year ago now, I have wanted to do something more with our sundae menu," owner Emma Taylor said. "Our ice cream sandwiches are constantly rotating and evolving, but our sundae menu has been what you would typically find at any other ice cream shop: pick your ice cream, pick your toppings. Because I worked in restaurants in NYC before starting Milk Sugar Love, I have a fine dining, plated dessert mindset and I knew I wanted to apply that to a special set of sundaes this summer. I also knew that I wanted a chance to work with other local businesses to create sundaes that would not only be delicious but would highlight the businesses we partnered with."

And the Milk Sugar Love Summer of Sundaes was born. Only available on the weekends, each month is a partnership with a fellow Jersey City business.

Emma began the collaboration in April, partnering with sam a.m. cafe on a French Toast sundae.

May's partnership with Roman Nose featured honeyed ricotta ice cream, amaretto cookie crunch, Mast Brothers dark chocolate shavings, strawberry balsamic sauce, local honey, fresh mint and whipped cream.

I'm terribly ashamed to say I missed out on both of them (thanks to my belly-achin' health problems). Ugh. But then along came my birthday month and the Universe said to itself, "give her a break, she's getting older." Thank goodness it did.

Because June's collaboration is with some of my favorite Jersey City Lovin' Crew folks, Marinell Montales and Chadner Navarro of EIGHTY Magazine. I mean, c'mon. It was meant to be. It was. And it is.

As you already know, this weekend was a workout and a half. After a Hip-Fit with Laura class followed by the JC Bike Ward Tour, mama needed to treat herself and replenish some calories. And a beeline for Milk Sugar Love was made.

'But EIGHTY is a magazine, not a restaurant,' you may be thinking to yourself, 'how are they collaborating?' True. But Marinell and Chadner have fundraised through food collaborations for their first two issues (remember this or this?) and have shared their heritage in the process, educating Jersey City about Filipino food in their second issue of EIGHTY (the Food Issue).

You may also remember the Kamayan feast they hosted after the second issue's release, replicating its cover? I missed that too (we were traveling, surprise, surprise, and I was indescribably sad to miss the feast -- I even begged them to host a round two so that I could attend, because I'm a brat sometimes). But yum. Just yum.

So naturally, their collaboration with Emma is based upon a traditional Filipino dessert.

"The idea behind the sundae is loosely inspired by a traditional Filipino dessert called halo halo, which literally means mix mix in Tagalog," Chadner said. "The original dessert is a wild medley of various fruits, beans, jelly, flan and much more topped with shaved ice. Emma's genius has allowed for a lot of creative twists on the recipe so that the sundae isn't a carbon-copy of halo halo but more of a pared-down homage to its flavors. And because [Marinell and I are] both Filipinos, we wanted to share these flavors with Milk Sugar Love fans in hopes that if they're unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, the sundae could be the perfect gateway treat." It is.

So, what's in it? The EIGHTY Magazine-Milk Sugar Love June sundae features caramel flan ice cream, lychee granita, caramelized chocolate puffed rice, crispy dried corn and jackfruit jellies.

"That sounds weird," I heard a girl say while I was waiting for my deliciousness to be prepared in the shop. To which I can only reply that she was and is missing out big-time. Don't think like a gringa or a gringo, and don't expect a typical ice cream sundae because that's not what's happening here. This is culinary creativity of the dessert variety and if you don't appreciate, no one is the poorer but you!

As that poor girl made the wrong call, my Love, the World's Cutest Human and I were in the corner devouring a sundae, exclaiming over each other, "Oh my God, this is so good! What is this flavor? What is that flavor?" with every bite.

But most importantly -- and the opinion that matters to me the most -- was Emma's. I needed to know if she was pleased with the result?

"I love, love, love Filipino food," Emma added. "I was so happy they said yes [to the collaboration]."