Producer, Educator & Writer
For KQED food.
With the never-ending news cycle, it can be tricky to remember to savor a moment—or a historical milestone—as it happens. The East Bay’s Koolfi Creamery’s aims to do just that with its new flavor, Kamala Blossom.
Priti Rama Narayanan, the company’s co-founder and chief ice cream engineer, clearly remembers the day the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. It was the day she proposed to her wife. She also remembers how then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris performed the first federally recognized gay wedding in her home state.
“We felt validated in some way,” Narayanan says.
She and her wife, Madhuri Anji, who is Indo-German, co-founded Koolfi Creamery in 2018, drawing from their own mixed-South Indian roots to create a uniquely Bay Area ice cream company. Their latest flavor, Kamala Blossom, is a tribute to the vice president-elect in the form of a delicious, pink lotus seed-rose flavor.
“It’s been a really difficult four years,” Narayanan says. “But that shouldn’t take away from our ability or our desire to celebrate this historic inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first of so many things: first woman, first Indian American and first Black woman.”Sponsored
The flavor has deep roots. Narayanan recalls that her father, who grew up in a village in southern India, told her about how he used to go swimming in a pond to find and munch on lotus seeds. As a child in Mumbai, Narayanan grew up eating them in popped form, like popcorn. She had always wanted to use them in an ice cream flavor, but struggled to figure out exactly how to showcase the “slightly nutmeg-y” taste.
After Joe Biden picked Harris as his VP, the choice was clear. The name Kamala, which means ‘pink lotus’ in Sanskrit, prompted Narayanan to experiment with rose water and come up with the flavor. “Her name was the seed for making this ice cream,” she says.
“It’s been extremely popular, and is the most popular flavor to date,” Narayanan says. After selling out of the first batch, she and Anji made another. “I think the flavor is very quintessentially a Desi flavor,” she adds, noting that it’s mild and sweet.
“All the flavors we make are like a two-tone silk sari,” Narayanan says, “with a first flavor that hits your palate and another flavor that follows it.” She’s considering making Kamala Blossom a permanent fixture of her brand.
Narayanan’s venture into ice cream came in part as a result of an unexpected accident. One evening, in 2014, she and Anji were walking in San Francisco after a performance by comedian Hari Kondabolu when they were hit by a bus.
“They took us to the E.R. at SF General, and the nurses were so funny, saying, ‘We can’t say anyone threw you under the bus anymore,’” says Narayanan. The incident was traumatic, but it gave her a break for the first time in a long while, allowing her the space and time to think about what she really wanted to do. “I should be doing something I like,” she thought at the time. And for her, the thing that kept popping up was Koolfi. “Why not take all the flavors that we grew up with and incorporate that into a fusion version of flavors?”
In 2018, the partners started Koolfi Creamery. And while it’s not a traditional Indian koolfi made of milk boiled down with spices, Koolfi Creamery uses a French custard base combined with unique flavors like Bombay butterscotch and jackfruit pudding.
Narayanan sees her own Bay Area story as woven into that of VP-elect Harris. “I’m really proud of Kamala and particularly her mom, Shyamala [Gopalan Harris], for stepping out of the norm to be in this relationship,” she says, referring to her marriage to Harris’ father, Jamaican-born economist Donald Harris.
She sees acts of courage in relationships as a benefit to society. The act of “being who you are and being comfortable with that,” Narayanan says.
Anji echoes this sentiment: “To see someone who is biracial and of Indian heritage, like me, so visibly support gay marriage truly mattered to me, and I think someone who stands for equality and fairness is much needed in D.C. right now.”