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From the Farm to Your Freezer, L.A.'s Best Sorbet

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Tucked into the back of the kitchen at Groundwork Coffee in Venice is a little operation of major inspiration. Two locals have set out to share their love of dessert through sorbet made from locally sourced organic fruit and the results are not just amazingly sweet and tasty, but encouraging to the state of the growing social awareness of what we eat.

"There's so many misconceptions out there about food and the biggest thing for me is really asking where your food source is coming from. Is it raw? Is it cooked? Is it organic? Is it not? Is it local? Then you start deciphering if it's good for you. The nutritional value is important, but it's more all about your ingredients," explained Kippy Miller of Truly Raw Gourmet as she prepared some of her creamy coconut sorbet one Friday night a few weeks ago. "Some people just look and say, 'oh my gosh, it's got 150 calories!' but they don't see where their calories come from."

Kippy's creations for Truly Raw Gourmet are likely to stick out when you're shopping at Whole Foods or at Co-opportunity in Santa Monica. 9 oz. glass jars with home-printed labels are not the usual sight among the well-designed corporate packages. And it's not just that which sticks out, it's the names of the treats: Apple Pie, Chai, Pumpkin Persimmon, Coconut, Strawberry Lemonade and Chocolate Cappuccino, among others.

Like many successful businesses, it started out with fun. About two years ago, Kippy and her friend Max Wolf began making ice cream with raw honey. Desiring something to share with all their friends, they stopped using milk products and started making sorbet, which eventually turned into a part-time business venture.

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But it's not about business as usual. There's a philosophy to how they go about doing it:

  • Raw Honey: Max has long been involved in local honey production and outsources it from a second generation Long Beach-based beekeeper. Most honey we buy in the stores has been heated, which is an industry production standard for efficiency's sake--when hot, honey pumps through a factory's pipes faster. "Local honey also helps with allergies," he said, referring to common pollen allergens. "When you eat honey that bees have made with their pollen from local flowers, it actually helps your allergies to pollen."
  • Coconut Water: If you want to be healthy and eco-conscious, what would your water source be? "I didn't want to get in the water debate," Max said of choosing between osmosis, distilled, bottled and other types of water. "As I've done this more, I realized I don't want to make people pay for water and sugar. A lot of people ask us, 'why is this $9.99?' When you buy other sorbet or ice creams you're paying primarily for water and sugar--most of it is filler." Adds Kippy: "Coconut water is filtered by nature. The water goes up the roots and is filtered through the husks, probably making it some of the purest water on the planet." It doesn't hurt that it's naturally sweet when you're making sorbet, either.
  • Locally Sourced Fruit: Instead of the small baby Thai coconuts that must be shipped in from across the ocean, they use fully grown organic ones from Mexico. "It has a better eco-footprint," said Kippy, who makes use of the full coconut, not just the water. She takes the meat, which is more nutrient rich, and makes a creme base out of it for the non-fruity flavors like chocolate and chai (they don't taste coconut-like either). For the fruit based sorbets, they buy lemons from a grower in Malibu, persimmons at the farmers markets and the rest from an organic distributor of California-grown fruit in downtown (that's for consistency's sake, but they are starting to talk to some farmers directly).

The passion Kippy and Max shared for their sorbet led to much more for them. They're are now a couple, living together in Culver City. Back when they were just friends and doing this part-time, Kippy became temporarily wheelchair-bound after injuring both of her ankles. The slower paced life had her evaluating what was important to her--independence, self-employment and giving people healthy food options.
"When you start telling people about health foods they just turn their ears off," Kippy explained, fully admitting she tends to do the same. "But when there is a dessert that tastes good and then it's nutritional, that's just a bonus. Then there's a good way to start telling people about sweeteners, raw honey and raw foods instead of just saying, 'if you want to be healthy, here, only eat fruit and vegetables.' That doesn't seem very conscious and loving. So I always thought, if people want to change their diets, the best way to do it through dessert and everything else comes later."

A typical week for them begins on Wednesdays when they pick up the coconuts and fruit. On Thursdays, or the mixing stage, is when they chop and blend. Friday, and continuing throughout the weekend, is the freezing stage where the sorbet is made and jarred in preparation for deliveries. "What we make tonight is what we deliver tomorrow to Whole Foods," Kippy said. And in between all that, she is going to Whole Foods--they are in over 15 locations--to give out samples.

It's at the stores where Kippy gets one-on-one time with customers. With her Texas charm and accent, she'll say things like "who wants to eat something that was prepared a year ago?" or "you wouldn't asked for guar gum on the side with steak and potatoes."

"I want people to ask companies why they add these fillers in," noted Max of guar and xanthem gum, which are commonly found on ingredient lists. "It's kinda creating empty space in what you eat. It's amazing how good food tastes when you just let it taste like food."

Try their Apple Pie sorbet and you'll know what he's talking about.

What Kippy and Max are doing, bringing the slow food movement to manufactured foods, is a small burgeoning industry with a lot of potential. Perhaps what they're doing will inspire others to do the same. In the meantime, at least, they get to be surrounded by the best sorbet in town.

If you try it out, here's one good tip: when you take it out of the freezer, leave it out for a few minutes before digging in. The softness will be just perfect.

Previously in Locally Sourced Desserts
- From the Farmers Market to Your Freezer: The Best Popsicles in L.A.

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