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Get ready for food truck season, and ice cream with the Chocolate Moose and Pinoy Garden Cafe

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KAYTE YOUNG:  From WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. This is Earth Eats, and I'm your host, Kayte Young.

JORDAN DAVIS:  And as the blade rotates and the interior cylinder freezes, it begins to churn the ice-cream into a wonderful fluffy content that will be established shortly thereafter.

KAYTE YOUNG:  This week on the show, as the weather begins to warm, we have a story about ice-cream. Toby Foster talks with Jordan Davis and Elijah Lawson, the Chocolate Moose, Bloomingtons classic ice-cream stand and so much more. And we go into the kitchen with Chris Manansala and Maria St. Claire of Pinoy Garden Cafe, to learn how to make their vegetarian lumpia. That's all coming up, stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. First up, producer Toby Foster has a story about a beloved Bloomington institution. Here's Toby.

TOBY FOSTER:  The Chocolate Moose, that's moose spelled M-O-O-S-E is an ice-cream shop and café located in Bloomington, Indiana. It has been a staple of the community for decades. I myself have fond memories of waiting in long lines in the parking lot on South Walnut Street for ice-cream or more likely at that time I was getting a moose horn, which is a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and adjourned with two candy eye balls.

TOBY FOSTER:  Some years ago, the iconic wooden hut got sold to a developer and as seems to be the case with such locations all across the country, the building and the lot were turned into an apartment building. I know. However you feel about that though, the Chocolate Moose has continued to make the same ice-cream in the same ice-cream machine, continued to sell it from a retail space in the first floor of said apartment building, and has adapted by opening a few satellite locations and moving production to a warehouse on the south-side of town. They've also maintained their commitment to the local community by continuing to grow their weekly event, Food Truck Friday, where they serve the ice-cream and provide the entertainment and invite local food trucks to come sell lunch and dinner.

TOBY FOSTER:  I visited Director of Operations, Jordan Davis, and Production Manager, Elijah Lawson, at their production facility to talk about the history of the business, Food Truck Friday and most importantly, the ice-cream.

JORDAN DAVIS:  My name's Jordan Davis and I'm the Director of Operations for the Chocolate Moose.

JORDAN DAVIS:  It will be nine years in May.

JORDAN DAVIS:  So when I started, we were just this stand. We're the tiny little stand right there at Smith and Walnut and it kind of just came on in a vague manager role. We didn't know exactly what I would be at the time. I became the GM there and then when that stand had to be torn you, the new building built, we also around that time opened up our store in Brown County. Eventually we start getting GM for individual stores, I'm kind of overseeing all of them. We just made the title, Director of Operations. So pretty much anything and everything we do got some little ending. It's a lot of fun, I enjoy it.

JORDAN DAVIS:  We date back to 1933. 1933 is when Mays Cafe was opened by EJ and Cleta Smay. It was right there where we're currently at, right at that same intersection, that same block on South Walnut. And then in 1955, their son Doran built the stand that everyone came to know and love; that was called the Penguin at the time. Then in the mid 80s, the name changed to the Chocolate Moose. There was some brief change of ownerships, but it stayed in the May family for the most part. At one point there was a penguin on Kirkwood and they also had a shop where May's Cafe was, which eventually was our production facility at that same location, but outside of the stand. But for the most part it was the stand from 1955 as the Penguin, changed its name to the Chocolate Moose in the mid 80s. Then the end of October in 2016 or '17 is when the stand was torn down. Developers came in.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Doran May, he built the stand in '55; his parents had May's Cafe from the beginning, he was getting up there in years and he's still around and in town, but he was our landlord. Our owners had the right of first refusal to purchase the property, but just the amount of the money that developers were willing to offer was a lot more than we could have done. So developers purchased it, but wanted to make sure that we were able to keep our home where we had been for so long. They built Hebron Station Apartments, made sure we had a retail space at the bottom that we were happy with, worked with them to design everything and make sure we still had a walk up window, they had the garage doors, the patio area and right around that same time is when we opened our national store. The building used to be a KFC and Taco Bell. It sat empty for 13 years and Starbucks had tried to go in there, but the town of Nashville is not keen to change. So they didn't let them come in. We were fortunate enough to get in there. It's our only store that we have that has a drive-through.

JORDAN DAVIS:  We're one of the main coffee shops out there, we open early, it has much more of a coffee shop vibe than our Walnut store and we do a large food menu there as well. We have pulled pork mac and cheese, Cuban sandwiches, Buffalo chicken. It's a little higher quality and more wide ranging than the one we have at Walnut. But of course we still have our homemade coney dogs and all the other good stuff that you know and love as part of the Moose, but just more stuff on top of that.

JORDAN DAVIS:  We then opened up our Indian Avenue location last Spring in 2022. It's a really, really small shop, we open at eight AM and we do full coffee, menu there, we partner with Brown County Coffee. They roast a really good product and we're excited to keep building on that store right now.

JORDAN DAVIS:  The stand was very seasonal. We didn't want to see the stand go, we were very sad to see it go. You're never going to be able to replicate what that stand had and offered and that atmosphere. But once it became clear, okay, it's going to be torn down, we want to become a little less seasonal. So we were going to have that with the new building there at Walnut, but, Brown County was such a no-brainer. The next county over, it's such a cool tourist town. Nashville's awesome, makes a great community up there and by adding coffee, we'd be offering something that people get when you're not getting ice-cream. When it's at night and it's hot, you're getting ice-cream. When it's at morning and it's cold, you're getting coffee. So it was perfect counter balance to when we would get busy with ice-cream, so it just made a lot of sense to do a coffee and ice-cream shop. It took a couple of years to really get rolling at that store, but once the community saw that we were there for good, we're doing a lot of dine and donates, we're sponsoring youth sports team, just really embracing the community that Nashville and Brown County is, they started to embrace us back.

JORDAN DAVIS:  People would come there every year, started to have us as part of their regular routine. So it took a few years, but after a while it really picked up and that store is really good for us now. Having a drive thru is really great and offers us some opportunities we don't have at the other stores.

TOBY FOSTER:  At this point I realized I hadn't asked Jordan anything about the ice-cream yet, which is kind of the whole reason I came in the first place.

JORDAN DAVIS:  We use 14% butter fat, which is about as high quality as it gets. It's a super premium, which is the technical name. There's super premium, premium, different grades of ice-cream. So we're super premium ice-cream. Everything's made right here in this warehouse where we're at right now on the South Side of Bloomington. We used to make it in the building across the parking lot from the stand, then as that got torn down we had to shift it down here, and everything from our events for Food Truck Friday, for Ivy Football to the store that's in the union that our PS runs. All the ice-cream comes out from this location. But, yes, it's a 14% butter fat, high quality, home made option, hard packed. We get our mix typically from Prairie farms. It's like farmer owned and they all go into it.

JORDAN DAVIS:  It's a large company, but we think it's a good company. We'd love to eventually get to the point where we could go full organic or full grass fed or all the different levels that you can get to. But for right now it's just not feasible for us. But we're really proud of the product offering that we have and it's remained the same. So even when the stand changed, it's still the same machine, it's still the same person. Elijah who you're going to speak with has been with the company longer than I have. So he was making before Justin bought it and so it's really had that continuity towards the same consistency the same process, the same machine, the same person, the same ingredients. So even though the building changed, the product is still the same.

TOBY FOSTER:  I wasn't sure exactly what Jordan meant by hard packed.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Yes, well just that it's scooped, it's not through machine, it's not soft serve. So we'll use the machine to make it into the tub. But yes, hard packed ice-cream is just the counter to soft serve. Soft serve out of the machine, it does a swirl. It's what you have a Dairy Queen and that just for reference is five percent butter fat.

TOBY FOSTER:  Okay, so it's the fat content is what makes it different?

JORDAN DAVIS:  Yes and no. So it's kind of how it's produced. So we run it through the machine and then we put it into a hardening cabinet, at negative 40 degrees I think; Elijah could clarify that a little bit more, and that hardens it to the point where it's scooped. Now I could sow in that 14% butter fat through a saucer machine, it's still gonna be soft served, but just really creamy soft serve. So it's more of just the production method.

TOBY FOSTER:  And do you offer soft serve as well?

JORDAN DAVIS:  Yes. Oh yes, you got to have soft serve still. For me it's all about the mood I'm in. But we still have vanilla chocolate twist, soft serve at all of our locations. Our Indian Avenue one hasn't had it over the winter, but we're going to be bringing it back there as the weather warms up.

TOBY FOSTER:  I asked Jordan about some of the different flavors the Chocolate Moose offers.

JORDAN DAVIS:  My favorites are Brown County Coffee. So we have that partnership with them to get their product for us to produce the coffee ice-cream before we ever did coffee at our stores. So that was an easy thing to do when we decided we wanted do coffee, we already had that relationship. But it's just really rich, full coffee flavor. I like to do a scoop of it with a scoop of our cheesecake ice-cream. When we make cheesecake ice-cream, it's with sour cream, it's with cream cheese. It's with the real ingredients that you would use to make a cheesecake, we're just making ice-cream. It's not artificial flavoring. We also have our Grasshopper which we're really well known for, the mint Orea. Moose chocolate, our name sake is just our homemade milk chocolate ice-cream. We have Moose Dream, Chocolate Reece cup. You have your fruit flavors, strawberry, black raspberry, lemon custard, blue moon. You have your other rich flavors like sweet cinnamon, butter pecan and then our number one above all is cookie dough.

TOBY FOSTER:  Just to clarify a little bit, there are still some flavors that use artificial flavoring and dyes. I was a little confused about that at first.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Your ones like your blue moon and your lemon custard that are neon colored, those are artificial.

TOBY FOSTER:  There's nothing wrong with it.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Exactly. We do offer our vegan ice-creams that used to be made with coconut milk and now they're made with oat milk, and you're not going to find any artificial dyes or stuff like that in those. Our grasshopper for example, the mint Oreo, it has a green coloring to it, but if you do the vegan option, it's brown because there's no fake dye in there. So if you're trying to avoid specific dyes, stuff like that, we have five different options, we offer the vegan and vegan vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee and grasshopper.

TOBY FOSTER:  While we're on the topic of ice-cream, I was also able to speak to Elijah Lawson. He's been in charge of making their ice-cream for over a decade and he gave me a tour of the facility.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  My name is Elijah Lawson and I guess my title would be portrayed as a production manager. In about a month or two I'll actually be here for 12 years and how do I describe that? There's so many facets to the production and facilitation of starting the process to ending the process. I'm involved in every portion of that actually and I'm very grateful. I got started, like I said about 12 years ago and I began when they had a smaller shop and I had a lot of interaction with customers during that time. I got to serve out of the small window there in the box and that was my beginning portions before I began to have enough trust in the management to divulge the secrets of how Chocolate Moose ice-cream is made.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  It really begins in our state of the art kitchen in here that we've been able to put together over time. It took us a couple of years to come up with this facility, but it's offered us a great opportunities to expand and yet stay firm to our good quality chocolate moose ice-cream. There's a variety of fat contents of ice-cream out there today just like there is with your milk. You got your regular dairy if you're buying a half gallon or a gallon of milk. You're looking at your skimmed milk, right, you're one percent and two percent. We have one of the highest fat contents of ice-cream and plus the variety of ingredients that we add really increased that whole mixture to add to the concept of a super premium ice-cream.

TOBY FOSTER:  I had heard that the Chocolate Moose sometimes produces custom flavors for local restaurants and I asked Elijah about this.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  As of late, we haven't dealt with a variety of restaurants. In the previous years though, restaurants did ask for specific flavors that were in tune to some recipes maybe they were looking for during that time. So we have made specific recipes for different restaurants in the Bloomington community and I believe maybe in the surrounding counties. One of my least favorite, I hate to say start off with the least favorite, right, but we dealt with a distillery here in Bloomington, Indiana and they had a desire to make an ice-cream called Moscow Mule.

TOBY FOSTER:  Moscow Mule. That's usually a cocktail made with vodka, ginger beer and lime.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  It dealt with a few different ingredients and we put that together and it wasn't high on my list, but I think it was popular for the time that they served it and so it worked out pretty good. We also dealt with a location on the southside of the town called Lapointe. They had a restaurant going for a time and they asked for a flavor called butter cream, and so we put that together and that was another concept. Throughout the years we've made single flavors for different customers. We have tried seasonal ice-creams, peach ice-cream, keylime pie. There's been a couple of unique flavors the Chocolate Moose has tried throughout the years. But we hold true to a firm list.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  My favorite, I spice it up a little bit. I love our Brown County Coffee ice-cream, but I spice it up with a Heath bar. So I blend that together and I guess make what you call a blizz out of it and it's delicious.

TOBY FOSTER:  I was curious to learn a little bit more about the Chocolate Moose's line of vegan flavors.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  The process was hard to establish in the beginning. We had a great previous ice-cream maker who came up with a solid recipe for the establishment of the vegan line and we went with that for several years, it was very good, and then there was a few distributors who were interested in promoting some additional products to us and so we ventured outside of our original recipe and tried a couple of different lines and then I believe we as of today successfully settled for a new vegan line that's going to be established with an oat milk ice-cream, and so it's very smooth, very rich ice-cream. I think many customers will be satisfied with the variety of flavors we have in the vegan line. Even more satisfied with the new mix that we are putting out there for everyone to try.

TOBY FOSTER:  Now it was time for a tour of the kitchen. I was surprised to find out that all the ice-cream is made in one machine that's not that much larger than an industrial washing machine.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  So we've entered the production kitchen here at the Chocolate Moose and it really all begins at the hand washing station. So that really benefits not only me, but the customer and the product that I'm dealing with to be clean from the start to the finish. So we start off here and I'll wash my hand and generally there's buckets that we put our product in and we tend to re-use those, and so what I'll do is I'll walk over here to the sink and begin a fill up station of some sanitized solution, water and rinsing station. We deal with a high quality sanitation process, so it really helps the process go forward smoothly and safely.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  Once the portion of that is knocked out and finished, then I can really open my eyes to other areas that need to be looked at. So we just had a order for strawberry half pints and so we use sliced strawberries, but they come to us frozen, so I'll need to set some products out sometimes to allow [UNSURE OF WORD]. Now we'll walk over here and we have a cooler. I don't know if you want to call it industrial, it's bigger than your average cooler. You're able to walk into it, so we'll walk in here and you have a variety of our mix. So you would talk about our vegan line of mix and so that comes in items such as can be found within our cooler and so I'll portion out the desired amount that's needed for our specific recipes and I'll then carry that into our kitchen.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  As I mentioned, I've been here a handful of years doing this process, so I have a good concept of what the recipes are. But we do have a special book that's under lock and key that notes various things of how to step by step open up the wonders of the Chocolate Moose.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  Moving forward we have our state of the art ice-cream batch freezer here. It has two varieties of ice-cream that can be performed out of this machine as your standard mix ice-cream, and then it also will perform a gelato function, which is just a less fatty ice-cream persay, more dense and just as delicious at the regular ice-cream. So I take the portion mix that I took out of the cooler and bring it in here. I'd reassure myself that I've closed the door properly and make sure that the seals are closed up to that degree where nothing will be leaking out. There's a door to the door, you would have to see it to believe it. There's a door to the door. We look at the top of the machine and we note a variety of buttons.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  Most importantly and graciously, they've had one button on the far right of the machine to stand out the most and that's because it stops the machine if necessary. I have had over the years experiences where that has been needed and has really helped save the machine from defect. Now there are two other buttons that will begin the process of the machine which will rotate the blade and also begin the interior cylinder will begin freezing, and as the blade rotates and the interior cylinder freezes, it begins to churn the ice-cream into a wonderful, fluffy content that will be established shortly thereafter.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  Once the ice-cream is frozen and complete, we don't want the cylinder to continue to freeze the ice-cream, we want to stop the freezing process as the ice-cream is dispensed. So there is a button that dispenses. It looks like a bucket that is being poured out and that will cut the freezing process of the machine off and continue to whip the ice-cream. As that ice-cream is being whipped, we can now look at the door within the door. We are going to open the said door within the door. What happens is as the blade within the machine spins, the ice-cream now has an opportunity to come out and so this special liquid is coming out now in a fluffy consistency into our sanitized buckets, which can then appropriately and immediately be fashioned into our hardening cabinet and that hardening cabinet will freeze and establish our ice-cream to a firm consistency to where it can be taken to shops and scooped, some may say around the world.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  Bloomington has a large community and so with an open mind, Chocolate Moose has touched the world with their ice-cream. It's a beautiful thing and we thank you for the many who out there who are purchasing our product.

TOBY FOSTER:  At this point the ice-cream may spend only a few hours in the hardening cabinet for the smaller pints and half pints or for the larger buckets, closer to a full 24 hours.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  Now I'm not involved in how the ice-cream is frozen. I let the freezers do that work. Generally your standard freezer is around zero to maybe a negative five if you're lucky. But yes, this one has the ability to consistently run at a negative 25 degrees.

TOBY FOSTER:  After the ice-cream leaves the hardening cabinet, it's sorted into one of two other walk in freezers. One for the smaller containers and the other for the bulk buckets which will be scooped at their stores.

ELIJAH LAWSON:  You'll take a peak in and you can feel we have a strong air flow in here and that's blowing some cold air, and so that really helps keep our ice-cream cold and it's a larger freezer to where we can hold more. So we've moved from the freezer and we do have one delivery gentleman and occasionally he has help throughout the season and so I believe I would get notes from him and he would say, hey, tomorrow we need said amount of ice-cream, and then other days I just have to come in and look at the freezers and really get a concept of what my work day has to offer. One day is never the same at the Chocolate Moose and that's a good thing because no single individual is the same, and so this job offers an opportunity of just a way to look at different flavors of like and it's a great thing.

TOBY FOSTER:  That was Production Manager, Elijah Lawson speaking about the process of making ice-cream at the Chocolate Moose in Bloomington, Indiana.

TOBY FOSTER:  After a short break, I'll speak again with Director of Operations, Jordan Davis about how the Chocolate Moose continues to foster that sense of community many of used to feel at their classic downtown ice-cream stand. Stick around.

TOBY FOSTER:  Welcome back to Earth Eats. I'm Toby Foster speaking with Elijah Lawson and Jordan Davis from the Chocolate Moose in Bloomington, Indiana. Both Jordan and Elijah have a passion for their product and for the Bloomington Community in general that I really appreciated. I think many long time Bloomington residences probably mourn the loss of the original Chocolate Moose stand. As I mentioned earlier, it was always a place you could count on seeing a few friends and it didn't matter if you had to wait in line for 30 minutes because just being outside on a summer night was part of the whole experience. And to be clear, the new downtown Chocolate Moose does still have a walk up window. But there's just something about being on the sidewalk that's not quite the same as the summer sun beating down on you in an old parking lot, even it is a little bit safer.

TOBY FOSTER:  One way that the Chocolate Moose has continued to support this feeling of community is through their Food Truck Friday events. They've been happening since the old parking lot days, but have really found their footing in a big way now that they've moved to the newly finished Switch Yard Park.

JORDAN DAVIS:  We started Food Truck Friday back in September of 2014. So I started with Chocolate Moose in May of '14. Our owner, Justin and I, went and did a Brown Park event with the private school. They had a fundraiser out there and there was a couple of food trucks, and we were selling ice-cream way before we had logo tents and logo carts and on the way back Justin said, maybe we get a food cart or a food truck to come set up for lunch and we can sell dessert and drinks, because everyone always knew the old stand for our long line, but not for lunch. It was always at dinner, always in the evening and I said what if we called that Food Truck Friday. We said this is great, let's do this, let's try it out. So we had [UNSURE OF NAME], who was an old food cart, and he came up and set up a couple of lunches, then we really were able to get a hold of a few different trucks and stuff into our first Food Truck Friday. It was September 14th or 16th of 2014, and it was Great White Smoke, Gypsy Moon, Who's Your Doggy, Give some more and one other. It was two food carts and three trucks.

JORDAN DAVIS:  It was a ton of fun and it just grew. I couldn't get a hold of The Big Cheese at all. They were the big truck at that time and they're still doing great, and they heard about it after the first one and got a hold of us. So we started growing really quick and we had just live bands come out. We had DJ Unique, Mad Dog, when Mad Dog was first starting, she did a Food Truck Friday for us and then the Valores we had do the next year, the first one, kick it off and it was just such a cool, fun community event and then the stand got torn down. What do we do, where do we go? It was First United Methodist across from the police station on Third Street. They've got that big grass lot in the parking lot. So we did there and it grew even more. We were a little closer to the campus, a little closer downtown, had a really great year there, but weren't able to keep going after that year, they had other plans. So we ended up going to the Herald Times for a year, had a good year there, but not as good because it's just further away from downtown, not as walkable, but they had a lot of parking and had space and it was really great for them to offer that for us.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Then we went up to Demension Mill, across from Upland at what's going to be the Tech Park and did a year there. But the visibility wasn't there. It was good, we had a solid year. Then we were able to get Switch Yard Park had wrapped up, its construction, and we got a hold of them, talked to Parks in a Rec, and we moved it on down to Switch Yard Park. So now we've had two years down there that have been bonkers, and just been nuts and, we've had a ton of food trucks, a ton of people, great bands, free to attend, you can spend as much money or as little money as you'd like and still soak up the environment and it never gets old. I love it so much. I feel like it's my baby. That sense of pride I guess, with just so much people are there and enjoying an event that you came up with and has grown over the years and a lot of hard work has gone into and most of the hard work is the people that work the trucks. They bust their ass.

JORDAN DAVIS:  They put long hours in and they deal with some hectic lines and they make it work. The event wouldn't happen without them doing what they do. The thing I've just mentioned on my podcast when we were talking about it and that I tell a lot of people that Food Truck Fridays are fairly prevalent now at a lot of places. But we were pretty early to the game to where if you type in Facebook dot com, slash Food Truck Friday, it's ours.

JORDAN DAVIS:  So we're going to be starting back up the beginning of April, Switch up Park. We'll run every single Friday through the end of October, weather permitting. Part of what I've been doing today was getting some bands booked and we're really excited for hopefully the best year yet.

TOBY FOSTER:  And you guys sell ice-cream, but that's it, or do you do food there as well?

JORDAN DAVIS:  We just set up one of our ten by ten tents and have some freezer carts and sell ice-cream. Rosta Pops is also there, Corona Ice. We're usually the main three dessert options and the rest are all savory food trucks.

JORDAN DAVIS:  The Chocolate Moose is part of the community. So many people bring their kids, their grandkids to the Chocolate Moose because they grew up going there. We're synonymous with Bloomington. Even if we grew further past Brown County, which I don't think is happening any time soon, but if we did, we're Bloomington and we recognize that and what it means to people and I have parents all the time telling me that their kids never ask for ice-cream but they always ask for Chocolate Moose. They think Chocolate Moose is ice-cream. That's part of why it's so great to put that on because it's a community even that has no barrier of entry. It's free to attend and you see every walk of life there just having a good time, eating, enjoying music, enjoying the weather and just to do it every single week too, yes, we love it and we're really glad to be associated with it and put it on.

TOBY FOSTER:  And what's the process of finding the food trucks like?

JORDAN DAVIS:  Over time, I don't want to say curated a list, but we just have a list and that's another thing I just talked about where I used to in the past just have a group text message thread and say, okay who's in this week on Monday and we're legitimizing a lot more this year to where people have to apply a month ahead of time to get their slot. Books Bourbon and Bacon was a really good truck, the Rude Radish, that was a vegan truck. They came down the last week and they were lined the entire day. Normally it will die off a little between lunch and dinner. They were lined the whole day and I had some really good vegan good. Their whole thing was vegan junk food. So it was mozzarella sticks, fish tacos, corn burgers, chicken sandwiches, stuff like that.

JORDAN DAVIS:  It's mostly Bloomington trucks. It's a cool opportunity for someone to go to one place to support 12 local businesses at the same time or however they want to go to. But we do want to make sure that people don't have to wait too long. That's one of the problems we ran into because of my method of how I was booking the trucks. Sometimes there would be a perfect storm where all these trucks had one off events and we were left with only six vendors for a week and a couple of thousand people show up and we have very long wait times. It's mostly going to be Bloomington trucks again, but we're going to continue to have trucks from surrounding areas in Indianapolis come down to fill the holes and offer the widest variety of food for people to enjoy and make sure that they don't have to wait forever.

JORDAN DAVIS:  I don't want to take away from the local trucks because they are what have built it. It wouldn't exist if it wasn't for them showing up every week even on the slow weeks. But yes, you want to make sure there's also want to make sure there's also some new stuff coming in and nobody wants to go to Food Truck Friday hungry and then not be able to eat for an hour.

TOBY FOSTER:  And do you feel like you're reaching that balance pretty well?

JORDAN DAVIS:  So it was only a couple of times last year that it happened, but even in this off season, I've had a hot dog cart reach out, I've had a pizza place reach out and I don't think we're going to have that issue this year.

TOBY FOSTER:  Great, and do they pay a fee to attend?

JORDAN DAVIS:  So we pay Parks and Recreation a weekly fee to rent the park, and then we charge the trucks a fee to attend which usually will end up to about ten percent or less of their sales; and it seems to be a good balance to where we can cover the fee for the park, and then also we pay for the band and entertainment, we pay for my labor in organizing it. In the past we used to set up and tear down the small town with tables and chairs and bring in a dumpster every week, and porta pots. One of the best parts with Switch Yard Park is that's already there, the infrastructure is there. So we show up, we do the marketing and organization, but on the day of, we just set up our ice-cream tent, make sure the trucks are where they need to be and it's ready to roll.

TOBY FOSTER:  If you can't already tell, Jordan gets really excited about local businesses, so much so that he has his own podcast all about the service industry here in Bloomington, and I have to say as someone who works in the service industry here, where it's easy to find yourself feeling cynical or on the edge of burning out, I enjoyed talking to someone who has such a sincere enthusiasm for the industry and for the community.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Yes, well that's what I reference, I have a podcast called No Dishes. It covers the local restaurant and bar industry here in Bloomington. I've been an employer or worker in the industry since I was 15. I've been in Bloomington for 12 years. I've been kind of all over the place. Charlie, Sweet Grass, the country club, all the Yogis and then Chocolate Moose for eight and a half years now, and we also get to work with a ton of restaurants. Almost all of my friends are still in the industry, and so it's really fun for me to just sit down with owners, bar tenders, bus boys, anybody in the industry. But yes, it's a fun opportunity for them to come on and just talk shop about what it's like working in the industry, what their restaurant or bar does specifically, what their life experience is like. We just started putting out season four and we added video, so it's on YouTube now, and the first episode was Naciye, the owner and do everything at Sofra Cafe, and she is just such an incredible, kind, intelligent human being and just sitting down and talking to her about her passion, and making food and just the experience of dining with others, it's so much more than just the food.

TOBY FOSTER:  Well yes, and I've taken up a lot of time there. I feel like we've covered everything that I wanted to talk about. Is there any final thoughts you want to add about the Chocolate Moose or about anything that we've talked about?

JORDAN DAVIS:  Yes, just how grateful we are for the Bloomington community. Pretty much anybody that ever reaches out to us for a silent auction, we're always participating. We're always wanting to give back and be a part of the community and not just be here to bow down to the almighty dollar. We're here to have that experience of going out and getting ice-cream with your family and having it be the best it could possibly be. It's a lot of fun. Our staff all the time will tell you, we're giving people the best part of their day, it's when they're getting ice-cream, it's the highlight of their day. How could you not be having a good time? I'm grateful to be involved in it. I know the Chocolate Moose as a whole is just grateful for how long we've been around. We're celebrating 90 years this year if you dig back to May's Cafe. Just looking forward to keeping it rolling and just reminding people that, yes, we're a Bloomington company, you'll have some of these freshman and sophomores that come in and see our ice-cream and see stores and see multiple locations and one in the union and might think we're a big chain. But no, we're local, we're Bloomington through and through.

TOBY FOSTER:  Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me, really appreciate it.

JORDAN DAVIS:  Yes, thanks Toby.

TOBY FOSTER:  My guests were Jordan Davis and Elijah Lawson, both long time staff members of the Chocolate Moose in Bloomington, Indiana.

TOBY FOSTER:  Our conversation took place in early February and I finally got the chance to visit Food Truck Friday at the end of April, after being out of town for the first one, then having stomach flu during the second, and then having the third one get canceled due to severe weather. The park was full of people. Over the sound of the generators running, someone played an acoustic guitar, while another band was getting set up on the other side of the park.

TOBY FOSTER:  I took my recorder hoping to get some person on the street clips, but everyone seems to be having such a good time with friends, eating good food that I couldn't bring myself to interrupt them.

TOBY FOSTER:  There were about a dozen food trucks set up and almost all of them had a line. We met with a friend and each got a few things from different trucks to share.

TOBY FOSTER:  My favorite was probably [UNSURE OF NAME]. They're sort of like Venezuelan mozzarella sticks, served with a delicious green sauce. We also had a falafel sandwich, a bean and cheese arepa, French fries and of course some Chocolate Moose ice-cream. There were a few barbecue options present, as well as the grill cheese truck that Jordan mentioned, Anoy Garden Filipino food, which has been featured on Earth Eats in the past, and several options for tacos and burritos.

TOBY FOSTER:  We had a great time and all decided that we ordered too much food, but not quite enough to take any home with us, and I'm excited to go back and try new things throughout the summer.

TOBY FOSTER:  For information on the Chocolate Moose, Food Truck Friday or Jordan's podcast, visit Earth Eats dot org.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That was Earth Eats Producer, Toby Foster. After a quick break we'll talk with the owners of one of the Food Truck Friday vendors, Pinoy Garden Cafe. They're sharing their recipe for lumpia, a Filipino spring roll type appetizer. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Kayte Young here, this is Earth Eats. We're in the kitchen at One World Commissary, where the owners and chefs of Pinoy Garden Cafe prepare the food for their pop up events in catering. They have generously agreed to share their recipe for one of their most popular dishes. Maria St. Claire will be preparing the dish and Chris Manansala will be cooking it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  What are we going to make today?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  We're making vegetable lumpia spring rolls.

KAYTE YOUNG:  For those who don't know lumpia, it's a lovely fried spring roll type appetizer, often filled with a seasoned chicken or pork mixture. Today we're making vegetarian lumpia.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  This is one of our best sellers. We always have a lot of orders for this.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Could either of you explain how lumpia is different from a spring roll or an egg roll?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  I think the difference is the ingredients that we use.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And also is the shape or how you roll it any different?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  It's almost the same as the others. Yes. Mainly really it's just the ingredients.

KAYTE YOUNG:  What goes into the filling?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  With a vegetable lumpia, you can put any kind of vegetable that you like. This is just the basic. I use cabbage and carrots just because that's what our customers request. This is their favorite, just two main ingredients.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So what's the first step.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  The first step I chop the cabbage the carrots thinly, then I just put garlic powder, salt, pepper, that's it. A little bit of the liquid seasoning that came from our country. After that I let it cool and then I use the regular spring roll wrapper. You can buy this at any Asian store.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The wrappers are thin eight inch square sheets made with wheat and sometimes rice flour.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  So what I do is I prepare it in a long and thin way, just because we want it like a bite size. That's how we present it to our customers during our catering. What we do is, I just get maybe one or two tablespoons, just to make sure that you have enough filling.

KAYTE YOUNG:  She arranges a filling in a line down the center of the wrapper.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  Not too much, just enough, and then you line them up and then you fold it. So one big fold and you have to make sure that this is tighten up. You tighten up and then you roll it. Make sure it's not loose. So once in a while you need to take a grip and then roll it again, and then I use sometimes water to seal the wrapper or eggs. I put a little amount at the edge of the wrapper and then you close and then smooth it out a little bit more, just to make sure it's sealed, and then you freeze this. It's much better to freeze it before you fry. It helps if it's frozen.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so there's no closing it at the end.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  No, no closing at the end. That's what we do, but I have a second way to do it, but this time it's a much bigger egg roll or vegetable roll. This is like a diamond shape. This way you put a little bit more of the filling just in the middle, just like that, and then you close it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  You're bringing that front corner up.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  Yes, and then same way, you roll it one time and then here at the edge, you close the edge, the sides. Just making like a triangular shape and then the other side again you fold it. So you seal the sides already. Then you continue folding until you close the whole wrapper. But of course you need to seal it with the eggs.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so see that one is a little thicker. It's more like what I think of as a spring roll or an egg roll.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  So it really depends on how our clients want it. If they want it bite size, we prepare it long ways like this and then we divide it into three.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh, I see. Once it's cooked, you would cut it.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  Yes, we cut it, and then this one, if they just want something big like this, yes, that's how I make the bigger version. So you'll fry it and then there's two sauces for this. So if you want the sweet chili sauce, which is like the normal sauce for spring rolls like lumpia, and also I have the vinegar with onions. So this is chopped red onions with vinegar. I put a little bit of sugar, salt and that's it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And so I'm guessing that the vegetarian isn't the typical one that you make? What other kinds of fillings do you make?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  I can put tofu here, turnips. We also use turnips, green beans. It really depends on, on what kind of vegetables you want as filling.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And then what about the meat ones?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  The meat ones, we use the ground pork, ground chicken. Soon we are going to do a double version of the lumpia.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So what is that like?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  The double meat, I will just make it as lumpia. So we're still trying that.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So you'll cook the meat like you do the double and then you'll just cut it up real small to fit it into the -

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  What I do is, I'm going to dry it a little bit. But all the seasonings and marination is there, and then once it's dried up and it's cooled down, then I'm going to put it as a filling. I'm going to try so many on how. That's our next thing that we're going to feature.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So some recipe testing is ahead. Okay, so are we ready to go to the frying stage or do you want to make some more or how do you want to do it?

KAYTE YOUNG:  While Maria was teaching me how to roll lumpia, Chris was heating up oil in the deep fryer, and in case you're wondering at home, you probably could try using an airfryer. Just brush the outside of the lumpia with oil first and give it a try. Chris and Maria recommend freezing the lumpia first, they tend to hold together better in the fryer.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  So with this process normally the lumpia takes three to four minutes, just depends on the temperature. So for us we use 400 degrees, so it's like a quick fry.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And so you're able to take a fryer like this to your pop up so that you can fry them on the spot?

CHRIS MANANSALA:  Yes, because we want to make sure our spring rolls are fresh. Once you see the golden brown color, then it's cooked. It's with the veggies. But with the meat, like the pork lumpia and chicken lumpia is way different, that process might take five minutes because you want the meat to cook.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So for the meat ones you don't pre-cook the meat that goes in there?

CHRIS MANANSALA:  No, we don't. Just ground chicken or pork that we season them up and then we wrap it into the lumpia spring rolls and then we drop into the fryer. Now we've started seeing that brown color and that's how you know it is done. But every time we cook lumpia we check the temperature first before we give them to the customer because we want to make sure that it's at the right temperature, because sometimes just because it's a brown color doesn't mean the inside is cooked, so we make sure that it's cooked.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Alright, so which one should I try first the skinny one?

CHRIS MANANSALA:  You can eat the skinny one, yes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I mean I know they're probably going to taste similar.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  But the skinny one you know has the filling, but the big egg rolls one has more filling inside.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Also, it's just a different experience. I think this is probably a different texture.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  A lot of times we put the long ones with the three pieces.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's right.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  So it's like a bite size, you know more like appetizer.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's so good. Thank you. I don't want to double dip. Yes, because my first bite was mostly the wrapper, so I got to get the second one with the filling.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes I mean it's so simple, but it all kind of works together to make this really delightful appetizer that is so crunchy. The texture is everything. It's just so great. I'm going to try it with this vinegar onion.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  That's more of a traditional back in the Philippines with the vinegar, because that vinegar, it's not just regular vinegar, it's a Filipino brand vinegar.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  And the way we do the sauce, it's, I can't explain.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  It's different from other place that serves egg rolls, it's the sauce. Mostly it's the sauce.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, I like that sauce much more actually.

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  Oh really?

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, because I don't really like sweet sauces and this is just such a great contrast. You know, because sometimes fried things can feel a little heavy and I feel like the vinegar really cuts through and just makes it more bright or something.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I love it. I bet all the other flavors are good too, but I just like the simple vegetables, it's really nice.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  Also our vegetable lumpia is actually a great pair with the pancit stir fry noodles vegetables. So that's a good pair for vegetarians. They can enjoy the vegetable noodles and the vegetable lumpia together.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So are the vegetarian versions of these dishes, are they not traditional to Filipino food?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  Oh they are.

KAYTE YOUNG:  It's not the Americanized version?

MARIA ST. CLAIRE:  But in the Philippines we use more of the bean sprouts. But as I say, we ask our customers what they are liking because most of them they don't like sprouts

KAYTE YOUNG:  But I would think bean sprouts would be a good texture in there though, I would like that.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Well thank you so much for this, I really appreciate it and I'm excited to share it with listeners.

CHRIS MANANSALA:  Of course, thank you for having us. Appreciate the opportunity.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That was Chris Manansala and Maria St. Claire, the mother, son team behind Pinoy Garden Cafe.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We did a full studio interview with Chris where he reflects on what it means for him to share the food of his homeland with the Bloomington Community. We'll link to that interview on our website, Earth Eats dot org. We also have a video where Chris assembles a favorite Filipino dessert called Halo Halo. It's colorful, elaborate and there is nothing else like it. You can find that on YouTube, just search for Earth Eats halo halo and we'll also link to it on our website, Earth Eats dot org.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The Earth Eats team includes Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Schemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media. Special thanks this week to Jordan Davis, Elijah Lawson and everyone at the Chocolate Moose, and to Chris Manansala and Maria St. Claire of Pinoy Garden Cafe. Earth Eats is produced and edited by me, Kayte Young. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from Universal Production Music. Our Executive Producer is Eric Bolstridge.

Toby Foster with headphones on, holding mic, Elijah Lawson talking, both looking at a stainless steel machine

Chocolate Moose Production Manager Elijah Lawson walks Toby Foster through the steps of making ice cream. (Jordan Davis)

“And as the blade rotates and the interior cylinder freezes, it begins to churn the ice cream into a wonderful fluffy content that will be established shortly thereafter.”

This week on the show, we kick off the summer season with a story about ice cream.

Toby Foster talks with Jordan Davis and Elijah Lawson of The Chocolate Moose, Bloomington's classic ice cream stand, and so much more. And we go into the kitchen with Chris Manansala and Maria St. Claire of Pinoy Garden Cafe to learn how to make their vegetarian lumpia.


The Chocolate Moose is an ice cream shop and café located in Bloomington, Indiana. Its origins date back to 1933, when Cletus May opened May’s Café after losing his manufacturing job during the Great Depression. There have been several owners, a few name changes, and a brief location change, but it has always been a huge part of the community. When I moved to Bloomington about fifteen years ago, it was a quaint and picturesque little stand on Walnut Street, and many longtime residents have fond memories of standing in the parking lot, lining up for ice cream on a warm summer night and chatting with friends and neighbors while we waited.

Around 2017, as is often the story with such locations, the land got sold to a developer. Although the Chocolate Moose still makes their ice cream in the same machine they did then (they only have one machine!), they had no choice but to adapt. The developer did make sure that the café still had a retail location on the first floor, so they were able to maintain that business, and they also opened satellite locations closer to Indiana University’s campus and in neighboring Nashville, Indiana. They increased their coffee service to stay busier during the winter months and introduced a line of vegan ice cream that is available both in their stores and in local grocery stores.

The Chocolate Moose also started hosting a weekly event during the summer called Food Truck Friday, and the community feeling that was a little bit lost when the original stand got torn down is alive and well each Friday in Switchyard Park when about a dozen different vendors gather to sell their food to huge crowds of people looking to try something new. On a recent Friday there were barbecue options, Venezuelan food, Filipino food, falafel sandwiches, tacos, burritos, and a few dessert options, including the Chocolate Moose. Kids ran around freely, dogs barked, bands played, and everyone seemed to be having a genuinely good time. Jordan Davis is the director of operations at the Chocolate Moose and largely responsible for growing Food Truck Friday into the event it is today. I visited him and production manager Elijah Lawson to chat about the history of the Chocolate Moose, how the ice cream gets made, and how the idea for Food Truck Friday was born.

Mentioned on the show:

No Dishes Podcast

Food Truck Fridays

Brown County Coffee

The Chocolate Moose, Brown County location

Full interview with Chris Manasala of Pinoy Garden Cafe

YouTube video making Halo Halo with Pinoy Garden Cafe


The Earth Eats’ team includes: Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Shemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media.

Earth Eats is produced, engineered and edited by Kayte Young. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge.

Music on this Episode:

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Universal Production Music.

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About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media