Culinary Custard: S’macks Burgers & Shakes
When the summer heat has you reaching for something cold and creamy, consider a slightly more sophisticated frozen treat—say, uniquely flavored frozen custard from local burger joint S’macks.
It all started at the “better burger joint” inception. Desiring something sweet to complement the unique and freshly made burgers and fries, Alex Floethe, S’macks managing partner, attended a weeklong course on frozen dessert making in St. Louis. After his education on all things sweet and frozen—from gelato to traditional ice cream—Floethe and his partners, Mike Gowan and Michael Quillen of the Gecko’s Hospitality Group, decided frozen custard would be the perfect addition.
“Custard making is an art and a commitment,” says Quillen.
S’macks uses a gravity-fed machine by Stolting-Ross, which Floethe says takes a lot of finesse and has to be constantly monitored and continuously fed. They maintain a 10° F. temperature in the continuous-batch freezing machine and must achieve the perfect ratio of fruit and other ingredients.
“Custard is the hardest frozen dessert to make,” says Floethe. “It can come out a soup or not at all, and in between is the Goldilocks of custard.”
In search of the freshest custard, Floethe used his knowledge of the dairy and vanilla industries to source S’macks’ specialty base, which is made of milk, real vanilla, and egg yolks. The S’macks’ base comes from a St. Pete–located dairy that uses high-temperature, short-time pasteurization as opposed to ultra-high-temperature pasteurization, lending itself to a better flavor profile.
“There were a lot of different directions we could have gone,” says Floethe. “But the way that we found our base was through blind taste testing.”
Floethe also sources some of the custard ingredients from local purveyors: strawberries from Honeyside Farms and donuts (for the Coffee & Donuts flavor) from the Amish Baking Company.
S’macks offers the classic custard flavors of vanilla and chocolate daily as well as shakes made with the custards. The peak experience is the “flavor of the day,” which often goes outside the box.
One of the most popular is Biscoff Nutella S’mores, which involves using a fire kitchen apparatus and wood chips to pump smoke into the machine, infusing the Nutella and Biscoff cookie butter custard with a freshly roasted marshmallow taste.
“It tastes like you are pulling it off the campfire,” says Floethe, “except it’s confusing because it’s cold.”
Other specialty flavors include Thai Coconut, Key Lime Pie, and Fruit Loops, and they are constantly updating their flavor calendar and maintaining a balance. Mexican Chocolate, which contained cayenne and cinnamon, was created for Cinco de Mayo. Avocado started as an April Fools flavor and its popularity landed it in the regular rotation.
Floethe, an avid traveler, also draws flavor inspiration from his trips to bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles. And don’t tell anyone, but he has been known to add—gasp—curry to custard flavors!
“I like to combine savory with dessert because it pulls your taste buds in different directions,” he says.
With a new location planned for State Street and set to open by end of year, S’macks will be adding another Stolting-Ross machine (and beer and wine), giving the team a chance to continue their cool culinary custard adventures, and offering patrons another location at which to enjoy the sweet results.
► S'macks Burgers & Shakes: 2407 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota; 941-922-7673; geckosgrill.com/smacks-burgers-shakes