Wanderlust Creamery has opened its first Orange County location at Walnut Village Center on Culver Drive in Irvine. (Photo by Jenn Tanaka)
Wanderlust Creamery first went viral when husband-and-wife co-founders Jon-Patrick “JP” Lopez and Adrienne Borlonga launched a Shanghai candy inspired ice cream. The flavor attracted the attention of new customers and was featured on CNN Travel.
The couple started the business in Tarzana with 24 flavors inspired by their trips around the world. In 2015, they launched Wanderlust Creamery. It’s expanded to six brick-and-mortar locations in Los Angeles, with a weekly stall at Smorgasbord (DTLA).
Now Orange County residents need not order online or trek to L.A. to taste the artisanal ice cream. The brand’s first Orange County location opened at Irvine Company’s Walnut Village Center on Culver Drive in Irvine. It replaces the shuttered BurntZilla in a bustling plaza with Trader Joe’s and Smart & Final. It joins other popular concepts such as Omomo Tea Shoppe and Stacks Pancake House.
On May 19-20, the shop’s grand opening weekend included free scoops and Wanderlust swag giveaways for the first 100 guests, BOGO (buy one get one) specials for the first 200 visitors in line, and a grand prize giveaway for 5 winners featuring free in-store ice cream parties.
A few days later, after the festivities were over, on an overcast May evening, a line of customers still queued up at Wanderlust Creamery. It was drizzling outside as customers sampled seasonal flavors such as vegan yuzu creamsicle inspired by Japan. The yuzu citrus sorbet is swirled with vegan ice cream. Since May is AAPI heritage month, the shop also serves a black sesame cookies & cream with white chocolate and black sesame ice cream mixed with cookie clusters.
Other popular regular menu offerings include the vegan and dairy-free sticky rice and mango, which has been a menu staple since 2015. Made with house-made rice milk, coconut cream, and alphonso mango, it’s reminiscent of the popular Thai dessert. A Vietnamese coffee inspired “rocky road” ice cream is mixed with condensed milk marshmallow and caramelized cacao nibs. A Kinder candy-conjuring roasted hazelnut ice cream with gianduja, chocolate pearls and hazelnut praline is intended to evoke travels through Europe.
Part of Wanderlust’s success stemmed from the pandemic when people were restricted from traveling. Rather than journeying to distant lands, customers ordered Wanderlust Creamery’s ice cream and tasted Borlonga’s interpretations of those far-flung places. The business, like many, struggled initially at the beginning of the pandemic but once the couple refigured the e-commerce business, Wanderlust Creamery began garnering attention from Robb Report for its pints delivered to your door and features on CNN Travel.
Borlonga, who graduated from Cal State Northridge with a degree in food science and worked as a mixologist before opening the business with Lopez, is the granddaughter of a food chemist from Magnolia ice cream. The company is also known for its Filipino inspired flavors like ube.
At Wanderlust, Borlonga showcases her creativity and understanding of textures. This is evident when tasting flavors such as her seasonal milk tea with boba pieces, which stay surprisingly chewy in the cold ice cream. (Anyone who has tasted chilled boba can attest to how horribly hard it gets.) To accompany the ice cream, the shop sells waffle cones and waffle bowls, which fit one large scoop of ice cream or three smaller half-sized scoops.
The dairy-based ice cream is made with organic Straus family milk while a passion fruit cacao inspired by the flavors of Brazil is made with dairy-free passionfruit ice cream with coconut, cocoa butter and raw cacao.
To view a list of the Irvine shop’s seasonal flavors, visit wanderlustcreamery.com.
Location: 14413 Culver Drive, Irvine