D.C. pastry chef Paola Velez has worked on some very cool projects as of late, whether its a Bakers Against Racism bake sale that went worldwide or a popular Dominican doughnut pop-up. But the former Kith/Kin executive pastry chef and James Beard Award nominee’s latest endeavor left her with a freezer that’s chock-full of ice cream. Velez just collaborated with Häagen-Dazs to create her own special sundae, which is available this summer in shops across the U.S.
“I’m basically an ice cream shop right now,” she joked with Eater about the process of designing her own Häagen-Dazs creation. “They sent over top secret unlabeled tubs of [the brand’s] City Sweets Collection. I had to taste them and review all of them.”
Talk about a sweet gig. What Velez came up with reaches back to her childhood spent eating PB&J sandwiches for lunch as a NYC public school kid and saving up quarters for mini pints of Häagen-Dazs at the bodega. Her sundae starts with a base of Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel ice cream, then adds pretzel pieces, a spoonful of jam, and slices of banana.
After the past two years of uncertainty, “people just need a little bit of joy and nostalgia and that whimsical feeling,” she explained about her dessert creation. “People just want to feel like how we felt like we were kids.”
As part of Velez’s partnership with Häagen-Dazs Shops, an amount equal to 10 percent of sales of the proceeds of the PB&J Sundae during the promotional period (through August 31) will go to D.C. nonprofit Dreaming Out Loud, which supports underrepresented food entrepreneurs and increases access to healthy food. Velez first met Dreaming Out Loud founder Christopher Bradshaw at a panel with José Andrés and World Central Kitchen.
The D.C.-based chef has a connection to Häagen-Dazs: both Velez and the founders of the ice cream brand are from the Bronx. Before this project, Velez didn’t know about the ice cream’s connection to her neighborhood.
“It makes so much sense, literally we are all Häagen-Dazs fanatics in the Bronx,” she says.
Velez is amazed by the scope of this project, as people from across the country post photos of her face in ice cream shops. There’s local Häagen-Dazs scoop shops in Tysons, Pentagon City, Chinatown, and Georgetown.
“It’s really cool to see that. I get tagged in so many things, I’m like ‘You’re kidding.’” she says. “I love doing community work and baking and figuring out how I am going to do another pop-up, and somehow I’ve done a nationwide pop-up with Häagen-Dazs.”