The season's early at Nats Park, but we're thinking it might be tough for other food vendors to top the babka ice cream sandwiches being sold by the co-owner of On Rye, a restaurant due to open in Chinatown by the end of the year. The real question is: How can fans in the seats get their hands on one, given the location of its pop-up stand?
First things first: The dreamy frozen treat is the brainchild of On Rye's Ilyse Fishman Lerner, 30, a former attorney who attended the Institute of Culinary Education (in restaurant management) and has worked in the industry -- including a host gig from 2013 to 2014 at Per Se in New York. She'd been looking for a way to "translate babka to summer," freezing the coffee-cake-like bread from Green's & Ackerman's Bakery in Brooklyn in different ways to see how it would hold. Once Lerner took it to Dolci Gelati's Gianluigi Dellaccio, the R&D improved: They used his blast freezer and paired thick, chocolate-swirl babka slices with vanilla bean gelato. The 3 1/2-inch-wide, 2-inch-thick sandwich is moist yet firm enough to hang together as long as it takes to wolf one down -- at least during cool-weather games.
On Rye's stand is on the 200 Suites level at the stadium, beyond guarded glass doors. No suite ticket, no access to the babka ice cream sandwich or the four savory deli sandwiches On Rye is selling there. "We were happy with whatever spot they gave us," Lerner says, referring to Nats Park concessionaire Levy Restaurants. "It's a great way to build our brand slowly . . . We're not ready for Shake Shack numbers of people." Her family connection garnered no prime spot; Ilyse's husband and On Rye co-owner, Jonathan, is indeed a grandson of Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner.
Lerner didn't have figures on how many babka ice cream sandwiches had been sold thus far at Nats Park, but the memory of a 14-sandwich order for one of the nearby suites during Sunday's game against the Miami Marlins is lodged firmly in her memory.
Chances are, she'll be the one handing them over, wrapped in freezer paper. Without a ticket for the immediate vicinity, none shall pass. But you might be able to talk a fan with the proper credentials and an honest face into fetching one for you.
Babka ice cream sandwiches, $7, at the On Rye stand outside Suite 210 at Nats Park.
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