Now in its fifth year, Jersey City’s Bucket and Bay has always been more than a gelato shop. From the namesake wooden ice cream bucket hanging in the store, sourced from owner Jen Kakalov’s grandfather’s garage (It churned “the best ice cream I remember in Kansas,” she says), to the locally sourced ingredients and considered decor, the shop is an expression of the founders’ (Jen and her husband Boris’) love of origin and adventure. Peppered with vintage finds from the Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts, the shop started as a personal project, bringing Kakalov’s version of gelato to share with the community. Many flavors from their repertoire are customer must-haves (see: mint chip, made with local peppermint extract).
But the post-Labor Day slow-down of summer night ice cream excursions inevitably invokes opportunity when the temperatures hit below 50 degrees and scoop shops must think outside the box to survive winter. This season, walking into Bucket and Bay in downtown Jersey City, you’ll still find gelato, but the first thing you’ll see is a retro red arrow pointing to a bakery case of pies by the slice: Pie 66, an Americana tribute and nod to Route 66.
“We were looking for something to offset gelato in 20 degree weather,” said Kakalov, offering that it was her husband who’d campaigned for the idea. “And I finally agreed.”
While the shop has previously hosted classes and parties during the down season (and still does, on a limited basis) Kakalov’s mind immediately got into the logistics of tackling something new.
“I’ve always been about being a sustainable business on all fronts. But I’ve slowly let go of doing every single thing here, adjusting my all-hand-made-all-the-time perspective.” In the interest of launching in a timely manner, she opted to outsource pie crusts from a trusty Massachusetts baking company, so she could focus on crafting fillings. Tweaking taste and ingredients is important—a similar detail orientation she applies to gelato. “I have the most fun developing flavors. I like things in a small package that provide a punch.”
Pie, after all, is the original portable packaged treat.
When designing pies, the focus was first on avoidance (no additives). The Bourbon Pecan pie features Jim Beam bourbon and is sweetened with tapioca syrup and honey, rather than traditionally more saccharine corn syrup. In fact, all of the pies feel like more of a healthy treat. “We always only use as much sugar as we need to.” A slice of Granny Smith Apple Streusel for breakfast, anyone? The just-sweet-enough, thinly sliced apples are layered with warm cinnamon, cloves, raw brown sugar and local honey, and sprinkled with a crunchy crumb topping. The Salted Chocolate Crackle pie features a brownie-like chocolate filling made with the shop’s preferred chocolate, Rakka (also used in gelatos), while the Classic Pumpkin, baked in a gluten-free crust, contains pure pumpkin puree with a piped outer ring of fluff. The Very Berry pie is honey-sweetened and dairy-free, and a sixth pie is in the cards for the Christmas season. “We developed pies with gelato in mind, intending them to be a la mode.” The gelatos are, as always, made from grass-fed organic milk (from Battenkill Creamery), which means more flavor and health benefits.
Espresso beverages using Modcup beans, are made to order, as well a long list of gourmet teas— including Kakalov’s favorite, a honeybush hazelnut roiboos blend. Spiced warm cider is available, and the house-made tiny whole wheat gingersnaps remain a customer favorite.
The lofty spot—the flagship shop is located at 150 Bay Street—streams in nice light on an early winter day, perfect for catching up or daydreaming. As the previously industrial Powerhouse area of Jersey City is rapidly changing, bringing in new buildings and residents to a fast-booming city, businesses have to keep up.
“Being in a developing neighborhood has been exciting and challenging,” says Kakalov. “It was different when we moved in. Construction was everywhere (and still is—though more has taken shape). When people turned and walked down the sidewalk, this was where they were going.” That location has always made the shop more of a destination than a foot-traffic spot, and one worth turning the corner for.
The pop-up is currently running, accepts holiday orders, with plans to continue through Pi Day (March 13). The second location in Hoboken, a tiny storefront, also serves pie slices with gelato this season.
Bucket and Bay, 150 Bay Street, Jersey City, 201-503-5588 (open daily); and a second location at 153 1st Street, Hoboken, 201-683-8093 (open Friday through Sunday)Click here to leave a comment