The Food Biz: Of java and paletas

A Nashville foodie power couple merge their respective crafts to open a new Hillsboro Village hot spot [From our print edition featured in Monday's City Paper]

Bongo Java coffee mogul Bob Bernstein is getting ready to launch a second business in Hillsboro Village, next to his popular café Fido. But this time, he’s teaming with another prominent figure in the Nashville food scene, a creator of the popular Las Paletas frozen treats. And, oh yeah, the two happen to be married.

Bernstein and his wife, Irma Paz Bernstein, are a Nashville foodie power couple, but their new place, Hot & Cold — which unites coffee and ice cream — is more than just a fun family project. Bernstein said it represents a strong business concept that was born years before their marriage.

“When we were dating, we joked that our relationship was ‘hot and cold,’” he said. But even then, he could see the potential of putting the two products together. One day, he said, he was sampling some miniature paletas (Mexico’s version of the Popsicle) prepared for a catered event. Bernstein dipped his paleta in his espresso, and found it to be delightful.

Even more compelling, he realized there was a big hole in the market waiting to be filled. “Usually, when ice cream places try to do coffee, it’s lousy,” he said. “And when coffee places try to do ice cream, it’s lousy.”

One reason: The floor plan of a typical coffeehouse doesn’t lend itself to serving ice cream, which requires a commodious cooler and display space. By the same token, a typical ice cream shop doesn’t have a lot of room for coffee gear nor the time or expertise to ensure fresh, high-quality brew.

That’s where the teaming of Mr. Hot and Ms. Cold comes in. By taking over the former Smoothie King space on 21st Avenue South, the Bernsteins are creating a setup that works for both products.

And the new place won’t serve just coffee and paletas. Bernstein said Hot & Cold will sell coffee, paletas and “a few other twists,” including fresh, locally made ice cream, though he wasn’t ready to reveal his supplier.

Hot & Cold will be managed by a Fido veteran, Jeff Gibbs, and Bernstein hopes to open the new joint by Aug. 1.

Cupcakes on the road

One of the most popular players in Nashville’s gourmet cupcake trend, The Cupcake Collection, is going mobile. Baker and owner Mignon François has revved up a special cupcake bus to roam greater Nashville. In addition, she’ll be opening a permanent location in Clarksville soon.

François recently purchased a school bus that an ardent Titans fan had converted to an RV for tailgating. With some small changes, including adding air conditioning, it became the perfect cupcake shop on wheels.

The bus was supposed to make its debut at the first Movies in the Park event in Centennial Park a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, that event was rained out, so François was stuck with 500 cupcakes that needed to be sold that evening.

So she decided to give them away. She pulled the bus into Office Depot and got supplies to make signs proclaiming “Free Cupcakes!” Then she slowly navigated the park, where the rain had subsided.

“People were literally chasing the bus. We had a really good time,” she said. François will continue to bring the bus to Movies in the Park on Wednesday nights through July 7, and she’s scouting places to park in Hendersonville, Brentwood, Antioch, Mt. Juliet and Murfreesboro.

Clarksville, the home of the U.S. Army’s Fort Campbell, is the first out-of-town destination for the bus. “My husband is ex-military, and we have a concern for military families,” she said. “I have a large following in Clarksville, and people would call and say, ‘I’m traveling 45 minutes to get to you. Do you have my favorite cupcake?’”

In addition to regular visits from the bus, François plans to open bricks-and-mortar cupcake shop in Clarksville in late August. The Cupcake Collection’s home base is at 1213 Sixth Ave. N. in Germantown.