By Vanessa Packer
Photography By Sasha Israel
“HEALTHY DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN FEWER CALORIES. A LOT OF PEOPLE MAKE THAT ASSUMPTION,” explains Sophia Brittan, proprietor of the beloved West Village goat’s milk soft-serve shop Victory Garden, which specializes in soft-serve goats milk ice cream, a easily digestible, lighter alternative to the cows’ milk version. After studying holistic nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Brittan found there was a void in New York for a quality goat yogurt parfait, let alone a quality goat soft-serve parfait. The name, Victory Garden, harkens back to the patriot movement of World War I and II where citizens were urged to start community gardens during government food rations to show their support and unity. The name also speaks to our own present-day locavore movement, with farmers markets, food co-ops and farm to table ever more visible and popular. Over bowls of Victory Garden’s seasonal sundaes, bonberi met with Brittan to learn more about goat’s milk, and why it’s one of the healthiest things on our planet.
How did Victory Garden get started?
I was eating a goat milk yogurt in 2009 and I was thinking, “There isn’t anywhere where you can get a nice quality goat yogurt parfait.” I was working on other stuff at the time, and I revisited the idea from time to time. I had an online cooking show that I ran with my friend, we just took it off-line. I really love soft serve, so I decided to go that route and I thought there were other people like me who really wanted quality soft serve with milk from a local farm, people that are aware and shop at farmers markets. I felt there was room for something like that. I studied holistic nutrition at IIN and goat milk was a natural for me. I’m not lactose intolerant but it was just a choice I made. Goat’s milk is lighter, I liked it more and I just knew it was better of me. I was living in New York and there was a farmer that was starting up a goat farm. He had a great goat milk yogurt and as the idea progressed I asked him to be my supplier. A lot of it was that connection, knowing someone that was making a great product and being inspired by it.
What is it about goat’s milk that you like?
It’s much more easily digested. I don’t like the creaminess of ice cream, I like the refreshing aspect of it. I always felt really bloated after having ice cream, I could taste the fat on my tongue, and I didn’t want that. It’s not the flavor for me, it’s the texture. You taste the flavor of the ice cream rather than the fat on your tongue.
When you were starting did you know you were going to do food as well?
I just wanted to do the soft serve. I didn’t think about anything else. I opened and my first winter was really hard, there wasn’t really anyone on this street besides me and a Brazilian restaurant. I think a lot of people wrote off Carmine street for years because there was no reason to come down here. When Grey Dog came here they had a great breakfast and lunch crowd and once they left I wanted to capture those people. I started offering foods that would satisfy both meals. Breakfast died down and the evening became busier. We kept lunch and we do a lot of business with that.
When I first opened I was the only one that had goats milk soft serve. I got a lot of press, and there were a lot of people that came in to try it. It was on their list, they were curious. Now it’s different because I don’t get the initial ‘this is on my list of things to do’ crowd anymore.
What do you say to the Pinkberry customer that thinks they are getting something healthier?
I think there are two things. First healthy doesn’t necessarily mean fewer calories. A lot of people make that assumption. Just because you are having something that is zero calories doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Second, goat milk is a very natural choice for your body. It’s healthy fat, good source of energy and protein. The Blue Zone diet talks about an island in Greece where people live to be over 100 years. Much of it has to do with their healthy diet and also that they have raw goats milk in large quantities. I think people associate goat milk with other things. They think it tastes like a farm but it doesn’t have to be that may. Goats are actually cleaner animals, they are easier to milk, they don’t take up as much room, all around it’s easier on the farmer.
You have a lot of products for sale in the shop. How did that come about?
I think it adds a lot to the store. It tells a story. I try to offer goat milk products to round out the experience.
Tell us about the name Victory Garden?
Victory Gardens were started during World War I and II. The government was food-rationing, so they encouraged people to grow their own food. It was considered really patriotic to do for your country and grow a garden. It’s kind of ironic because now it’s the opposite. Recently the locavore movement have picked up that slogan, people have built community gardens and people are making a more conscious effort to support local food. I wanted a name that broadened the local aspect of what I wanted to do. That was very important to me. My first name is Victoria, even though I go by my middle name. I also loved the floral part, we do a lot of floral flavors, using rose and lavender. I went to an energy healer and she was saying don’t put milk in the name. She suggested Victory Garden and it was just perfect.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I wake up and go to the gym everyday. That’s really important to me. I go to Ludlow Fitness, I do some 305 dance classes. I usually have Ezekiel toast, the low sodium one, with tahini and jam on it. I love the Bio Naturae jam, it’s Italian and only fruit. I like Whole Foods 365 tahini. I drink tea, and every now and again I drink coffee. I like English Breakfast or a black tea and I put fresh oregano in it. It’s so good with a little honey. Lunch I have the black bean humus and falafel chips and the ‘beetiful smoothie.’ I do smoothies at night too with blackberries, banana, mint, coconut oil.
Do you cook?
I cook really simple things for myself and when I’m with my boyfriend we cook a lot.
What’s a common dinner you cook?
I usually have hard boiled eggs, chickpeas, herbs. I love middle eastern flavors. I make a lot of roast chicken, pasta and I love potatoes.
Do you have a favorite hummus?
I make my own often times. I start from scratch, it takes a long time. I cook the chickpeas, I make the tahini and mix everything together. Otherwise, I will use a can of chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, olive oil, cumin. In the summer I put different herbs in them. If I’m with my family, I cook for everyone.
How do you make tahini?
I roast the sesame seeds and leave them in the food processor until they turn into a paste. You can do it raw also.
As far as your personal philosophy, how do you describe your own approach to health and wellness?
I try to listen to my body. In addition to the way I feel, I eat everything and I’m open to eating anything. I have an appreciation for skills in the kitchen and gastronomy and things that were made with a lot of attention and detail. Every now and again, it’s nice to appreciate that as you would art or anything else. For the most part, I think I eat pretty simply on a regular basis. I’m mostly plant based, because that’s what I prefer.
For Sophia’s Green Apple Click HERE