Article & Photos By: Esther Rubio-Sheffrey
A veteran truck, Sweet Treats has been bringing smiles to peopleâ€™s faces one lick at a time since 2008, long before food trucks became trendy. Like most trucks, it is a family-run operation, but unlike other trucks, there is no cooking, or, in this case, baking for any of Sweet Treatsâ€™ employees. Instead, owners Chris and Jennifer Saint bring together the best of the cityâ€™s small dessert operations, offering a unique menu full of sugary, gooey, and chewy goodness while promoting neighborhood businesses you may not otherwise try.
The story of Sweet Treats is literally an example of making lemonade when life gives you lemons, especially if you love lots of sugar in your lemonade. A few years before their first truck hit the streets, a spinal cord tumor changed Chrisâ€™ life forever, leaving him disabled and a quadriplegic. His road to recovery was by no means easy; and although Chris can now walk, he was unable to return to the life he once knew as a private investigator.
â€œMy wife felt I needed a hobby, something to get me out of the house and keep me occupied, because not doing anything is mentally draining,â€ Chris said. â€œSo we thought of starting an ice cream truck. Though, not the creepy kinds you see roaming most neighborhoods today, but a truck that would bring back that old nostalgic feeling, catering primarily to adults.â€
With a business loan in place, Chris worked on building a custom ice cream truck. It resembles a 50â€™s hot rod with a custom paint job and a 3,000-watt sound system completed with custom speakers and a flat screen. Its state of the art freezer stores over 2,000 ice cream bars with old school favorites like Big Sticks and Snow Cones, to high quality and contemporary flavors from vendors like Ben & Jerryâ€™s and Haagen Dazs. They even carry Frosty Paws â€“ ice cream treats for dogs!
â€œWe focused heavily on catering events all over Southern California, from large company gatherings to movie sets and all sorts of fundraisers,â€ Chris said. â€œIn the beginning, we worked a lot in LA and at one time had four different trucks. We realized, though, that we needed something to get us through the winter. We always loved the idea of a mobile bakery, but we are not bakers.â€
Following the successful testing of baked goods with cupcakes from Cupcake Love on their Ice Cream Truck, the Saints decided to add a Dessert Truck to the Sweet Treats fleet in 2010. â€œWe started with cupcakes and approached San Diego Desserts and Heaven Sent. All three have been with us from the beginning and now we are constantly approached by others about carrying their desserts.â€
The Saints are loyal, however, and will not add a company that offers something one of their other partners already does. The goodies must all pass a taste test, and within the last six months, two new companies have â€“ Mook and Pop and Cookie Chew.Â These two companies added one of a kind cookies and whoopie pies to Sweet Treatsâ€™ assortment of cupcakes, mini-specialty baked cakes, Ã©clairs, cheesecakes, and seasonal pies.
Some of the businesses create treats not found in their shops, like San Diego Dessertsâ€™ chocolate covered bacon, one of the truckâ€™s bestsellers. Special treats combined with company staples ensure that Sweet Treats offers a unique array of options.Â â€œOur menu is vast, it changes constantly, and it really has something for everyone,â€ Jennifer said. â€œWe are in the process of working with one of the vendors to have them create something that can only be found at Sweet Treats, something truly unique, but we are not ready to unveil it yet.â€
â€œWe never dreamed the trucks would be this successful,â€ Chris added. â€œI have really enjoyed meeting all of the different people we have, as well as giving back to the community.â€
On the rare occasions that ice cream or desserts will spoil if not eaten, the Saints donate the treats to Rady Childrenâ€™s Hospital. They also participate in charitable events and predominantly support Life Rolls On, a subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Its goal is to influence and inspire the lives of young people affected by spinal cord injuries by introducing action sports such as snowboarding and surfing back into their lives.
Their charitable spirit and their honest desire to help promote the best mom and pop desserts San Diego offers has proven to be a vital aspect of the Saintsâ€™ success. Jennifer is still a Willis Allen real estate agent by day, but she has helped Chris establish a solid business plan. â€œWe hope to implement our business plan in other cities and states in the near future,â€ Jennifer said. â€œWe were actually approached by some investors to replicate our Ice Cream truck in the Philippines, so our future possibilities seem limitless.â€
It is evident Sweet Treats is here to stay with or without a food truck trend, because one thing that is limitless is the different ways in which you can indulge your sweet tooth.
The Dessert Truck Sweets
While not my healthiest meal by far, my experience at Sweet Treats was one of the best. Fortunately, I had the help of two fellow dessert lovers to indulge in all of the goodies that follow. However, before we begin, I must make one thing clear â€“ Sweet Treats has many great munchies, but chronic is not an ingredient.
â€œSo many people ask us if our brownies are special. They always wink too, and we hate to disappoint, but no, they are not. They are good, but they are not that kind of brownie. We would probably have to sell them out of an armored truck if they were,â€ Chris said, sharing a brief moment of laughter with Jennifer.
The most difficult part about our tasting was deciding which dessert to sink our forks into first. So we began with the Chocolate-Covered Bacon. It wasâ€¦well, it is baconâ€¦covered in chocolate. Need I say more? It is salty and sweet, and as my fellow tasters put it, if you like chocolate, and you like bacon, its goodness is a foregone conclusion.
One of Chrisâ€™ favorites is the German Chocolate Cupcake, so we had to try it. I have had bigger cupcakes, but bigger is not always better. This cupcake was moist and had a rich Devilâ€™s food cake taste topped with a staggering layer of German chocolate icing. Presentation wise, it was definitely a 10 and had just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess.
Beneath the Brownieâ€™s crispy top was a layer of rich, dense chocolate that was further enriched by a few chocolate chips. Having taken the desserts to go, we had the benefit of heating it briefly in the toaster oven to really bring out the chocolate chip gooeyness.
I cannot remember the last time I had a Whoopie Pie, but this particular sandwich-like dessert made of two cake-like cookies with a marshmallow cream filling was delicious. The flavors vary, but we stuck with the chocolate original; however, throughout the holiday season, you can also get a Pumpkin flavored one. Also, knowing that they were actually made by a grandmother somehow made them taste that much more wholesome.
We had a little bit of fruit in the form of a Strawberry Shortcake. Its sugar-powdered top was crispy but still maintained a fluffy consistency. The strawberries were clearly ripe, fresh, and blended perfectly with the cream filling, which was also light and did not overwhelm the strawberries.
One of the biggest hits for us was the Chocolate Bomb. The chocolate shell interior was filled with truffle mousse and fresh raspberries. It was creamy, very rich, and almost too pretty to devour, but once we started in on it, it was difficult to stop. Definitely one of the pricier desserts, but it is on par with what a fine restaurant would serve and I would recommend enjoying it alone in order to slowly savor each bite.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie was somewhere between four to five ounces of homemade goodness. The dough was baked to create a crispy exterior and chewy center and the sweetness of the dough complimented the chocolate chips, which again, if heated, melted nicely; definitely not the kind of commercial cookie found at most grocery stores.
Having tasted a traditional cookie, we also wanted to try one of the more creative spins made by Cookie Chew. The first was a Sâ€™more Stuffed Cookie, basically a graham cracker chocolate chip cookie stuffed with mushy marshmallow. True to its name, a smore is exactly what it tastes like, if you manage to get a bite with equal ingredients. Otherwise, depending on how the ingredients have come together in the oven, one ingredient can be more prevalent than the others.
Our favorite of the two was the Crunch Time Cookie. Its chewy sugar and chocolate marble cookie dough is stuffed with a Twix candy bar for an â€œOMG-kindâ€ of combination.Â Our only complaint was that like a Twix candy bar, it should have come with two pieces inside, if only for the chance that it would have forced the baker to make a bigger cookie, because really, it was that good.
In the end, we left nothing but crumbs behind. You might be thinking that is a lot of chocolate, but each treat had a distinct flavor. And let us be honest, you can never have enough chocolate. So whether you splurge as we did, or modestly stick to one option, you will not be disappointed.
Five dollars or less is all one-person needs, but for those unable to resist temptation, Sweet Treats accepts debit and credit cards. Find one of Sweet Treatsâ€™ evening stops by following them on Twitter or Facebook.