When someone is handed a gelato or fruit bar from Milk and Wood, what is immediately striking about the product is its appearance—highly colorful, detail-oriented, Instagram-able gold. The appeal isn’t just in its vibrant aesthetics, though; it is in the ingredients used. The small, corner operation located in SoFA Market packs the front parklet every time San Jose’s temperature rises. The silkiness of the gelato or the freshness of the fruit is made possible by painstaking preparation each night prior to service. This is, of course, all by design—to not cut corners even when it is a product that could sit in a pile of frozen inventory.
Says Lynn Le, part owner and current general manager of Milk and Wood, “Our most popular flavor is Thai tea and honeydew. I think it is because people can smell and taste both flavors. They can tell we use authentic tea leaves and fresh honeydew.” What is perhaps also crucial for Milk and Wood’s concept are the myriad toppings patrons are allowed to choose from. Fruity Pebbles, Oreos, or white chocolate—or all three at once—along with many other possible toppings, make the combinations seemingly endless. Want more exotic flavors? Try their durian-flavored popsicle or their green tea pop made with authentic green matcha flakes.
Le continues: “The variety and options people are allowed to make are endless. No single popsicle is ever the same, and I love seeing how different everyone’s taste is.” Le reiterates the precision necessary for their product, which admittedly took her a bit by surprise. “I wasn’t ready for how complicated everything is. The ratio has to be exact and timing has to be on point.”
Milk and Wood was already pretty well known in certain circles prior to opening their flagship store in downtown San Jose. They started by building a following at corporate events and weddings. Their origin story is one that took off organically thanks to their “fresh made, fresh sold” ethos, and they are constantly churning ideas as well as gelato. As Le says, “One key element is adapting to change and quickly thinking on my feet. There will be trials and tribulations. How successful you are depends on how well you handle those situations when they come. We have more concepts coming soon!”
Milk and Wood is slated to open a second location in Santa Cruz, but their original locale is centered in the heart of San Jose’s SoFA District. “The best is when patrons try different flavors and are surprised at how authentic each individual flavor tastes. That puts a smile on my face,” says Le.
Written by David Ma
Photography by Daniel Garcia