A little boy sits at a table with his mom and sister, enjoying a chocolate ice cream cone. Soon, the chocolate is smeared all over his face and fingers' and eventually, the ivory-colored wall. All MORA Iced Creamery Founders, Ana Orselli and Jerry Perez could do was laugh, knowing they were able to create that kind of joy for a child, as well as adult guests, alike. Perez's passion for ice cream and people has been demonstrated through his desire to match a wonderful atmosphere with a quality product, with impeccable customer service, where he prides himself on creating the "MORA experience."
"Mora" is the Spanish word for blackberry, where the creamery was named after shared childhood memories of Orselli and Perez. In a beautiful Argentinean accent, Orselli fondly recalls her childhood in Argentina, eating mulberries (also mora) from the trees at her friend's house. When they were supposed to be napping (and not getting into trouble), Orselli and her friend would often eat the berries, returning home with the evidence over their faces! MORA was named as a tribute to the fruit of their childhood, as well as the abundance of blackberries in the Pacific Northwest, bringing Argentina and the Pacific Northwest together, as well as preserving their memories. To Orselli, "mora" sounded sweet, and similar to "amore," the Spanish term for love.
In connection, Perez feels blessed that they have the opportunity to create the ice cream experience in a "romantic" way, using, an old world, artisan process; the flagship creamery reflects that concept. Walking into the artisan creamery, the color scheme is simple: vanilla, chocolate, and mora (ivory, brown, and purple); chairs and dark, mocha tables are situated, epitomizing the intended experience for MORA guests, to gather, sit, and slowly savor their ice cream. The idea originated from the Argentinean culture of the importance of family, food, and how food was centered around the table with real silverware. As Andrea Mackin, who handles MORA's public relations, succinctly reflects, MORA creates a "sophisticated and comfortable feeling that draws people to gather and stay."
MORA began when Orselli and Perez came to the States in 2002 with their two daughters. Previously during their travels, they noticed the States did not offer the same ice cream products and experience they had at home. In Argentina, ice cream shops were gathering places for adults and families. Orselli and Perez felt that they were able to offer the Argentinean experience in the States; with the desire to create not only a quality ice cream, but rather an "experience," MORA Iced Creamery was born in 2004.
Mora Ice Cream Team
The team behind MORA, from left to right, Andrea Mackin (handles MORA's public relations), Jerry Perez, and Ana Orselli (Founders). | Photo: Louisa Lew | Ice Cream, Mora, Desert,
MORA is "inspired by the vision of great grandmothers in their own kitchens, [hand-crafting ice cream] with real ingredients, not pre-made mixes," Perez describes. Mackin goes further, where this notion is at "the heart of the experience." Perez stresses the significance of the freshness of ingredients; what distinguishes his ice cream is that all the ingredients used are fresh, careful not to use terms such as "natural" or "organic," as they can have broad definitions. Orselli agrees, where your "mind may not know, but your palate does." MORA strives for consistency in their product; any variation in flavor results from the seasonal flavor, such as fruit; the fruit that was delivered today may be sweeter than the fruit delivered two weeks from now, supporting evidence of MORA's desire to utilize the freshest ingredients possible.
The availability of fresh ingredients was an additional factor in why Orselli and Perez chose Bainbridge Island, Washington (a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle), for their flagship creamery. Perez had always liked the Northwest area, smiling at the mention of fly-fishing, and the Seattle Sonics. Perez excited recalls, as a sixth-grader in Argentina, he had heard about the Seattle Sonics winning the NBA Championship; basketball was something known, but not often played. Perez fell in love with the Seattle Supersonics, following the news and happenings of the area. After research and an exploratory trip, Orselli and Perez took the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island; five minutes after docking, Orselli knew that "this was the place," where Perez felt that "this could be our home."
What sealed the deal was the next day, on October 31. Perez had concerns of whether it was a safe community to raise their kids. Perez's worries were relieved when he saw 1000s of people with their children dressed in costumes, trick-or-treating along Winslow Way. It has been a long tradition in Bainbridge Island for the main street (Winslow Way) to be closed from 4-6 PM on Halloween, allowing kids to trick-or-treat at the stores. On their second Halloween, MORA began giving free ice cream (rather than candy) to the kids; within ten minutes, the creamery was packed with people. Despite the cold and drear of the rain, people were excited for ice cream. Inspired, MORA holds a fundraiser for the schools each Halloween, donating ice cream, as teachers in costumes scoop ice cream in half-hour shifts; tables are set up for monetary donations. Orselli and Perez were able to say thank you to not only their community, but the school system for supporting their children.
The "MORA experience" is the culmination of the quality of ice cream, the inviting feeling the creamery itself invokes, and Argentinean culture. Many of the MORA flavors originate from the founders themselves; these were the traditional flavors that they grew up, the flavors they knew. Orselli and Perez are open to new flavors, experimenting (a whiskey ice cream with hibiscus), taking suggestions from guests, and getting inspiration from travelling. Not only are Orselli and Perez passionate in creating their ice cream, they are meticulous, not only in the process of creating the ice cream, but also vigilant in the naming of each flavor; Orselli observes, "The name of the flavor is important so people are drawn to it," after she and Perez debate over the perfect adjective. The original lemon ice cream was named "Lemon Heaven;" it didn't sell. Perez then came up with an idea, why not put shortbread cookies into the lemon ice cream? The popular and refreshing "Lemon Bar" was born; the fresh lemon is balanced with sweet shortbread to counter the hint of tartness.
What also distinguishes MORA's ice cream is the process of aging their ice cream, similar to a good wine or artisan cheese, as Perez believes the flavors and the ice cream are "alive." At the MORA factory, what can be seen is fresh lemons, limes, and grapefruit squeezed by hand, fresh pineapple cut by hand, huge blocks of premium Belgian chocolate slowly melted, and walnuts and hazelnuts optimally roasted. The ingredients are put together as the base, then aged before it is crafted into ice cream. Once the ice cream has been produced, it, too, will be aged. The aging process is crucial, as it allows the ingredients to settle and combine. After aging, the ice cream will be kept in the freezer for a specific amount of time at a specific temperature, in order for the product to be "complete." Perez is adamant about providing guests with only the "completed" product; the store will only carry the complete product, even if the store has run out of the particular flavor, so that guests can fully enjoy the complexity of the ice cream. The ice cream then goes through a "warming" process, so that it reaches the optimal temperature for the best taste. What results is a well-balanced, complement of flavors, and a silky, smooth texture that not only melts, but is light in your mouth.
According to Orselli, cold temperature and butterfat numb the palate; MORA has half the butterfat content compared to many of the premium ice creams. What is significant is that guests can taste the actual ingredients of the ice cream, rather than the butterfat. Perez concurs, "Butterfat overwhelms the flavor of the ice cream;" in addition, people can feel the fat and heaviness, after eating it. To Perez, quality is not necessarily within the freshness of the ice cream, but rather the freshness of ingredients in the ice cream.
Mora Ice Cream
The flagship MORA location in Bainbridge Island, Washington, on a beautiful August morning in the scenic Pacific Northwest. | Photo: Louisa Lew |
Perez observes, each location has its own "personality." The Bainbridge Island location boasts the "Swiss Chocolate" as their number one seller, a smooth, rich chocolate with a dulce de leche swirl and chocolate liqueur. The Poulsbo location calls the "Chocolate Peanut Butter Moreo" their favorite, where the silky chocolate and creamy peanut butter complement each other, accented with crunchy Oreo cookies. Pistachio is the popular flavor for the Kingston location, as it serves as a memory trigger for the older generation. MORA offers seasonal flavors, where regular guests eagerly anticipate these flavors each year. Holiday flavors include egg nog, pumpkin pie, cranberry (ice cream and sorbet), marron glac?, and goat cheese with fig (a guest favorite). Decadent flavors for Valentine's Day includes a rose petal ice cream, the "Sweetheart," a strawberry sorbet with chocolate, and the "XOXO," a dark chocolate ice cream with cherries. What was most rewarding for Orselli was knowing that she was able to introduce a new flavor experience to a child. With a smile, Orselli proudly reflects of a little girl, who chose the "Saboyon," a rich, traditional Italian Marsala wine custard, out of all the flavors MORA had to offer. Orselli was pleasantly surprised that the little girl chose such a sophisticated flavor.
MORA's philosophy behind their ice cream parallels that of Slow Food USA, a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage people to take pleasure in preparing and consumer food, "reconnecting Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and water that produce our food." Orselli and Perez became members of Slow Food in 2004.
Orselli first learned about Slow Food from a friend in Argentina, who told Orselli about their philosophy of bringing food to an actual table; this confused Orselli, as she did not know otherwise; Perez concurs, where he didn't realize that value was lost. In Argentinean culture, food is very important, where "everything happened around a table," especially food. Knowledge of food was a part of their culture (such as which foods paired well), as well as preserving recipes, and using food as a means to enjoy a happy and healthy life. Mackin observes, Slow Food values were "aligned with their values." "Slow" is the operative word for Perez; Slow Food is a way of life, where people should take the time to get quality ingredients and to create recipes, so that they can enjoy life, food, and people, with that food.
MORA reflects Orselli and Perez's love, passion and dedication, not only to their company and guests, but most importantly, for one another. The two complement each other as a team, where they defer to each other, as well as crediting one another, and enjoying one another's stories. Orselli lovingly looks at Perez, as she proudly reminds him that the cheesecake flavors were originally his idea. Perez laughs after Orselli recounts the time an employee wanted to keep the bill Dave Matthews (yes, of the Dave Matthews band) used to pay for his ice cream when he visited with his twin daughters. Perez is truly thankful to the community, where it has "received us personally and as a company." Orselli and Perez are genuine people, creating a quality product, where they genuinely care about people. It is that interaction with one another, it is that interaction with their guests that create the true MORA experience. Orselli and Perez are the heart of MORA, where every guest is family.
For more information, please visit: