San Francisco diners likely know Serena Chow Fisher as the pastry chef behind Marlena’s breakout success, a two-year sprint that started at the peak of the pandemic and ended abruptly this summer due to conflict between Chow Fisher and her husband, co-chef David Fisher, and the restaurant’s owner. But in addition to being one of the top pastry chefs in the country, Chow Fisher is many things — including a lifelong ice cream fan and a true dog lover. With her newest project, she hopes to combine those two passions.
Later this summer, Chow Fisher along with Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group will launch a new ice cream company dubbed Jack & Remi. The name honors the chef couple’s beloved dogs, Remi and Jack, who died due to health issues earlier this year. “I always promised this dog I was going to make him famous,” Chow Fisher says with a laugh, “so it was like, okay I’m going to totally do this.” Fans will be able to try the ice cream at two pre-launch events held in August. The first will be on August 2 at the Plaza at 555 California from noon to 2 p.m. The second will be at Izzy’s Steakhouse at 3345 Steiner Street on August 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. Samples will be complimentary.
Chow Fisher has long dreamed of opening up an ice cream shop — though, to be clear, there’s no plan for Jack & Remi to open a retail space. But the ice cream dream goes back to her childhood in San Mateo, where Chow Fisher says that being raised by Chinese immigrant parents sometimes made her feel different from her peers. The rare exceptions included her birthday when her parents would buy her an all-American mint chocolate chip ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins. “That was always my jam,” she says. “It was kind of like my one time where I was like, ‘Oay, I’m just like everyone else.’”
For Jack & Remi, Chow Fisher says the team is taking a culinary approach to ice cream, starting with familiar flavors and even dishes, and squeezing them into pints of ice cream. Chow Fisher did flavor development with support from both her husband and Hi Neighbor executive chef Jason Halverson and says having the savory chefs' input refined each creation. That means they’re not taking a universal ice cream base and just adding flavors and mix-ins; instead, the recipe for each base depends on what flavor profile and texture the team was trying to achieve, and all the additional bits — think chunks of cake and ribbons of fudge — are made by Chow Fisher, not purchased and then swirled in. The FUVanilla, for example, uses eggs to create a rich, creamy base and features fresh-made Tahitian vanilla cremeux, custard, and cream.
Chow Fisher’s favorite is the Shiso Mint Chip, a nostalgic riff on mint chocolate chip that’s cut through with ribbons of fudge and flecked with chocolate. “Shiso is just a flavor I really like,” she says. “It’s really clean.” Other flavors include Sourdough Toast & Jam made with Backhaus sourdough, raspberry preserves, and Maldon salt; PBRJ, a grown-up version of peanut butter and jelly featuring pistachio ice cream, rhubarb jam, and pistachio crisp; Strawberry Szn, which bursts with macerated strawberries and white chocolate crumble; and 4XChocolate loaded with Valrhona devil’s food cake, a fudge ripple, and chocolate shavings.
The plan is to launch with a seasonal flavor selection this summer at those pop-up events, and then to roll out the six flavors that will become the core offerings later this fall. Seasonal drops for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day will introduce more flavors to the mix. Eventually, customers will be able to order ice cream online for pick-up at any of Hi Neighbor’s restaurants in the city and East Bay including the Vault Garden and Steakhouse, Trestle, Mama, the Madrigal, and the soon-to-open 7 Adams. Down the line, they’ll also be able to ship ice cream anywhere in California.
Chow Fisher says she’s hopeful Jack & Remi ice cream will be both elevated and approachable (eventually she’d like to introduce non-dairy options for those sensitive to lactose). But for now, she at least wants to be clear about who the company is here to serve. This is San Francisco after all, home to canine caviar service at Michelin-starred restaurants and tasting menus for dogs. “I guess the number one thing is: To be consumed by humans and not by dogs,” she says with a laugh.
Keep an eye on the Jack & Remi Instagram for updates about pop-up events.