RIP Little Baby's, long live Philly ice cream

Anyone who knows Little Baby’s Ice Cream knows three things to be true. One, the folks behind the Frankford Avenue creamery fully embrace the bizarre — just watch their viral head-eating promo video. Two, they believe in sustainability — LBIC pint containers sold in supermarkets are 100 percent recyclable, an industry first. Three, the ice cream they make is always delicious.

Remember that last item especially when you consider this news: On Friday, Little Baby’s will serve ice cream made of bugs. Crickets, specifically.

But wait, before you close the page! Don’t worry, there won’t be crunchy legs mixed into your cup or cone like there were in these sustainability stunts pulled off last year in New York and London. These crickets have been turned into flour by the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion in Holmesburg. Cricket flour has been hailed as one of the most environmentally-friendly and nutritious food sources and a key to solving the global malnutrition crisis.

In this case, the flour has been baked into financiers (small French almond cakes), which are then broken up and swirled through regular Little Baby’s Philadelphia-style cream.

“Hey, we’re not scared of selling weird stuff,” observed LBIC co-founder Pete Angevine, who counts Earl Grey Sriracha as one of his bestsellers. “It will be on our menu, just like any other flavor.”

The Cricket Cake ice cream will make its debut at Little Baby’s monthly First Friday ice cream happy hour, which will feature a pop-up zoo from the organization that inspired it.

Angevine recently met Insectarium CEO John Cambridge at a board meeting for a workforce development nonprofit. He visited Cambridge’s Northeast Philly space and was wowed by what Cambridge had done with the 35-year-old center, which started life as an extermination business and slowly morphed into an insect museum. Cambridge, who just obtained his PhD in entomology, converted the garage into a tropical greenhouse, added a butterfly pavilion and revamped the displays, turning the Insectarium into a destination for both educational trips and events like birthday parties and weddings.

“The butterfly pavilion is breathtaking,” Angevine said. “I was absolutely flabbergasted. I asked him, ‘How could we work together on something?’”

Cambridge had eaten Little Baby’s once before, he said, but he wasn’t fully aware of the scope of the flavor-craziness the shop gets into. “I think I got some fruit flavor and it was good but I didn’t pay much attention.” This time around, he had the right guide, and things were different.

“When I met up with Pete recently and saw all the different stuff they had to offer [I] got a great pre-sugar rush,” he recalled.  “I’d never seen half of the flavors they had! So I tried a mushroom ice cream. It seriously it tasted like someone planted a garden in my mouth and did a very good job of watering and fertilizing it.”

No one else had used the Inesctarium’s cricket flour for a commercial product yet, but Cambridge was excited to give it a try. Hence, LBIC Cricket Cake ice cream and the First Friday pop-up.

From 6 to 8 p.m. on June 2, Cambridge will bring a whole slew of butterflies and other fascinating insects and set up on the sidewalk outside Little Baby’s World Headquarters at 2311 Frankford Ave. (Note to the Health Department: “We are not bringing the bug petting zoo inside the foodsafe place, I made that clear,” Angevine said.) If you just want to swing by to peep the pretty invertebrates and then order a scoop of a regular flavor, that’s totally fine. But if you want to take a step into the world of entomophagy by sampling a bite of the cricket ice cream, this is your chance.

“It’s a limited batch, so the plan for now is to just have it for a short while until it sells out,” Angevine explained. But if it’s popular?

“We wouldn’t blink twice about having a recurring cricket flavor.”

Danya Henninger is a Philadelphia-based journalist who believes local news is essential for thriving communities, and that its format will continue to evolve. She spent six years overseeing both editorial...