How Freya Estreller and Natasha Case Fell in Love Over Ice Cream

“Coolhaus really is our love child.”

Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring three couples who express their love through cooking. When Natasha Case (on right) and Freya Estreller met in 2009, they decided to start a relationship and a business — at the same time. That business turned into Coolhaus, an ice-cream company! That relationship turned into a marriage and a baby (now their 3-year-old son, Remy), with another on the way. At their home in Los Angeles, Natasha made fried rice for Freya and shared how they divide and conquer in the kitchen.

Natasha: When we first met, we were both really big cooks. When I worked in architecture, I would host a lot of food-meets-design dinners. But, as time went on, Freya really kind of edged me out of the main cooking attraction. So now, as I call it, I'm the front of house, and Freya is back of house. I do the cocktails and the “foo foo boards,” as I call them. You know, the cheeses and snacks, and I make really good ones. I make my own sprouted nuts, romesco sauce, chimichurri, and things like that. Freya covers the real entrée cooking.

Freya: When we started dating, I really wanted to get familiar with the classics, so I know how to make beef Bourguignon, coq au vin, but also things like Indian or Thai curry. I like to pick a culture and learn how to build those basic flavor profiles that belong to them.

Natasha: I went to Berkeley, but I studied abroad with Cornell, where Freya went to college, and we met through a mutual friend. I reconnected with this friend when she moved to L.A., and she invited me to her birthday. I actually split my pants walking into the birthday party, but I decided to go in anyway. We met that night, and the rest is history. Right away, we started talking about what would become Coolhaus. I had already been making ice-cream sandwiches for a week or two on my own, and Freya really saw the business potential in it. And then we also became romantically involved immediately, too, so Coolhaus really is our love child.

Right away, we started talking about what would become Coolhaus.

Natasha: We were an “ice cream after every meal” kind of household. But we didn't grow up eating good ice cream. I think I was drawn to ice cream because it can have such a range of flavor and complexity; it’s a great canvas for experimentation. Once you understand the fundamentals, there's so much you can do with it. And I think that's why we've seen a whole decade go by of really interesting flavors coming to market. Sweet and salty, unexpected ingredients, elevated classics.

Bringing food into really almost any discussion really lights people up.

Natasha: When I started making the ice-cream sandwiches and naming them after architects, it was really an idea born out of the recession. It was meant to alleviate the tough news that was going around the office with all the layoffs. I studied architecture for seven years, but I realized that bringing food into really almost any discussion really lights people up and makes them excited. I think ice cream is one of the ultimate comforts. It’s something you eat when you celebrate, and something you eat when you're sad.
Freya: For us, cooking is definitely a means to get all of our friends together. Especially now with our son, Remy, who's almost 3. It's been hard the last couple years to take him out to restaurants — he’ll last about 45 minutes and then he “expires,” as we call it — so we do host a lot. We cook for our friends probably at least once or twice a week, whether it's brunch on a weekend and then dinner on a weeknight. So it plays a huge role in our social life.

Natasha: We love entertaining together, and I think it brings us even closer. It feels very organic and natural. It’s a way to celebrate the home we’ve built together. 

We love entertaining together, and I think it brings us even closer. 

Freya: Right now, I'm actually loving the food that Natasha cooks for Remy. He’s a typical 3-year-old. He loves carbs. I'm seven months pregnant, so I’m all about the sweet and savory. So Natasha has been making these amazing pancakes with spinach and cheese, all under the guise of, This is for Remy, but really it's for me. 

Natasha: Remy has been getting curious in the kitchen. He's been getting more and more involved when he sees us cooking. His teachers tell us at preschool he likes to play with the kitchen a lot and serve kids pretend food, so he’s definitely picked up on that. And I think that's absolutely something that comes from seeing parents who spend joyful time in the kitchen together.
Natasha: Today we made fried rice. Freya was actually going to do more of the cooking, but since she wasn't feeling well, I took over. But Freya made the actual rice.

Freya: The secret with fried rice is that the rice has to be, obviously, cooked beforehand and also chilled. It has to be cold, and I think a lot of people miss that step. It's an awesome vehicle for leftovers. In this version, we made a little egg and butter omelet to cut up and dice to put in there with some sliced-up carrots, white onion, snow peas, really good shiitake mushrooms, and green onions from our garden. Butter is just so much better than using oil. 
Natasha: With the egg, I kind of almost brown the butter to make the omelet. And then I just add one ingredient at a time and season each ingredient to get maximum flavor. I’m gradually adding the different vegetables into the pan. You do one vegetable at a time, and then you kind of scooch everything over, add one last chunk of butter, and bring the chilled rice into the pan. Let it kind of warm up on half the pan over the butter. Then start to mix everything together, and that's when you can add oyster sauce or soy if you have it, but I added coconut aminos. Then you take everything off the heat and finish it with just a tiny bit of sesame oil and a squeeze of lemon for acidity. 

Freya: Once you get the basics down, you can put anything in it. And it's actually even better the day after when it absorbs even more flavor. I've made this recipe twice in a month, so it’s obviously a hit.

Read more of our Valentine's Day series here and here

Photos by Oriana Koren