“It’s easy to find the best ice cream shops. Just look for the longest lines!” – Me
I had the most amazing, delicious and overwhelming ice cream experiences this summer… it’s really hard to decide which I liked most but I think my most memorable experience was at Salt & Straw in Portland. That’s also where I came up with this quote. We had to wait in line for more than 30 minutes! After Portland we were in San Francisco and planned on going to Bi-Rite Creamery . Outside I heard a guy telling his coworker how to arrange the line on the street so it wouldn’t be in the way of all the pedestrians. Also Diddy Riese in Westwood, LA. There’s never not been a line in that awesome ice cream sandwich shop. There are just enough incredible and unique ice cream shops, why waste an experience on a place that’s not worth it? Hence I thought of this motto; “It’s easy to find the best ice cream shops. Just look for the longest lines!” (yes ok… I might make an exception on a rainy or cold winter day, or at 11AM in the morning :).
So here’s to if you’re interested what my favorite ice cream spots where along the West Coast (Bellingham, WA; Portland, OR; Santa Barbara, CA; Los Angeles, CA) and Boulder, CO. If you happen to be just somewhere in between, then look where I listed my favorite chains below.
Mallard’s Ice Cream – Bellingham, WA: A quirky, innovative original ice cream parlor in downtown Bellingham. They produce fresh, with an emphasis on organic, local ingredients and have an admirable selection of classic, and partially strange, but delicious flavors. Each flavor is listed in its own font, style and color which sometimes makes it hard to read – and occasionally, even if you can read it, you might have no idea what it means. That happened to me with “Frankincense”, which is “an aromatic gum resin obtained from an African tree and burnt as incense” if that helps 😉 . They called it tree sap from Africa 🙂 it was something I’d never tasted before, but I’d definitely take it again! Other flavors that they have had on their menu before were black pepper sour cream, mint oreo, and coconut flake with rum. They always have a good selection of dairy free flavors too. If you’re not sure, just ask for a sample (or many), which they happily give you in a little metal spoon. For still indecisive people there’s an indecision scoop! My best discovery this year was the fresh waffle cone dipped in hot fudge – that’ll be inevitable for my next visits! (Warning! Make sure to take lots of cash, cause they don’t take credit card.) → S’more flavors and where to find them
Salt & Straw – Portland, OR (also Los Angeles): Let’s start with their one and only possible con. There’s a loooong line. But I think I already proved that that isn’t much of a con at all. It’s more proof of how good it is and why it’s my all time favorite this year. First of all they have truly knowledgeable, friendly staff that even encourages you to sample more and more flavors. They have some standard ice creams, sorbets and sherbets along with the seasonal ones. Flavors are partially classic, but there’s many unique inventions like fennel-maple, pear-blue cheese, black olive-goat cheese, strawberry-honey-balsamic-black pepper. My all time favorite creations were: almond brittle with salted ganache, freckled woodblock chocolate and arbequina olive oil. The consistency of their artisian ice cream was utterly perfect, the optimal balance of sweetness, creaminess, richness and flavor. Like Mallard’s they offer a split scoop and kids scoops, for the indecisive of y’all. Of course their cone is made freshly on spot, and you can choose from many different toppings. They also offer sundaes, ice cream floats, and whole pint milkshakes. Luckily it’s all handmade in small batches using only all natural dairy with the best local, organic and sustainable ingredients. So don’t feel bad about getting lots of scoops! → S’more flavors and their locations
Bi-Rite Creamery – San Francisco, CA: A fairly small parlor that handcrafts ice cream, and uses only their own baked goods for everything that goes into the ice cream – from brownies to Peanut Brittle. They use very local and seasonal ingredients. Although they might not offer the largest variety of flavors, they make up by offering ice cream sandwiches, -cakes, -pies, popsicles and soft serve ice cream. They have seven signature sundaes – one of them: honey lavender ice cream, hot fudge, blood orange olive oil & maldon sea salt. The staff even put together their own combo’s and named them. So if you can’t decide, take their advice; a “trifecta” which is a scoop of each: salted caramel, brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl, and malted vanilla with peanut brittle and chocolate. Or just create your own dessert with their baked goods, ice cream and any sauces or toppings! It’s definitely worth making a detour to try this place when you’re in San Francisco! → S’more information
McConnell’s Ice Cream – Santa Barbara: You might have seen McConnell’s Ice Cream in your supermarket before because they distribute all along the West Coast these days. But once upon a time they started with just one little parlor in Santa Barbara. Those long lines, the sampling with metal spoons, their authentic soCal atmosphere and many flavors probably made them so successful. They didn’t have these completely insane flavors with spicy herbs, strong and savory cheeses or healthy vegetables… like many of my other favorite places. More a mix of standard ingredients, with new twists that were creative and authentic. For example Toasted Coconut Almond Chip (rather than coconut ice cream with almonds) or Chocolate Cappuccino (instead of just chocolate and coffee). In addition, lots of the flavors seemed very alike but still slightly varied: vanilla bean & golden state vanilla, or turkish coffee & black coffee chip & brazilian coffee… So they must know what they’re doing if they can afford to make so many similarities. My all time favorite flavor was Double Peanut Butter Chip – rich and creamy with salty peanut butter and crunchy bits of bittersweet chocolate. And since I couldn’t decide on which further flavors to take I got the “Flight – three scoop tasting” which is like three flavors in 1.5 scoops! All sauces, toppings, waffles and even whipped cream is homemade. → S’more knowledge on where to eat them, where to buy them and everything else
Diddy Riese – Westwood, Los Angeles: All ice cream places I like seem to come with the disadvantage of being sort of pricey… Diddy Riese is not one of those! They are veteran cookie bakers that make amazing ice cream sandwiches at super affordable prices. You’ll have to wait in line at any time of day, but who wouldn’t want to do that? They also offer brownies and shave ice cream but I really recommend trying the ice cream sandwich first. Customize it, from a choice of 10 different cookies and 12 different ice cream flavors (Dreyer’s Ice Cream) for only $1.75. (kind of paradox that two cookies plus one small scoop of ice cream actually cost $2.25). Diddy Riese is low-key, casual and a favorite among locals, especially college students. Behind the counter they’re are large racks where you can watch them empty huge batches of cookies coming out of the oven. It’s really a phenomenal place with great ambience and unpretentious customers and it’s open all night long. (one little piece of information: CASH ONLY) → S’more interesting stuff (like where to find them)
Coolhaus Ice Cream – Culver City (and more): Coolhaus is a very cool haus (I’m from Germany, so I can say that 🙂 ) They started out as a small food truck and went to Coachella, where they became famous. Today you can find them in two shops, multiple food trucks or in some grocery stores. Their flavors are legit but really insane, including ingredients such as popcorn, doritos or french fries and combos like Beer & Pretzels, Fried Chicken & Waffle, Brown Butter Candied Bacon. For the not so daring, I think the more customary flavors are striking as well – Cinnamon Cookie Dough, Nutella with Almonds, Coffee Oreo, Salty S’mores… Every day they offer 16 of these flavors and roughly 8 different cookies. I had a chocolate chip and red velvet cookie filled with Black Sesame and Honeycomb ice cream. I love those basic but still unusual flavors. It was perfect but truly a completely different experience than Diddy Riese’s sammies. Not better or worse – just totally different and worth it! It’s so-called architecturally inspired gourmet ice cream has quite a history to it. Very interesting story here. → S’more of their flavors, locations and a cool blog.
Sprinkles Ice Cream – Beverly Hills (and more): Started out as just a dainty cupcake bakery – actually the first one in the world. Today they’ve also devoted themselves to handcrafting ice cream and mixing this with their famous pastries. The result is something like a Sprinkles Sunday – a single scoop ice cream between cupcake top and bottom. Or the twist on an ice cream sandwich – a scoop between two cupcake tops! Even a Sprinkles Shake with, who would’ve guessed, a cupcake blended inside. There’s lots more standard creations, but even for just a plain scoop you can choose their fresh red velvet waffle cone. Lots of places offer kids scoops how I’ve noticed, but the american version of a kids scoop is like a european normal scoop. Sprinkles actually means it literally, the scoop is the size of a ping pong ball with a miniature cone. Flavors vary through the week ranging from Vanilla-Hazelnut-Chocolate to Peanut Butter Cup or Red Velvet. Today there’s many venues throughout the US but not all of them sell ice cream. If you want to be authentic though, go to the one in Beverly Hills, where it all started. Apart from savoring your dessert while people watching, it just feels like you’re doing the right thing at the right place (and right time 🙂 ). Who would of thought that eating ice cream could actually feel somewhat sophisticated? → S’more creations and other facts
Glacier Homemade Ice Cream – Boulder, CO: One day in Boulder I really really wanted to have a Coldstone Creamery Creation. We asked some locals where to find the next Coldstone, but they told us not to go to Coldstone; had we ever tried Glacier Homemade Ice Cream? It supposedly was like Coldstone just all already mixed in one flavor – literally so much better than Coldstone. We told them thanks, but that we’d really just like to find Coldstone. They didn’t back off, so we decided to give Glacier a try. Although they offer over 80 flavors at a time; ice cream, gelato, frozen yoghurt and many creations I was able to decide straight away what I wanted. Peanut Butter Blast ♥ and they were right. It was amazing! Unfortunately I don’t remember too much more except that the next days we came back there again (and ended up not going to Coldstone a single time). Every time I got the same flavor, because I couldn’t dare to try anything that might be not quite as heavenly! → S’more info.
For everyone who’s on the go – you probably know these ice cream parlors. Here’s my favorite flavors and what I like so much about them!
Coldstone Creamery: To me Coldstone is custom ice cream! I wish I could just do it at home, but unfortunately my creation melts before I even start eating it… this creamery has the tiny advantage of a “cold stone”. Even 5 add-ins that range from fresh fruit, cookies, cakes, candy bars, to sauces, pretzels, or whipped cream, survive the preparation. Multiple times already, they totally overestimated and ended up giving me one or two sizes larger than I ordered 😀 . My favorite creation includes chocolate ice cream with brownies, fudge, extra peanut butter and oreos. They’ve been really friendly to customizing, varying orders and fixing mistakes. So you might pay the price, but it’s definitely worth the treat every so often!
Ben & Jerry’s: Their ingredients are fair trade, they invented cookie dough, have a graveyard for their de-pinted flavors, and offer free ice cream and movie nights – can an ice cream brand get any better? Their selection of flavors is awesome, with swirls, cores, cookie dough, brownies or fudge covered candy mixed in – amongst them, sorbet and frozen yogurt creations. My favorites are Phish Food, The Tonight Dough, Boom Chocolatta and Hazed and Confused (how weird, in Germany they call that exact same flavor All or Nut-ting). I think Ben & Jerries is very authentic, read through the menu the you’ll see what I mean. It doesn’t seem like they’re trying to compete with anybody, they’re more individual and put a lot of effort into new flavors and inventions. The newest one is the Core, made up of either cookie-spread, fudge, caramel or raspberry jam that goes like a funnel through the middle of the ice cream.
Baskin Robbins: My favorites are Peanut Butter Chocolate, Gold Medal Ribbon and Mint Chocolate Chip. The PB Chocolate, has the most amazing humongous peanut butter chunks inside, that, in my opinion, no other store has beaten. Actually that’s remarkable with most of their flavors – they don’t spare on the add-ins. Another delicious thing was the Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich – 2 inch diameter Oreo cookies filled with ice cream ( I chose chocolate oreo) – amazing, and a slight mess once I had finished… They also offer kids scoops.
Magnum Double Peanut Butter: Langnese (known as Good Humor in the US) is a brand that originated in Hamburg, Germany in the 1930s making popsicles. They’re the #1 ice cream producer in Germany, and one of their favorite and most known handheld ice creams is Magnum. Although not many people know of it in the US, this country still creates more peculiar varieties – how unfair is that! So while I was in the States I had to try the Double Peanut Butter. It was super delicious – truly rich peanut butter ice cream, covered in three different coats of chocolate and peanut buttery sauces. You can buy it in most supermarkets, or kiosks so it’s the perfect handheld ice cream to go! No spoon and no mess 🙂