There are a lot of cuisines foodies and foodienots don’t agree on… I want Thai and he wants a burger, I want Vietnamese and he wants a burger, I want Indian and he wants a burger, I want French and he asks if they serve burgers… I am sure you see the trend! But one thing we agree on is ice cream! But even that is becoming a challenge as a lot of places started putting together very experimental ice cream flavors – foie gras or avocado ice cream anyone? So here are a few spots in San Francisco Bay Area that can tickle the foodie’s imagination but also have those perfect French vanilla or chocolate scoops of ice-cream.
Smitten locations have been popping-up all around the Bay Area, and I couldn’t be happier! I really like the location in San Jose. Smitten is located in a small kiosk in the middle of a lawn on Santa Row, an amazing place to be on a sunny afternoon or a warm evening. Not so much under the rain, but if you got your priorities right, you’ll see a shorter line and go for it. You can hide in a nearby Starbucks or one of the shops if you’re freezing. You can see waffle cones and bowls being made and a few ice-cream making machines working hard to produce daily flavors. Daily flavors are written all over the windows in this kiosk, and are inviting to both foodies and foodienots.
Cream is one of my oldest obsessions in the Bay Area. I didn’t shy away from long lines when they just opened in Palo Alto, and keep enjoying CREAM now that the number of location has grown and the lines are a lot more manageable.
CREAM is mostly famous for their ice-cream sandwiches. When you step inside their location the delicious smell of baking cookies makes you feel like a kid in a candy store. You want them all! You get to pick funky cookie flavors and stick even a funkier ice-cream flavor in between them, or keep it nice and traditional. My favorites are two white-chocolate macadamia cookies with matcha ice cream, or chocolate chip with salted caramel. Foodienot goes for chocolate chip with vanilla ice-cream.
This tiny Cupertino shop serves a variety of locally made ice-cream flavors, but they stand out by offering amazing macaroons and cookies backed in-house for ice-cream sandwiches. Macaroons, cookies and ice-cream come in a variety of flavors, leaving it only up to you and your imagination to determine your perfect treat. I went for Ube (yes, that purple Ube) ice-cream between two Earl Grey macaroon and definitely enjoyed the creative flavor. Chocolate and vanilla ice-cream and macaroons make a great combination as well. Not very creative, but a very commendable combination. The sandwiches are assembled to order and put in a very handy half-box made to fit sandwiches perfectly, and let you consume them comfortable without ice-cream melting all over your hands.
I am sure I would have made a lot of enemies if I didn’t put this famous SF staple of the list. Humphry Slocombe serves ice-cream flavors as funky as the name in their two San Francisco locations. You can also get your hands on their ice-cream throughout SF Bay area in some restaurants and supermarkets (including Wholefoods Markets).
What I like about Humphry Slocombe? Pronouncing and spelling their name is a great sobriety exercise after indulging in their boozy Secret Breakfast (with bourbon). They also serve seasonal flavors, where they get even more experimental by either adding chilly flavors, or mixing red hot candy flavor, or using a seasonal exotic fruit.
If you come of the weekend, prepare to wait in line! But, on the bright side, you can enjoy gazing at all beautifully assembled cones in hands of satisfied customers while imagining what Red Hot Banana flavor would taste like!
Tin Pot Creamery started in 2012 as an ice cream of the month club, but I first noticed Tin Pot when I was walking by their Palo Alto location on a summer night, and this was the only store in the entire mall with a lot of activity – there was a huge line out the door and people crowding on near by benches. Of course, I had to poke my head in, and this is how our love affair started!
Tin Pot makes their ice cream in small batches and they always have seasonal flavors. My favorites? Hard to pick just one or two, but let me say I usually go for Four Barrel Coffee with Cocoa Nib Toffee, or Earl Grey. Even foodienot deviated from vanilla (which they also serve) and ordered a Cookie Monster flavor.
If you are ever in Dogpatch in San Francisco on a weekend, you can’t miss this tiny cute ice-cream shop. Want to find out what flavors they are serving? Look for a picture of their blackboard menu on Facebook, they don’t even have a website! But the word of mouth and return customers are creating a lot of traffic and patiently wait for their fix of Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous.
And yes, I stood in line as well… If you are in the city, before 6pm, this is a must stop! Foodies, I am sure whatever crazy flavor is in store, you’ll be happy with your selection. But come with an open mind as flavors could change daily and they tend to run out. For foodienots this place could be a bit of a challenge, but hope you stretch your pallet and pick something new to try… there’s no vanilla on the menu!
Mission creamery is a very traditional ice-cream shop in South Bay in Santa Clara, with diner-style red stools at the counter and friendly people behind the counter. All ice-cream in made in-house, delighting visitors with a variety of permanent flavors including caramelized banana (one of people’s favorites) and red raspberry chip, and some rotating flavors. Topped with whipped cream, your scoop will look very nostalgic of your childhood sundaes. Mission creamery also has cookies for ice-cream sandwiches, root beer floats, and old-fashioned milk-shakes. I didn’t meet the owner, Chris, but heard he’s around serving scoops of his passion for ice-cream.
Young’s Ice Cream and Candy Bar is a little gem in Redwood City, which I accidentally stumbled upon while waiting in line for Vesta (see my Vesta review). Located next door to this busting pizzeria, the place attracts a lot of kids with small creative toys and novelties, selection of candies and a very traditional ice-cream counter in the back. The variety of ice-cream flavors is really good, bringing a lot of traditional favorites, and more complicated flavors too! They also make splits, topped with whip cream and a cherry on top! Where did my childhood go?
Scoop Microcreamery is small mom & pop shop on University Ave in Palo Alto, try to battle the hard competition of Creamistry (see #10 below) and CREAM (see #3 above), which are also on University but have a few more locations.
Scoop makes liquid nitrogen ice-cream in some creative flavors using local ingredients. Throughout the day you can come in and observe the next small batch being made in one of their machines, all while selecting your flavors. Bourbon Vanilla with Salted Caramel Swirl caught my foodie eyes right away, and this scoop selection came easy. I had to work hard on selecting my second scoop – I had the hardest time deciding between Hella Nutella, Brown Sugar Banana, or Speculicious. Foodienots, know what Speculicious means? Well, don’t worry, Scoop Microcreamery gives you a hint – one of their flavors is called Classic Chocolate. Of course, they have Vanilla too!
What could be better than mixing your own ice cream? Creamistry’s experienced Creamologists will help your build your own ice-cream flavor, and using liquid nitrogen, freeze it to order and serve you your personal creation. If you don’t like your flavor, you’ll know who to blame! You can’t go wrong with ice-cream, or can you? Choose your size and base, choose your flavor, choose your toppings and upgrades. The signature premium or organic base will give you the ice-cream flavor you are crave, for a lighter option pick a sorbet or coconut base. Flavors are plentiful, and foodie can experiment with taro or frutty pebbles cereal flavor (not the topping, hope you are paying attention here… it’s a flavor!), and foodienots can choose from a number of classic flavors including French vanilla, vanilla bean, and chocolate. And don’t forget to top it off!
My only problem with Creamistry is the price tag… I don’t know how often you would come back for a $8-9 scoop? Definitely A+ for creativity.
Hope you will try some of this places and enjoy – foodie or foodienot!