Best ice cream in SF Bay Area
- Robert Lauriston Jul 15, 2004 01:44 PM
Who makes the best ice cream, gelato, granita, etc. in the Bay Area?
- Bombay Ice Cream (552 Valencia, SF)
- Fenton's (nut flavors)
- Gelato Classico (almond, pistachio)
- Mitchell's macapuno and buko (industry-standard ice cream, except for the incredible coconut flavors)
- Naia (2106 Shattuck, Berkeley): most flavors too sweet for my taste, but otherwise very authentic
- Slanted Door (when they have jackfruit or similar tropical fruit flavors)
- Zuni: coffee or blood orange granita
Mitchell's also gets a big shout-out for Black Walnut--a flavour like no other.
It Stands Alone.
Naia: chocolate marzipan, malt and pistachio
Fenton's is dreadful airy weird mouthfeel stuff.
Bombay sometimes has a nice version of Cardamon although they will often serve old freezer burn ic and it is inconsistant.
What about Marco Polo?
I used to make some amazing ice cream: Lemon Basil (one herb), rosemary caramel, and brown sugar, as well as a lime based granita sweetened with a syrup infused with verbena, kaffir lime and lemon basil. I am surprised you are leaving out one of my old employer's that I cannot mention here.
and how about that quirky place in Bernal Heights?
I am trying to remember where I had peppermint stick that reminded me of Brigham's.....
re: RWCFoodie (Karen)
WARNING WARNING WARNING ...
2004 thread updated in 2007 with a 2008 question bumping it up. So take it with that in mind
Anyway ... July is National Ice Cream month ... so some reminders might be appropriate.
An addition ... Haven't tried it yet but Wild Fox in Novato makes its own ice cream and has some interesting sounding shakes. That's about all I can think of that isn't mentioned.
I agree on quality control at Bombay, although when the jones for kesar pista hits, that's where I go.
I like Mitchell's quite a bit for flavors I can't get anywhere else, in addition to the buko, macapuno and black walnut, there's Mexican Chocolate and their Dulce de Leche is much better than other options.
Still need to get out to Marco Polo -- so many great flavors to choose from. And I've never tried Rick's Rather Rich, but from what I've heard, I expect to see kudos.
I'd love to hear more about your recipe for brown sugar ice cream, sailorbuoys. I suppose that's not appropriate here so I've included my email address if you're so inclined.
We checked out Real Ice Cream in Santa Clara on Thursday night. When we told the proprietress that we were from SF, she said that Bombay carries some of their ice creams, but not all are sourced from them.
I've had the saffron ice cream at Citizen Cake. The base can't be faulted but it's not as saffron-y meaning verging on bitter as the Persian or Indian places serve.
The yogurt sherbert at Aziza has been lovely. The buttermilk ice cream at Slanted Door is also terrific.
re: Robert Lauriston
Ooh, I'll have to try it. That's getting a little closer geographically to Persian style.
Still looking for a local producer who can best the variable Mashti Malone. Love the chunks of frozen cream that stud the saffron and rosewater base of its Persian ice cream.
Tucker's wine ice creams (when they have them). The Zinfandel chocolate chip is merely very good, but the Syrah they had last year was out of this world. I'm also partial to their Cookies and Cream.
Zax tangerine sorbet (seasonal). Like eating tangerine snow.
My current favorite Gelato Classico flavor is the fresh ginger I've been buying at Trader Joe's.
Maggie Mudd, for ice cream without the cream. So divine, so rich that few people would be aware that they're not sucking the udder.
I've been to Gelato Milano and Naia all in the last week. I agree with the other posts... Naia is a bit too sweet and not as creamy and as authentic as Gelato Milano. I believe the owner of Gelato Milano had help start Naia back in the day and had left, but decided to open a shop that made authentic gelato about a year ago.
Milano tastes like it is made with cream, hence the extra creaminess, but that would indeed make it *less* authentic.
I think that the lack of cream in Naia's gelato makes the flavors come through much better. Also, several of the flavors I've tried at Milano tasted freezer-burned, like they had been in the case for several days. I have never had that experience at Naia.
I do not, however, think that Naia is as good as their originator, Mondo. Mondo was indeed superb. Somehow Naia has lost something in the translation and transfer of ownership. I still love it though.
On another slightly related note.... does anyone know of any decent gelato that can be purchased in the market? So far, I have only found one true gelato (made with milk, not cream) which is called Gelato Massimo at the Berkeley Bowl. Its pretty good for store bought and is great for a gelato "quick fix". I was just wondering if anyone knew of any others.
re: Robert Lauriston
yes, I know, however, sometimes its nice to have some on hand, particularly if you're craving it while at home amongst all this rain we've been having and don't feel like getting in the car, or for that matter, leaving the house.
I was (and am) surprised at how good the Gelato Massimo is for store bought. The vanilla bean is soft and scoopable upon being taken out of the freezer. Some of the other flavors require a 5-10 min period of being left to sit out and 'warm up' before scooping, but they are great.
Rick's Rather Rich (it may just be called Rick's now) in Palo Alto has always been my favorite. They make some excellent classic flavors, but their white chocolate ginger is fantastic, as is the rose.
(For those not in the know, they're a small shop in a strip mall on Middlefield at Charleston. They make all their own ice cream.)
I was just there tonight. I didn't see the Rather Rich - they must have dropped it. Open nightly until 10:00.
I had one scoop of berries and nuts and a scoop of peach. Both had fresh fruit in them. I've also sampled the Kulfi, which is rose, cardamom (sp?) and some other spices.
My friend had the saffron pistachio. I'd say that one had a very subtle saffron taste - just mellow enough to let you know its there.
If you are in the peninsula, you should definitely check this place out!
Rick's definitely deserves more noise! I think they're going through some sort of rebranding with dropping the "Rather Rich" (even though it is) and adopting a new logo. There was a recent offer, perhaps ongoing, of an insulated carrying bag for three pints for a minimal charge with purchase which shows off the new logo.
Nutella gelato at Naia on Shattuck. I've already told my friends I want to be buried in a vat of it when I die.
Thanks for mentioning Silbermann's. When I stepped in, it reminded me of the Swenson franchises. Later I read this recent article that it started out that way.
I tried blueberry, which was less intense than I wanted, and ended up with a scoop of peach and one of coffee crunch. The ice creams are made on site and very fresh tasting. They're served very cold and do remind me of Swenson's on Hyde & Union in SF.
Got me thinking about a couple other very good Marin-based ice cream makers. Recently had some mint chip gelato from Fiorello's that had a lovely spring-y scent of mint and tasted like a fresh cut sprig. Was also notable that it was milk-colored and not dyed green. Not very gelato like in consistency, but still very good.
Among the best ice creams I've had were from Fairfax Scoop. All organic with amazing clarity of fresh picked fruit flavor, more linked below. Any updates?
My favorite is Downtown Bakery & Creamery in Healdsburg for the homemade style ice creams with no emulsifiers or gums. They taste like a summer picnic, especially the seasonal flavors, like peach or santa rosa plum. For a more richly textured ice cream with high butterfat and skillful flavor blending, then definitely Rick's in Palo Alto, as other have mentioned. As impressed as I am with the ice creams, I'm even more in love with the water ices. The lavender/fig ice cream at Estia is especially memorable. I'm also a fan of Lappert's for those crazy Hawaiian flavors. The most wondrous chocolate ice cream I've had lately is a little outside the Bay Area from Donnelly in Santa Cruz, and if you're down there, don't miss the macapuno at Marianne's.
Guess it's my turn to be the naysayer on Naia. As you say, the flavors are too sweet. There's also an annoying gritty/powdery thing going on. I find it doubly disappointing in that it serves up all the wonderful Italian flavors but doesn't quite deliver on them. I think my favorite gelato these days is Tango Gelato, especially the dulce de leche. Wish the staff were less standoffish, but I do love their product. They also manage to keep it at the right temperature and not too cold like most of our gelato purveyors. The thai ice tea flavor gelato by Latest Scoop is pretty wonderful too. A friend mentioned the sometimes available riso flavor at CiaoBella that I can't wait to try.
Sultan makes their own kulfis that are excellent. Real Ice Cream in Santa Clara is allegedly better than Bombay, but I haven't been there yet either.
So far, have only found one place in San Jose that serves frozen custard. Any other sightings?
Would also love to find someone locally who is making Persian style ice creams. We can buy Mashti Malone prepack, but the freshness is variable.
re: Robert Lauriston
That would be Lindsey Shere, who grew up in Healdsburg. I believe she's retired from the bakery now.
A lot of folks do not like the ice creams at Downtown Bakery & Creamery due to the slightly icy texture. For whatever reason, the complaints seem to equate richness with the smooth texture and coating on the tongue contributed by gums and emulsifiers in commercial ice creams instead of judging the purity of flavor and the high butterfat that is indeed present in this ice cream. For me, the freshness of flavor is highlighted by the delicate ice crystals that tingle on the palate. But I thought it worth mentioning for those who prefer a different style. The sherberts are also great.
For gelato, I much prefer Naia to Gelato Classico. I find Gelato Classico is not true gelato due to the high sugar and butterfat content. It is much more like American ice cream in that respect.
I love Naia's Horlicks, maple, and espresso flavors.
The gelato I've had at Sketch was fantastic also.
I haven't tried any of the Bay Area ice cream institutions b/c I like gelato so much better, but after reading this post, I'm looking forward to making rounds.
Ok, since this topic is being resurrected ... not re-reading it ... in order of preference
Fairfax Scoop (tie)
Downtown Healdsburg Creamery
The Latest Scoop
Cafe Fanny (it's about the price otherwise higher)
Mitchell's (pumpkin moves it up)
Straus ice cream excluding soft-serve
Carvel's chocolate soft serve in a chocolte coated cone (leave me alone about it)
Ciao Bella (blood orange only)
Straus Soft serve
La Copa Loco
Bombay Ice Cream
Gunther's Ice Cream (Sacto base ... sold in Pinole)
McDonalds soft serve
Honorary mention: Not local but sold at markets - Sheer Bliss pomegranite ice cream ... ONLY the pomegrainte
OK ... McDonald's isn't local origin either ... I was making a point and giving a reference.
As for Carvel ... well, for me it has no boundries ...
Wow, this list is great. If it's easy for you to do, it would be great if you could edit this to include the city/town each place is in....I could google it, but it would take time, so if you know off the top of your head for all of them, I'd appreciate knowing where these places are (as you did in the continued list in the post below). Thanks!!! :) :) :)
re: Dave MP
Here you go
Bi-Rite (tie) - SF
Fairfax Scoop (tie) – Fairfax
Bovolo - Healdsburg
Citizen Cake - SF
Downtown Healdsburg Creamery - Healdsburg
Petaluma Creamery - Petaluma
The Latest Scoop – various locations *
Silberman's – San Rafael
Cafe Fanny - Berkeley
Sketch – Berkeley
Fiorello's Gelato – the fig pantry Sonoma **
Mitchell's (pumpkin moves it up) – SF & various locations
Straus ice cream excluding soft-serve – Sold by the pint in markets, Raley’s for me
Tango Gelato - SF
Laloo's – Sold by the pint at various locations … Temescal Farmers Market for me
Milano - Berkeley
Buona Sonoma gelato – Sebastopol at La Dolce V
Emporio Rulli – SF & Larkspur
La Michoacana Paleteria - Vallejo
Screaming Mimi's - Sebastopo
Three Twins – San Rafael
Liled’s - Valejo
Naia – Berkeley, SF & Oakland
Figaro's - Emeryville Public Market
Carvel's chocolate soft serve - Berkeley
Ciao Bella (blood orange only) – Various locations & markets, Epicurious for me
Maggie Mudd - SF
Straus Soft serve – Picco in Larkspur
Marco Polo - SF
La Copa Loco - SF
Bombay Ice Cream - SF
Bud's – Various locations & markets. Kennsington Ice Cream for me
Marianne's (spumoni) – Santa Cruz & Mollie Stones
Double Rainbow – Various locations & Markets. San Pablo for me
Loards – Various locations. Vacaville for me
Gunther's Ice Cream (Sacto base ... sold in Pinole)
The Frog Pond Paleteria – South San Francisco
Foster’s Freeze – various locations
Joe's - SF
McDonalds soft serve – various locations
Rainbow Italian Ice – Just know of Berkeley Bowl
Ici – Berkeley
* The Latest Scoop – SF (liquor store on the corner of Union & Fillmore), Albany (Eunice Gourmet), Berkeley/Oakland (Café Pippo off Telegraph on First)
** Fiorello's Gelato - Like The Latest Scoop, this is mostly sold at restaurants. The Caramel Balsamic is supposed to be the flavor to try. I just tried the fig which was very good. Actually saw the office in San Rafael in the Loop Area. Possible other locations
Sonoma: The Cheesemaker's Daughter, The Cheese Shop
St. Helena - Dean & Deluca
Center Street Deli - Healdsburg
Cafe Z - Greenbrae ... is this place still open?
Piatti Locali Danville
Spalti Ristorante Palo Alto
Nibblers Pleasant Hill
Sheer Bliss pomegranite ice cream – Various markets. Raley’s for me.
re: Ruth Lafler
I had Loards a few years ago in Vacaville … It’s along the Marianne's / Mitchell’s type of ice cream. I’d place them just below Double Rainbow. IIRC, there was a recent mention that the original shop is the best place to go.
That reminded me to report about the disappointing Rainbow Lemon Ice … Right after McDonald’s before Ici … they are almost sister products … overpriced with no flavor … the texture is better for Rainbow.
At one time I was crazy about Marco Polo … when it was served at Slanted Door. However, a recent visit to the shop left me feeling … eh.
Gee Cici (pronounced Chee Chee) … another to add to the ‘to try/ list.
I was hanging out in that area last month, but I didn’t remember that post and nothing caught my eye.
To try …
- Swenson’s original shop in SF)
- Tucker's Alameda
- Fentons ... Oakland ... post fire
- House-made lemon ice at Gialina Pizza
- Jimmy's Italian Ice at the Wednesday Santa Rosa Farmer’s market … ok … it’s from Elizabeth, NJ … but the lemon ice options are limited in this area.
- Real Ice Cream Santa Clara
- Rick's in Palo Alto
- The Persian ice cream made in San Jose and sold at Jasmine Market in San Rafael
- Fleur De Cocoa, Los Gatos (warm weather only
Maybe I eat too much ice cream. But there is that Sardine taste-off to balance things out ... and I'm in the middle of an oatmeal taste-off ... I'm hoping some of this cancels the ice cream
re: Melanie Wong
Thanks, that's right ... I forgot about that one. I'd say, Yoogo since that spelling came from Patricia Unterman's book. When I have my Japanese Salsbury steak teriyaki at Curly's, I'll have to remember to stop by Curly's for dessert. I didn't include that North Beach pastry shop across from Naia in my list because I'm really not convinced they make their own gelaoto ... there was a language barrier going on.
Yoogo goes on the to try list ... and I open another can of sardines.
re: Melanie Wong
I believe it did. There was also The Scooping Station on Grand that if I remember correctly sold Botts ice cream, and there was also The Ice House in Montclair that made its own -- my Dad still misses their Strawberry Crush. When I was a teenager there were lots of place to go hang out and eat ice cream -- both The Scooping Station and The Ice Creamery were open late, so my friends and I would go there "after" something.
My favorite has to be Sketch - I think it was the toasted Almond that made me fall in love. Ici can have some fun flavors too and I've never had a bad experience with the ice cream at Chez Panisse (no big surprise there...!)
Oops, hhc beat me to it! Thanks for posting PB's location, which is between Branciforte and Morrissey.
Any of you other Hounds remember McCallum's?? Now I've got Pumpkin Fudge on the brain!!
Bi-Rite Creamery-cookies and cream
Ciao Bella-green tea with white chocolate
rworange's list is great but it's from 2007 so doesn't include Humphry Slocombe which seems to get a fair bit of love on this here board. And I read Sketch in Berkeley closed to many people's dismay...
I'd also like to mention a place I really liked in Fruitvale (in the "market" just up from the BART station; I couldn't find a Places link) serving Mexican style helados: Nieves Cinco de Mayo. We've only been once in late 2008 but if it is still there and Luis is still el jefe, it is worth a look. We sampled yerbabuena, elote, aguacate, coco and chongos (!). All of these flavours were very true to life, rich and not overly sweet with all natural flavourings and ingredients. He learned how to make helados as a boy of 12 in a stand five blocks from the main market in Guadalajara. I finally settled on the crema de limon because I am a sucker for lemon desserts (light and tangy with wee chunks of zest), while the SO’s went for from-the-field-fresh tasting fresa cone ($1.50 each, great value for the quality and quantity).
Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
2790 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110
WILLOW GLEN CREAMERY IN CAMPBELL…
I dont even eat ice cream…but I eat theirs! Great options, Great Yogurt, Great Gelato and they keep a crowd….
Butterscotch is awesome!