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Sep 8, 2006 04:46 AM

another taste of Ici

The chocolate ice cream was very, very good. It had that chewy texture I've loved the rare times I've encountered it, in an ice cream just loaded with excellent chocolate. This is in my top five best chocolate ice creams ever.

The raspberry ice cream sandwich was also terrific. A real tart punchy flavor to the raspberry. My kid wasn't in her best sharing mood, however, so I only got a crumb of the gingersnap the ice cream was held in.

Coconut sorbet was mild and smooth. It would be good with a bittersweet chocolate sauce for a nice Mounds bar experience.

Their cone maker is still broken.

Mary Canales was there, and her mother or mother-in-law was bringing the kids from school. Boy, are they going to grow up with interesting eating habits. The hot fudge did not look like the kind that gets all thick when it hits the cold ice cream, which is a shame.

A lot of other kids were turning up besides our preschool posse. You don't get a lot of ice cream when you get a scoop at Ici, but when you're buying for a four-year-old that's actually a good thing.

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  1. Can someone check in w/ a cone update daily? That means someone has to go get ice cream at Ici EVERY day and report back. It's a tough job, but ice cream eatin' kids everywhere will thank you.

    I took the less ice-cream obsessed of my kids to Ici, heidipie, knowing there would be some leftovers to try. Had I brought the three-year-old I would not have gotten a lick!

    1. I also had the coconut sorbet today, right when they brought it out- amazing!

      Strawberry was also great, lots of tart and sweet strawberry flavor without it being too cloyingly sweet.

      I sampled the black mission fig and honey lavendar flavors, but it was hard to decide what to get. I realized that while I liked the fig and lavendar, the flavors were too intense for me to eat a whole scoop of.

      1. Digression: I've been heating the Trader Joe's Decadent Chocolate frosting (nuking it for a few seconds) and using it for fudge topping. I always think of you, Heidi, because it gets nicely thick and chewy when it hits the ice cream.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          The mods may move this comment to Home Cooking, but... those classic chewy fudge sauces (Schrafft's in NYC, during my Late Pleistocene boyhood) usually involve corn syrup as a sweetener--not today's High Fructose variety but plain old Karo Light. There was a recipe in the 50's version of Joy of Cooking.

        2. I went back today and was pretty disappointed.

          My first taste of the coffee-cardamom was a nice spice hit, but no coffee at all to my palate. I tried the fig and found it weak--interesting, chezchristine, that you found it too intense--and settled on a scoop of the coffee-cardamom and one of the vanilla.

          Both flavors had bunches of ice crystals! Inexcusable! It boggles my mind that a place so ballyhooed, so pedigreed, could be too busy with who-knows-what-all to really check their product.

          And both flavors were weak. The vanilla was not aromatic. It wasn't terribly creamy, or eggy, though it was egg-yolk yellow with vanilla-seed flecks. Really it was just sweet and very cold, cold enough to numb my tongue to its subtlety.

          And the cold got the better of the cardamom flavor, too. It was just plain gone by the end of my scoop. I walked by the bath product store on College Avenue while eating, and the smell of lavender from the doorway just blew away all the stimulation on my taste buds.

          So what now? Do I write them off? Do I say yo, Ms. Canales, I'm a neighbor and a hound who'd like you to check the temperature of your freezer, and think about kicking up your flavors a notch? I can't tell if I just don't like the stuff or whether it's "no good." It just isn't what I think one would expect it to be, considering what it seems to represent itself as. Or do I assume they're working the kinks out?

          21 Replies
          1. re: heidipie

            I'd assume they want constructive criticism/feedback. At those prices, they should be offering a consistently high quality product. If it's not to your taste, that's one thing. If it's clearly defective (i.e., has ice crystals), then that's a quality control issue they need to address.

            I know, some of you are going to make excuses for them, working the kinks out, blah, blah, blah. But when you're paying full price, you deserve the quality you're paying for. If they haven't got the kinks worked out, they should be selling at some kind of introductory pricing.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I'll tell you right now, this ain't the type of joint that would welcome feedback ... and even if they tolerated it, they wouldn't take it.

              Now if they put the cool mother-in-law with the personality in charge, they'd have something.

              Anyone tried the candies or cookies yet ... so I can save some more money?

              Edited added comment:

              I hear what you are saying, Ruth. However there was that article on the News and Media board about how in the internet age businesses get jumped on. If anyone isn't willing to pay for a restaurant's opening glitches, they should wait two months until a place settles down.

              That being said, I really, really resented T-Rex when they charged full price to customers while they got their act together ... but no one was forcing me to go there, eh? However, in that case, it was big bucks rather than a $2.50 scoop of ice cream.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Did Mary Canales run over your dog, Ruth? (g) Seriously, they have some really tasty looking chocolate covered almonds that I'm going to get next time. If they're the real deal, you just might have to give Ici a try.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  My dog is just fine, thanks: .

                  Seriously, at least I gave them the benefit of thinking that they'd want constructive criticism. The whole point of paying a premium for a handmade product direct from the producer is that they should be responsive to the customer, especially when it comes to quality issues. If they aren't (and I'm not saying Ici isn't, just that the jury is still out), you might was well be buying from a faceless conglomerate.

                  Besides, someone has to make sure the Emperor is wearing clothes.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    In this case, the empress is pretty clearly still getting dressed.

              2. re: heidipie

                Best not to write off any eatery after a bad experience during the first week. Ice crystals are definitely not intentional so it sounds to me like they are still getting used to their brand new equipment. Give them a month, try it again, sample a bunch of flavors and if it still isn't your thing then you probably just don't like what they're doing. Bear in mind that ice cream made entirely from scratch does not have the same strong flavors of ice cream made with extract; its subtlety is its strength.

                And don't even get me started on the scent pollution caused by those ghastly bath product stores. I have to hold my breath every time I walk by the soap place on 4th St.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  "Bear in mind that ice cream made entirely from scratch does not have the same strong flavors of ice cream made with extract; its subtlety is its strength."

                  I disagree. Genuine flavor is the strength of any "handmade" ice cream that isn't "fior de latte" flavor. It can be done, and there are plenty of places around town that do it. I'm thinking really of the ice cream desserts at the nicer restaurants--Zuni and Oliveto come to mind. I even remember an incendiary fresh mint ice cream at Chez Panisse, made perhaps by Canales herself.

                  And ask Carb Lover or The Artist Formerly Known As nooodles if they can blow you away with their ice cream flavors.

                  Especially coffee flavor! All you have to do is infuse the base with coffee and make it nice and strong. That is eminently possible. Same with cardamom. No, Morton, I do assume they're going for a subtle flavor, for some reason. But I think they're missing some kind of balance, and they just might be holding their product at too low a temperature or something technical like that. You shouldn't take your first, second and third bite and say "hmmm, where's the coffee".

                  If you ever get to Boston, try Toscanini's in Cambridge for a burnt caramel ice cream that will make you fall down on the floor and laugh out loud.

                  1. re: heidipie

                    I've had plenty of great ice cream with both strong and subtle flavors, though I do look forward to trying it in Boston. I'm simply drawing a distinction between flavor extracts and natural flavors. There's a certain concentrated flavor hit that extracts deliver and that many people come to expect from desserts, particularly ice cream. Mint is the classic example; people always complain that fresh mint desserts taste "grassy."

                    It actually sounds to me like the freezer was turned up too high when you were there, which would have killed the rather subtle flavors and would explain the ice crystals. Especially if you only tried samples, the ice cream would not have had the opportunity the soften in your cup. However, the problem was solved by this evening and the four samples I tried were an ideal temperature with absolutely no ice crystals.

                    I had a bowl of the coffee cardamom and the vanilla today, my favorites among the samples. I agree that the coffee wasn't strong, and I prefer a strong coffee ice cream with a bitter edge, but it was still very good. They seem to temper their flavors with heavy cream and they aren't shy with sugar, though it's still much less sweet than most ice cream.

                    I like what they're doing. Although I would expect kinks for the first few months, I've enjoyed almost everything I've tried at Ici and I will be back.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Yeah, I gotta disagree with you on this one Morton.

                      Cafe Fanny just slaps you in the tastebuds with their ice creams and sorbets and they are not using extracts of any kind.

                      IMO, Ici is going for understatement, but it might be a tad too understated at this point. And the big thing here is that a lot of people are coming back and saying not enough flavor.

                      Have you tried any of the chocolates or cookies yet? No splurge on a bombe? I need someone to tell me about that.

                      Did they have cones today?

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        Careful shopping shouldn't excuse you from careful preparation.
                        Failure to get any flavor into coffee ice cream seems like a failure
                        regardless of whether the coffee flavoring came in bean or syrup form.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Today I had what you had, a bowl of coffee cardamom and vanilla. Did your vanilla taste like vanilla? Right down to the end both scoops tasted weirdly cold, though they were soft enough, and muted rather than subtle in flavor. I'm not experienced enough making ice cream to diagnose it, whether there's too much cream, too much water, too cold a freezer temp or what.

                          I'm going to start a thread on the General board about where to get the Great Ice Creams of this nation.

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            My vanilla tasted like vanilla, my coffee tasted like coffee. They were cold, but not weirdly so. Not really sure what else to say. Folks also complain about a lack of flavor at my favorite scoop shop, Sketch. I just don't get it, but I also think most desserts are cloying.

                            I wonder if they got a few complaints about ice crystals this afternoon, turned the temp down, and by the time got there this evening they were serving a better product.

                            Tried the meringues as well-very good. Light and crisp with a faint taste of burnt almonds.

                          2. re: heidipie

                            Thanks for the plug. ;-)

                            Any homemade ice cream, whether subtle or intense in flavor, should still taste like the flavor it claims to be. The beauty of good homemade ice cream/sorbet/gelato is that the instant it touches your tongue, you should register a direct and pure flavor.

                            Heidipie, it sounds like you first had a good experience at Ici and then a not so good one. Agree w/ Morton that their serving case was possibly too cold or maybe they just had taken a batch from the colder freezer in back and it hadn't had enough time to temper. Warming up may not get rid of ice crystals, but it does markedly improve flavor.

                            I would def. give Ici some time before making any harsh judgments. Good homemade ice cream in a commercial setting poses its own unique challenges, esp. when a place is starting out w/ new equipment, untrained staff, etc. If you don't like anything that you sample, then don't buy anything and that should be message enough. I can't wait to try Ici, Milano, and give Sketch another chance next time I'm in Berkeley.

                            BTW, is the correct name pronunciation "eechy" or "itchy" or?

                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                Oh, thanks for the correct pronunciation, heidipie. I never would have guessed that...

                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                  Besides this being a horrible name to look up on the internet, if things don't pick up in terms of consistancy, you don't want people pronoucing it 'icy' or worse 'icky'. Businesses should go to schools and hire the class clown or bully and see what they do with their name. If it can't be made fun of, it's a keeper.

                              1. re: heidipie

                                You could just say, "This is full of ice crystals. That's not intentional, is it?"

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  You're right. I was halfway down the block before I hit the ice floes. But next time, if it happens again.

                                2. re: heidipie

                                  I've gone 4 times now, and those are the same problems/inconsistencies I've encountered. Some of the flavors are a bit weak, and some of the varieties can be icy.
                                  Hmm...I'm at a loss as well.

                                3. Oooohhhh---had coconut sorbet today which was the best I have tasted since I was in Thailand 10 years ago. WOW! But now I am disappointed---after reading the other posts, I should have ordered a cone so I could have a surprise at the bottom :-( No matter, the sorbet was worth the trip!!!

                                  The chocolate chip looked good---anybody try it yet?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: running pig

                                    You might be interested in Won Thai (844 Willow Avenue Hercules, CA)

                                    I'm not sure if Ici or Won Thai has the better coconut sorbet. However, at Won Thai it was very similar in taste and texture, tasting like coconut-flavored snow. It was the best coconut ice cream I've tried to date in a Thai restaurant. No one ever matched them.

                                    1. re: running pig

                                      Have you tried the coconut gelato at Gelateria Milano, by the Berkeley BART station? Pure fresh coconut. If you like coconut sorbet, you should try that, too.

                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                        Thanks for the tip- I live in L.A. and have been up here 6 weeks on business....I have 2 weeks left and I just might have to squeeze in a trip for one more ice cream run :-)