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Anyone been to ICI ice cream shop lately?

  • f

The buzz among many locals in the neighborhood is that it is not going to last.

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  1. i was there last week. i went when they first opened and was not impressed at all. BUT, this last time it was wonderful. it seems like it has come together a lot more. i had 3 scoops -cardamom-orange peel -- malted banana -- lime & mint. each were divine and perfectly textured and flavored.
    i'm a crazy fan of sketch, so this isn't my first choice, but sketch was closed due to a milk delivery issue, s i hopped over to ici - and i'm glad i did.

    1 Reply
    1. re: caramela

      Wow! I have never seen anything like this...I did a google search for Ici and this popped up. I was calling to order a bombe for my Son's birthday. Why? Because he loves the place...regularly dragging me in for "purple grape" and vanilla. He, and my other two could care less where or if they sit.

      I love Ici becuase the Ice cream is organic and made with care not air. I would rather pay for real ingrediants and flavors than shelling out $4.50 for pumpkin latte. After asking I was politely informed about the ingrediants and prices.

      I have a choice about what my children eat, and what ingrediants are used...Ici wins in our house.

    2. ici ice cream is being served at pizzaiolo and this is my only experience with it (as i work there) so far. i am dying to go over there for some of my own. i think it is far superior to any ice cream i have had as of late. super creamy, soft and meltingly good texture, wonderful flavors (that i know of). i hope it stays in business, mary is a great pastry chef

      2 Replies
      1. re: Doodleboomer

        That's good news. Serving Ciao Bella for dessert was beneath a restaurant as great as Pizzaiolo.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          So you don't even like their pistachio gelato? Sheesh. They also had a special flavor that I loved - made with creme fraiche and something.

      2. The Elmwood doesn't seem like the ideal location for a high-end niche business like that. The shops and restaurants aren't as upscale as Fourth Street or even Rockridge, and they don't get as much foot traffic.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I agree with that. Elmwood is very much a family neighborhood. And even people who can afford to live in that neighborhood who have kids don't go there because it's too damn expensive.

        2. I was there last week. I think that the price point is a little too high for the neighborhood, and that the ice cream isn't consistently good enough for the price point. I had the pumpkin pecan, and it was overwhelmingly pecans with very little of the pumpkin coming through. The cones, while tasty, are a disaster if you give them to kids (very easily breakable when with ice cream inside, which isn't ideal for a cone), and an ice cream shop in Elmwood is going to have lots of kids come through. There have been a number of complaints on this board about icy bits, especially in the fruit flavors. However, the rum raisin that I had was superb, and that one was well worth the price.

          1. I really want to like Ici. By all means, I should be a regular: I'm an ice cream fanatic, I live in Berkeley, I'm really devoted to quality ingredients and slow food techniques, and I wont hesitate to pay top dollar for a superior product. But time and time again Ici continues to disappoint me. I doubt they're reading this or care, but here is my "wish list" of things they need to do to improve:

            1) They need to get benches, tables, a standing table, something that allows you to eat the ice cream comfortably. I know this is probably a permiting issue, but it sucks. They're going to really suffer come the rainy season if they don't get this figured out, and soon. Because once it starts raining there will be no place for people to eat the ice cream, and it's not like you can get it to go.

            2) They need to work on the flavors. Every flavor I've tried has the same dull, cloying finish. The early flavors are distinct, but the aftertastes are identical. Perhaps they need to steep the ingredients for longer, I dunno. But I have yet to try a flavor that has impressed me.

            3) They need to rethink the cups and spoons with consideration of human psychology. I think a big reason so many people complain about portion size is that the cup and spoon literally dwarf the ice cream. The spoons are way too big to use on such delicate ice cream. I know, they're corn starch based spoons and Ici wants to be environmentally friendly, but you shouldn't foresake your product just so you can be green. The cups should come in multiple sizes so that the scoop of ice cream peeks out of the top of the cup. The same size scoop will look and feel larger in a smaller cup. The spoons need to be much smaller, as it is you can fit an entire scoop in one spoon.

            4) They should stop charging for cones, or at least minimize the surcharge to their cost. I know, the cones are handmade and expensive, but it puts people off. You expect to get a cone for free, again we're talking about human psychology. It's like charging for bread at a restaurant; even if it's the best bread on earth, people will resent you for it.

            5) Personally, I feel like their stuff is too sweet across the board. And I've tried most of it: the ice cream (I've tried about 15 flavors, though not the rum raisin), all the cookies, all the candy. It's frustrating, because the textures are excellent, but the flavors are cloying and one dimensional. They need to add a touch of salt to the cookies and candy, a bitter edge to the chocolate and coffee flavors, a hint of acidity to the fruit flavors. I know that many people prefer dull, sweet desserts but those people are just going to go to Fenton's anyway. If you want to appeal to a discriminating dessert clientelle you need to make the flavors more complex.

            I really want Ici to succeed. But based on my observations from five visits, I think they need to make some serious changes or suffer the consequences. I know, I know, I'm a pompous ass, and who do I think I am telling professionals how to run a kitchen? I've never worked seventy hours a week trying to please a finicky public. I've never battled with the People's Republic of Berkeley. But I know ice cream, and I know dessert, and right now I don't have a lot of faith in Ici's product. Thanks to their major publicity efforts, lots of potential customers were soured on their product within the first month, before they had an opportunity to really develop and tweak things. It's so true that slow growth is the way to succeed in the food world.

            Anyway, that's just my two cents. My heart still belongs to Sketch.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              I haven't been since my last post, but I did an extensive ice cream crawl recently and with each stop I resented Ici more and more.

              All issues of consistancy aside, they need go give bigger scoops. What are they thinking? You know, I'd even be willing to pay more for a larger scoop, but that little golf ball sized scoop makes me feel ripped off.

              Yes, the rent in that location is probably more than Fairfax or Healdsburg but when I'd get a little cookie gratis in some dish with twice the ice cream as Ici, it just ticked me off.

              Yeah it's a riff on the old joke about someone complaining the food is bad and the portions are too small.

              They also need to get someone with customer service skills up front. It is not that they are rude, they are quite pleasant when you talk to them, but the initial reception is colder than the ice cream. It is like you are invisible.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                I was excited when I heard this place was opening. I'm a pastry chef myself & my daughter goes to school down the street. So the thought of picking her up & walking down to Ici for some good ice cream was just too much. But what a letdown.

                Most of the parents I know from her class who live in the neighborhood refuse to go there. They really should have done some research on the neighborhood before opening a place like that.

                1. re: sugarbuzz

                  sugarbuzz, I'm not sure why you were letdown? what was the issue? And why do the neighbors refuse to go there? Sorry if I'm missing something obvious.

                  I had the ice cream sandwich last week, maple ice cream between two gingersnaps. The cookies were not crunchy, but not soggy either, a perfect texture for my tastes. The ice cream was great. A bit pricy, but I enjoyed the treat. And my 21-month old son had no problem with the cone. or the ice cream. Just wish I had my camera!

                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                  hee hee -- I'm glad to find this post because I tried Ici last Friday for the first time and while eating thought, "I wonder what Morton the Mousse thinks of this place". :)

                  I had the gingersnap -- not gingery enough and the pumpkin, which I did enjoy. The cone was tasty, but too fragile as many here have noted.

                  I also didn't really like the fact that I was asked "cup or cone" w/out any mention that there was a surcharge for the cone. I didn't notice the notation on the menu board until after she rang me up. The cones are rolled too small for the first scoop to fit snugly into the cone, making me nervous that vigorous licking would topple both scoops to the ground.

                  It is nice to have ice cream back in Elmwood (with thoughts of the long gone Bott's), though I'll hit the pharmacy soda fountain next time I'm craving ice cream in the area.

                  1. re: foodnut

                    I used to love the peach ice cream at Bott's. I haven't thought of it in years.

                3. I was there two Saturdays ago and it was packed.

                  1. I was letdown because I thought the ice cream wasn't all that great for the price I was paying. Like it was mentioned above..no seating,icy texture & sometimes too sweet.
                    So my joy of walking with my kid to go get some quality ice cream after school was squashed.
                    The neighbors I'm talking about are the parents I know. They thinks it's too expensive. Try going out for ice cream with 2 or 3 or even 4 kids in tow. $$$

                    1. I tried Ici's vanilla with dessert at Pizzaiolo last night, and it was excellent--light texture, creamy, great flavor.

                      1. re: the prices and feeling ripped off: I'm wondering how much the pasty chef's experience at Chez Panisse charging $9 for a bowl of apricots or three scoops of sorbet or a slice of a tart with whipped cream affected her justification for the prices. Because it's organic! and handmade! with love! I'm thinking that maybe what you can charge at an established restaurant doesn't necessarily translate to the neighborhood walk-in shop, even if it is the same hands mixing the same ingredients. But then again, maybe they're just trying to make a living wage?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: babette feasts

                          It is not so much the price. If Chez Panisse quality was being delivered then no big deal. The size of the scoops is just wrong. Cafe Fanny charges $4.50 for what amounts to maybe 1/2 cup of ice cream. Yet currently the quality is so wonderful, it doesn't matter. If they sold half portions at $2.25 that little smidge of ice cream would annoy me. A year ago Cafe Fanny had a different person making the ice cream and it was horrid. They could have given me a half gallon for $4.50 and I would have felt ripped off.

                          So for me Ici needs to have a more consistant product and serve a decent sized scoop and then whatever the price it wouldn't bother me.

                        2. I've been twice now and have to say that it is the most joyless ice cream parlour I've even been in. Everything is really gorgeous and precious, but there's no happiness about it. The girl working the counter sort of stares dead-eye at you and never cracks a smile, no matter how sweet and pleasant you are to her. The ice cream was nice, but I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me about it until Morton mentioned that same cloying aftertaste on every flavor. That's exactly it.

                          I've had the rose, the chocolate and the gingersnap. All were interesting and subtle in the flavoring, but nothing *amazing* that would justify the price.

                          1. Finally got around to trying it last night. I tried pink peppercorn, which was interesting but one taste was enough. Got a dish with malted banana, caramel, and coconut sorbet, all had excellent flavor and texture. Didn't detect any malt, maybe it just accentuated the banana flavor. Tasted the hot fudge and hot caramel sauces, excellent, just like homemade.

                            I agree that the biodegradable spoons are way too big. I just kept my metal tasting spoon, which is more the right size.

                            Servers were friendly, place seemed to be doing a good business.

                            1. I have tried it three times. I went in and found two families with kids sitting on the floor by the window!!! Yesterday I ordered the more "classic" flavors after trying some of the more pretentious ones. Vanilla and caramel. Yet again I was dissapointed as was mtm. A bit too airy, a bit too sweet, a bit too cloying, small and expensive and just not satisfying! I suspect that they are not using the heavier (I mean it in a good way!) ingredients that other premium ice creams use. Recentlly in Seattle I went to a place called Mora owned by an Argentinian couple that had what has been the best icecream I'e tasted in years. Better than gelato in Italy (a couple months ago), Berthillon in Paris or Vermont. Very similar idea but they had tables, better ice cream (kept covered)and same price.

                              I too hope they succeed by changing the formula. ASAP!

                              1. After months of letting the post sit, I feel the need to revive it.

                                I finally tried Ici today and found it to be wonderful. I'm not sure if its the fact that they've had time to refine and finesse their style since last year or what, but I'm definitely in disagreement with most of the posts on this thread.

                                Yes, it is a little pricey, but still in the ballpark of Sketch, Naia, etc. I got a small cone (2 scoops) and did not feel ripped off paying $4.25.

                                I got a scoop each of earl grey and white coffee. Maybe its because each of those flavors has enough bitterness that they counterbalanced the "cloying" sweetness that everyone was talking about, but I did not find them too sweet (and I am pretty sensitive to overly sweet things!).

                                I found the flavors delicate and pleasant, which is what I would expect from a fine ice cream. When I want bold flavors, I go for gelato. But the butterfat content in ice cream dulls the flavor somewhat, so what you get is a smooth, creamy delicate flavor. I found the texture to be phenomenal. Last summer, I was on and ice cream and gelato-makeing frenzy, so I know how difficult it is to achieve such a smooth consistency. They nailed it! I didn't try any fruit flavors, so I don't know about the ice crystals in them, but I tend to like a variation in texture sometimes (which is why I usually order vanilla with coffee granita when I go to Sketch), so I imagine I would like that, but its probably just me.

                                So, my only complaint (and its not really a complaint) is that I've gotten so accustomed to gelato, that my two scoop cone really filled me up which I'm not used to... I can usually eat my weight (not literally!) in gelato, but this ice cream is quality and rich, so two scoops was plenty (even though I really wanted to try more flavors).

                                I'll definitely return!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chemchef

                                  I was in the neighborhood last Sunday and there was a line out the door. It was hot out, but, also, the place is small and they had only one person taking orders, scooping and ringing people up. We hadn't been back in months, so my daughter and I waited in the excruciatingly long line. She got the caramel ice cream and I got a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of chocolate. It was much better than I remembered: the pistachio had, perhaps, candied pistachio pieces in it which were really lovely and provided little crunches of extra sweetness to the subtly sweet pistachio flavor (not overly sweet at all) and the chocolate was smooth and had an honest chocolate flavor. The cones are so good. Very light and effective at containing the ice cream without collapsing, but almost melted on the tongue with each bite.

                                  I'd go back again when in the neighborhood, but, as I've said before, it is too spendy for regular visits. And I wouldn't wait in that long line again. That was grueling with an eager-for-ice-cream six-year-old (who, by the way, would not let me try her caramel ice cream!).