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uphill alert: Ici

I've had some wonderful stuff there recently. Their ice cream is still colder than I would like, but it isn't icy anymore, and the flavors aren't as muted.

The coffee-toffee was outstanding last week. A nice round old-fashioned coffee-ice-cream flavor, as opposed to espresso flavor, with a goodly bunch of crunchy bits. Terrific with their hot fudge (which is really hot chocolate sauce but I won't bother about that right now). The peanut butter ice cream was also delicious.

Then today, they had "catalan." It was a blend of lemon, cinnamon, and anise flavors. Crazy good. The pine-nut praline had too few nuts, but as they say, those that were there were choice.

And the chocolate ice cream was their best flavor when they first opened, and it's even better now. This is not gelato: with this flavor above all, you get that faint slick of butterfat sticking to your tongue between bites. It's perfectly creamy and tastes of quality chocolate, not cocoa, very smooth and almost mousse-y.

They always have interesting sorbet flavors, and have been doing a lot of fun-sounding citrus combinations, but I just plain haven't been in the mood. So go there yourself and let us know what else we should be eating there.

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  1. Sounds great, thanks for the report. I love posts that begin with the words "uphill alert" :-)

    2 Replies
      1. re: chemchef

        It means there's an improvement, as opposed to "downhill alert."

    1. I had bergamot, banana and burnt caramel recently. The icy factor I'd read about was not present. The bergamot was very good and it was extra good to have a strange flavor of ice cream that was wholly satisfying. The banana had too light a flavor, but I was spoiled by Bi-Rite's roasted banana the week before. I still liked it. The burnt caramel I should have tasted before investing in, it tasted like the black part of a super burnt campfire marshmallow. I've never thrown away ice cream before.

      1. I definitely that it's gone far uphill: most of my major complaints about it at the beginning (muted flavor, way too small portions for the price, and flimsy cones) are gone, I had some excellent cinnamon ice cream there today, and the cone was great. I just wish the service wasn't still so slow and surly, they really need to be much more efficient there, and more friendly too!

        3 Replies
        1. re: JasmineG

          I went there for the first time a few weeks ago, but they were out of the cones (to my disappointment!) I had the meyer lemon sherbet and the catalan ice cream, which if I remember correctly was lemon ice cream w/ anise. The sherbet was tangy and really lemony, but was indeed quite "ici". I wished the ice cream had a more pronounced flavor though: it was more creamy than lemony, maybe a bit too creamy for my taste since I could feel all the butterfat on the tip of my tongue. I could indeed taste a hint of anise though.

          Overall, it was nice as a first-time experience, but I think I prefer Sketch on 4th Street. I'm still trying to find my favorite in the area though.

          1. re: JasmineG

            So they're becoming more generous with the portions? That was my prior complaint.

            1. re: Agent 510

              Yes, at least from my experience today (and I was really irritated with the tiny portions before). I don't know if it's because I got a cone or what, but the child's size gave me a good sized scoop. Just be prepared to wait a loong time if there's any sort of line.

          2. We finally got there today. We tasted the burnt caramel (too burnt for my tastes) and Irish stout (intriguing, but not quite my thing). DH got candied Meyer lemon ice cream (very good) and blueberry-pluot sorbet (fantastic). I got white coffee ice cream (very good) and rose pistachio (excellent). There were plenty of nuts in latter, btw.

            We'll gladly go back next time we have the chance. I love that they use compostable cups and spoons too, and washable (metal) spoons for tasting.

            1. The honey lavender, which they've had every time i've been there, is very very good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: gemster

                I was just there this weekend. Honey lavender apparently wasn't on the current list. But I did have this cardamon-orange peel that was fantastic. I also tried the burnt caramel. I actually didn't think it was "burnt" tasting as much as coffee-like. I felt the burnt caramel was a bit muted, but still good. The cardamon was my favorite. Other flavors right now include strawberry-rhubard.

              2. I'm really liking the citrusy flavors Ici is featuring lately. A couple of weekends ago I loved the cardomom and orange, and this past weekend they had lemon-amareno cherry that was really refreshing. It would have been a sorbet if it wasn't so creamy. In the photos below, the first one is the cardomom/orange scoop next to the burnt caramel. (I agree with everyone that the burnt caramel is really subtle in flavor.) The other photo is the lemon-amareno cherry with a scoop of rose-pistachio. The rose-pistachio was nice too. Sweet and big chunks of fresh pistachio (I could see specks of green from the pistachio skin.)

                I like how there's always an interesting flavor to check out every week, sometimes every day. That's if you end up going for ice cream every day!

                For those who are interested, I also did a photo essay of my recent visit to Ici showing the decor: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

                1 Reply
                1. re: singleguychef

                  I haven't been a fan of Ici for the very reason mentioned by the OP - too icey - but I second the that cardamom-orange peel - it is really delicious.

                2. Last week I had strawberry ice cream - it was the stuff of dreams! And lemon sherbet - it was great and very refreshing. I can't wait to go back there - I will have to try the chocolate!

                  1. I'd have to agree with the "Ici is going uphill" consensus. I tried their cookies & cream flavor today and really liked it. It's similar to their cookie sandwiches, and beats the pants off any other cookies & cream I've had anywhere. (I like that flavor and have had it at more than a few places!)

                    They also had chicory & chocolate chip, which was very very good as well. If you like your ice cream chunky like I do, they don't disappoint. Neither does the now-reasonable size of the 2 scoops for $3.75. Uphill alert indeed!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Agent 510

                      They have cookies and cream now?...Hmmm, do I have time to get there before it closes?

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        Well, that makes me wonder...does anyone who hits this place up more often than I do, have any idea how much they switch out their flavors?

                        Like how many new flavors are they likely to have tomorrow (compared to the 10 they had today?) How about a week from now?

                        1. re: Agent 510

                          Which ones did you see yesterday? Because I didn't make it there yesterday, but am planning on a stop this afternoon, so I can check out at least the day to day flavors.

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            Can't remember, besides the two I mentioned and "white coffee"

                            1. re: JasmineG

                              Hi JasmineG, I hope you got to try the cookies and cream today. I was in there earlier and they had it on the menu. Since I was still full from lunch, I opted for the Santa Rosa plum sorbet and the orange creamsicle sherbet. The orange creamsicle sherbet had a nice citrusy flavor and smooth texture. Other flavors they had include earl grey, apricot, lemon pistachio, white coffee, gingersnap, and buttermilk.

                              I still prefer Sketch to Ici but Ici has certainly improved a lot since they first opened. The Meyer lemon sherbet I had last week was awesome too. Oh, and apparently David Lebovitz will be in the store on Sunday from 5-7PM for a booksigning of his new book "The Perfect Scoop." I'll definitely be there, but just imagine the crowd! You get a free scoop of ice cream with a book purchase as well.

                              1. re: dreamsicle

                                Very sadly, I did not get to try the cookies and cream -- I was in line when they ran out, breaking my heart in two. However, I persevered and tried the candied cocoa nib, which was excellent. I'll have to make it later on this week to keep trying with the cookies and cream, and this time I'll go earlier!

                                However, I was very very impressed with Ici last night -- my last real complaint about it was that the service was incredibly inefficient, unfriendly and sometimes even rude every time I had previously gone there, and they have REALLY solved that problem. Last night, the service was incredibly efficient (there were four people working up front, and they were going down the line to give tastes and answer questions), and really friendly. I'm so glad that Ici has improved so much, and I'll definitely be back sooner rather than later.

                                And damn it, I ordered "The Perfect Scoop" online two days ago!

                            2. re: Agent 510

                              I seem to drift into Ici about once a week and it seems that at least half the flavors are different, possibly changing even more frequently. I had the most delectable, chewy, meaty slightly sweet spumoni there a couple of weeks ago after a swim. I felt like I was having a treat and getting some food value too. Last Sunday they had malted banana (bland), amarena cherry, cardamon and chocolate chip (strong cardamon flavor blended well w chocolate). My impression is that they have some basic flavors most of the time.

                              1. re: Agent 510

                                The last time I was there, they told me that they change flavors once a week. But some flavors are standards that they have almost always.

                                1. re: chemchef

                                  Hmmm...I wonder who told you that. I go there a LOT, and the flavors change much more regularly than that. Often they are different every day of the week. They always have chocolate and vanilla, but other than that it's anyone's guess.

                          2. What is the current seating situation at Ici? I know they were having difficulty finding permits initially.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              There's a newish bench outside against the shop (there might be one on each side, I'm not positive), but I don't think there are any seats inside.

                              1. re: JasmineG

                                There is one inside along the south wall.

                            2. Ok, you guys talked me into it and I gave them one more try. I'm on board with you all ... great ... uphill ... very uphill.

                              The Santa Rosa Plum sorbet was amazing the pure flavor of the best plums.

                              Even better is that wonderful cardomom candied orange peel ... and how good was that combo on a cone that has a hit of chocolate at the bottom.

                              Had a taste of the apricot which wasn't intense enough.

                              As others have mentioned ... prices are in-line with quantity and quality, the delicious cone no longer falls apart, flavors and texture are wonderful. Service is better ... sitll on the cool side, but at least they acknowledge you exist.

                              The litle cookies for 50 cents are a deal. Wonderful cardemon-something. The real star though was the moist, favorful, rich, wonderful coconut macaroon ... probably the best I've ever eaten ... ever.

                              I wanted to clean up some outstanding posts. It is always lovely to post an uphill report and end that way.

                              Ici Ice Cream
                              2948 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rworange

                                Welcome aboard the Ici train rworange! So funny, I was reading an old post about the Elmwood area and saw your initial postings about how you didn't like Ici and I was wondering if you'd tried it recently. I'm glad they're still making the cardamon-orange peel because that's one of my favorites.

                              2. They have the Irish Stout flavor today. I found it to be, well, challenging, but ultimately rewarding. I initially didn't care for this dark brown ice cream. It has a bitter finish.

                                Not wanting it to go to waste, I kept eating and grew to appreciate its strong chocolate undertones. Much more enjoyable than the unremarkable cardamon with candied orange peel.

                                Not sure I would go back for the Irish Stout, but would order again if on the menu. You Irish Stout drinkers might want to give it a try though.

                                1. I had an amazing candied pinenut ice cream here the other night as well as a chocolate-chocolate covered walnut. Both were delicious.

                                  I've tasted the Irish Stout and found it to be interesting, though I'm not a beer drinker AT ALL. I wouldn't order it, but it was definitely tasty for a beer-flavored ice cream. Stout drinkers would probably like it.

                                  1. went back recently and enjoyed it more than my initial visits but will try it again when the summer fruit is in and they are featuring more fruit flavors.

                                    I decided to splurge and have a banana split. It consisted of a scoop of chocolate (their best, most consistent flavor IMO) and I asked for brown sugar ice cream instead of vanilla. .. caramel sauce, hot fudge (not dense enough to be real fudge but nice nonetheless), half of a banana, split; chantilly with flecks of vanilla bean in it, pralineed almonds and a split amarena cherry. It was good. Yards better than the sad sundae I had at BiRite recently.

                                    Where Ici was previously a firm thumbs down for me. . I am now in the almost thumbs up category but still not 100% sold.