Ice Cream and Gelato Salvos over the Plaza (Healdsburg)
- Melanie Wong
The food purveyors ringing the plaza in downtown Healdsburg have been cooling down with take-away ice cream this summer. Just a stone's throw from each other, Dry Creek Kitchen, Bovolo, and Downtown Bakery & Creamery are churning out housemade artisanal frozen treats. Then Center Street Deli weighed in for the battle importing Fiorello's gelato from San Rafael to scoop side-by-side with its fountain ice creams.
On the westside, Dry Creek's wares are sold at Cafe Newstand. The serving size here is the most generous for the money. The apricot ice cream captured the jamminess of that fruit so well, yet it tasted flat and needed a touch of acid to bring it to life. The fromage blanc ice cream was interesting, reminding me of the tiny bits that brush off of frozen cream cheese. However, while the server managed to avoid the gummy layer in the sample I tasted, he scooped the stale, scummy part into my cup.
To the south, Bovolo opened not long ago with Ciao Bella's products but is now producing its own gelati and sorbetti. The freezer is stocked with ice cream sandwiches as well, and Sundays are sundae days. The texture of the gelato is a bit denser than La Copa Loca but still lighter than the Naia or Ciao Bella, for example. A taste of the burnt sugar flavor was so subtle that it left a near blank on my tastebuds. However, the vin santo flavor was gorgeous showing off the delicate and complex personality of the sweet rancio wine. I paired it with a fluffy and icy peach sorbet which was suprisingly subdued and light on sugar. A bit more sugar might have popped out more fruitiness. Yet, I appreciated the light hand with the sweetness. These are served in small scoops, the lightest serving size on the plaza. (The picture below is the canvas hanging on the back wall of Bovolo's seating area.)
Turning east, Center Street Deli has eight flavors of Fiorello in the case and the staff aren't shy about asking passers-by to have a taste. The flavor selection leans more toward American classics such as mint chip and peanut butter. Pressed into three sizes of cups and served with a wafer stick, this is a dense and heavy style. The gelati has that near-melted look on the surface and elastic texture I like so much. The dark chocolate has a nicely rounded flavor, mostly of cocoa, but not much depth. The white chocolate and raspberry swirl was lovely with tart/sweet preserves in a not-too-sweet white chocolate base. A full lineup of cones, shakes, smoothies, and sodas are also available from another ice cream producer.
Two doors north, Downtown Bakery & Creamery defends its reign with the perfectly ripened seasonal fruit flavors it does so well. Both the blackberry and the peach ice creams have a refreshing and profoundly fruity quality that blends the best of ice cream and sorbet in texture and flavor expression.
Two more doors north, Johnny Java's dips oversized double scoop cones of many fluorescent colors. When asked, the staffers said the brand was "Foster's". I don't know if that's Foster Farms, Foster Freeze . . . ?
On the north rim of the plaza, I couldn't find any other dipping stations. But just around the corner, Sweet Memory Chocolate on Center Street has an ice cream sign up. Inside, there's no ice cream in sight, just a list of a handful of flavors. I asked the brand, and the woman behind the counter said, "oh, just regular ice cream from the supermarket".
I think I've tracked down the sources of the cups and cones grateful customers are enjoying on the shady benches in the plaza. If there are others, please let us know.
I want to sing praises to Bovolo's ice-cream sandwiches, mentioned above. I've seen several options, inc oatmeal cookie with ginger ice cream, peanut butter cookie with peanut butter ice cream, and chocolate cookie with mint ice cream.
Once I had one with incorrect proportions (too little ice cream for the cookie) but other times they were right on. My favorite: chocolate cookie/mint ice cream blend. Sublime!
re: DC in DC
After the farmers market this morning, I stopped by Bovolo again to try some more flavors. I was a little disappointed that there were no liqueur/wine ones today, I had my heart set on the amaretto. Anyway, the ginger was subtle but nice, the Flying Goat espresso was good too, and I ended up with a small (two little scoops) of Scharffenberger chocolate and the fresh mint. The mint was so fresh, you could almost catch a scent of it, very icy and crystalline though. The chocolate had a smoother texture, presumably from all the cocoa fat, and the depth of flavor with red fruity accents that defines Scharffenberger.
This time I paid attention to the little sign posted describing gelato. It said that this gelato is made with only Clover-Stornetta milk, sugar, and the flavorings (fresh fruit, chocolate, etc.). Nothing more, and no cream is used. Butterfat is only 5%.
I saw my friend Steve Ryan, vineyard manager and barbecuer par excellance, manning the David Coffaro stand next to Bovolo. He said that Coffaro started to pick two days ago, and showed me the two bins fermenting at the winery via web cam hook-up!
re: DC in DC
You talked me into it. I went back on Sunday for an early supper and to try an ice cream sandwich. The available choices were exactly what you've listed. I'd not tried the peanut butter gelato yet, so that's the one I picked. Besides the squiggles on the top, the bottom cookie was lined with chocolate too. The peanut butter flavor is quite gentle and again, these are not very sweet. Sugar is used sparingly. This was quite a treat!