REVIEW w/ pics: Indian Ice Cream & Shaved Ice Tasting at Saffron Spot
On a warm July afternoon, I had set up a unique tasting at Saffron Spot, an Indian ice cream shop in Artesia. For those of you who don't know anything about Saffron Spot, first, here's some background.
In April 2001, Mumbai native Smita Salgaonkar started Neemo’s Exotic Ice Creams in her adopted home, northern Orange County, naming her operation for an amalgam of her daughters' names. With the success of Neemo's behind her, she also opened Saffron Spot, in Little India. She named her shop Saffron Spot in honor of the valuable spice that seasons several of her flavors.
Some of the flavors you'll see at Saffron Spot are unlike anything you'll ever see at your local Baskins Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery. Sure, you'll see ice creams like mango and lychee, but chikoo and kulfi are words that may not be in your vocabulary. Chikoo or Sapodilla, by the way, is a fruit similar to a well-ripened pear and Kulfi is made with boiled milk and amazingly enough, no eggs. Kulfi can be flavored with pistachio, cardammon, saffron and other ingredient ingredients.
Other items on the Saffron Spot menu include golas (Indian version of shaved ice), falooda ice cream drinks (flavored milk mixed with rice or wheat noodles, basil seeds and topped with ice cream) as well falooda "sundaes" (ice cream topped with the noodles, basil seeds and syrup) and so much more.
The event started with Owner, Smita Salgaonkar, talking about some of the things I mentioned above. She also talked about how with the heat in India reaching record temperatures, everything we sampled as a part of our tasting would be considered street food because at every corner, you'll see carts selling a variety of these frozen treats to help cool down the populace. Another cultural aspect of the ice cream she mentioned is that it's a very popular dessert at Indian weddings.
For our tasting, we sampled:
- 4 different types of Indian ice cream - Saffron Silk, Kulfi, Mango and Banana Cardamon
**All the ice creams had a rich, creamy consistency. I found the Banana Cardamon a little too sweet for my taste, but I really enjoyed the fruitiness of the Mango.
- Rose Falooda Ice Cream Drink - rose milk with noodles and takmaria (basil seeds) topped with rose ice cream
**This ice cream drink reminded of me Halo Halo (a Filipino shaved ice dessert), without the ice. In Halo-Halo, you have things like sweetened fruits and beans and when the condensed milk is poured into it, you're both drinking and eating your dessert. That's what I did with this Falooda drink, at times sipping and other times slurping the noodles and chewing on the basil seeds.
I think there were a couple of people who were put off by the work into consuming this ice cream drink, but I personally enjoyed it. It was a very refreshing drink, more so than the ice cream on its own.
- Malai Gola (Shaved ice served with Malai(cream), rose syrup and nuts)
**The Gola is something you can get without the Malai cream, but we got the version with the cream. It's funny how many desserts are so similar to each other across different cultures. The Malai Gola also reminded me of Halo-Halo because of the shaved ice and cream aspect, but without any of the additional ingredients other than the nuts that topped the ice. Of everything we sampled, this was my favorite treat. It was just sweet enough without being too rich.
- 4 different types of Kulfi (a popular dessert made with boiled milk): mango, pistachio, malai cream and malai cream with peanuts
**By the time we got to the Kulfi, I was actually pretty full, which surprised me, because it wasn't if we ate large helpings of anything, but I think it did have to do with the richness of the ice creams. The Kulfi was very dense. When ordering the Kulfi, you normally would get a slice as opposed to a scoop. Of all the flavors, I'd have to go with the mango again, just like the mango ice cream earlier that I found so appealing. Even though mango kulfi was hardened, when I ate a piece and it melted in my mouth a bit, I could taste the mango juice and it was delicious.
Overall, this event really gave me even more of an appreciation of Indian ice creams and I really wish that there was a Saffron Spot closer to me, but have car, will travel. Considering all the tasty dining options in Little India, it's not that much of a hardship to go there for a meal, followed by something cold and sweet at Saffron Spot.
To see pics, go to:
18744 Pioneer Boulevard
Artesia, CA 90701
Last year I had the good fortune to take a tour of the "Little India" area, and the even better fortune to have Smita as our guide. We ended up at Saffron Spot, where she treated the group to an extensive tasting of their various products, all of which were terrific. Worth a detour!
Great review, Abby -- thanks.