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The New and Improved Sketch Ice Cream (spoiler alert!)

I am giddy as I write this, delirious even. Sketch has improved on perfection. You must go there now and see for yourself.

Where do I begin?

They've replaced their gelato case with state-of-the-art soft serve machines. This allows them to maintain an ideal temperature and texture. No air can get in, so there are no problems with iciness. The machines constantly monitor the temperature of the ice cream. The result is something unlike any soft serve I've had. I've always been impressed by Sketch's texture, and this just about floored me. The texture is smooth, silky, and light, with just enough substance to provide a satisfying mouth feel. It's less thick than most soft serve, partially because they don't add any stabilizers. Not much of a change in the flavor profile - I had Kabocha pumpkin, which had a pure pumpkin flavor.

The have cones. Well, cups made from waffle cones, which are much easier to eat than your standard cone. The cone just about knocked me over, the texture is so light yet had a very satisfying crunch. Clean flavor, a bit like a crepe, that enhances the ice cream without interfering. They also offer fresh made waffles from an old fashion waffle iron, which I can't wait to try.

They have toppings. Candied almonds, cocoa nibs, salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, pomegranate seeds, figs, etc. The toppings will change with the seasons. Candied almonds were the perfect match for my pumpkin ice cream. Mrs. Mousse and I were fighting over the last one.

The new machines do mean a reduction in flavor options. They had five ice creams and one sorbet, plus two granitas which are in a more traditional ice cream case. The machines are designed with the option to combine two flavors. Personally, I think the trade off of quality over quantity is well worth it. It just means you can't show up expecting your favorite flavor to be there.

There are also some basic improvements in decor: outdoor tables with umbrellas, new seating, new floor, a new case, etc. The shop is prettier and has a warmer feel, though I was really focusing on my ice cream.

Old non-ice cream favorites are still around: cookies, cakes, caramel popcorn, toffee, etc. This time of year they offer a transcendent hot apple cider.

I'm so happy. It was worth the wait. Sketch continues to serve the best ice cream in the Bay Area.

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    1. re: dhoffman1421

      Sorry, Sketch it on 4th St in Berkeley.

      Sketch Ice Cream
      1809 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

      1. re: dhoffman1421

        Found it...Berkeley! Wish it were closer to SM where I live but will make a trek in the near future.

      2. Sounds great, MM! I may make it there yet. I'm just curious, though, how the term "spoiler" applies to this topic? What is "spoiled" by reading it?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          It was a bit tongue in cheek. I know that many die hard Sketch fans have been waiting with bated breath to learn what is "new and exciting." Personally, I'd rather show up and see for myself than read about it ahead of time.

        2. What other flavors did they have when you were there?

          Dave MP

          1 Reply
          1. re: Dave MP

            Earl Gray, Strauss Yogurt, Vanilla, Cocoa Nib, Pineapple Sorbet, and a couple of granitas that I'm blanking on.

          2. Ah, you answered my question from the pumpkin thread, they do have cones now! I wish they were actually cone shaped, but you can't have everything, and I'm thrilled that they finalllllly have cones.

            1. The ice cream does have a lovely smooth texture. Even though the pumpkin flavor is very subdued and the color is more spaghetti squash yellow than jack o lantern orange, I enjoyed it. Thanks for the heads up about the re-opening.

              They have a wonderful light,moist, buttery gingerbread cake. Which gave me the chance to make up for missing out on the seasonal sundae at Bi-Rite which has pumpkin ice cream, gingerbread, spiced pecans, caramel and whipped cream.

              I didn't go that far, I just crumbled some of the Sketch gingerbread on the pumpkin ice cream which was wonderful. Given Sketch has the candied almonds and salted caramel sauce, I may be heading back there to do a Sketch version of the Bi-Rite sundae. I'm thinking a few pomegranite seeds would be nice.

              I like those new toppings ... upscale Coldstone Creamery, so to speak (g) ... I can see you having a hissy fit mentioning that name and Sketch in the same topic ... I just mean in terms of options and toppings ... toppings you actually want to eat. Those figs looked good.

              You are right. It is better. I also forgot how nice the owners are.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rworange

                Omigosh, my mouth is watering right now ... too bad it's 12:52AM. I definitely have to go there some time soon!

              2. Thanks for posting this, Morton! Sadly, I didn't make it over there yesterday :(

                Hopefully, I can swing by after work today... it sounds delightful!!

                1. This weekend was a warm one in the Bay Area so while I was in Fourth Street I checked out the "new and improved" Sketch as well. I never realized they're more of a soft serve type of ice cream. I'm actually not a big fan of that. I like my ice cream a bit more thick and rich and my gelato and frozen yogurt more soft serve like.

                  I actually didn't think the interiors looked much different. They made some design changes, but it wasn't like it looked dumpy before. They still had the collection of old style ice cream scoops that I thought was cute. But overall, it didn't grow in size or have any major change in layout. Just same format but dressed up a bit.

                  I did think it was disappointing that now they only have six flavors to choose from daily. It makes the experience less exciting, especially if it's a day when the flavors don't necessarily strike your fancy (and since one is always a sorbet, then you have really just five ice cream flavors to choose from). This weekend they had vanilla bean (which is what I got), cinnamon stick, Straus yogurt, Earl Grey tea, and another flavor I forgot. The sorbet was cranberry.

                  I do like that they offer interesting toppings. I ended up getting persimmons on top of my vanilla bean. Photo here: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

                  I think next time I might try the cone per your suggestion Morton. But IMHO, I don't consider Sketch to be the best ice cream in the Bay Area (but I guess that's already another thread).

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: singleguychef

                    I went for the first time yesterday with some other hounds after the chowdown at China Village. I agree with singleguychef....it was good, but I definitely wouldn't call it the best ice cream in the Bay Area.

                    I had a swirl of earl grey and chocolate. The chocolate was very good, but I thought the early grey was a bit too sweet. I had a taste of the cinnamon, which I liked, and the lime granita, which was refreshing. So this place is good if you are in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't make a special trip for it.

                    I also thought it was overpriced, especially when you added toppings. Friend's small cup w/ two toppings was 6+ dollars, which I think is too much for such a tiny sundae.

                    Dave MP

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      I was with the post-China Village group, and I have to agree with Dave. I had the Straus yogurt with salted caramel and candied almond toppings.

                      First, I would have liked to have been able to have a different combination of flavors (namely chocolate and yogurt or chocolate and cranberry), but you can only get the combos already in the machines. What, they can't squirt a dollop from two different machines into the same bowl? Second, one scoop with two toppings in a bowl (not a cone) was $5 -- IIRC more than I paid at Ici for three flavors. 75 cents for the almonds seems fair, but 75 cents for a little drizzle of caramel sauce, even though it was very good caramel sauce -- not such a good deal. At that price, one sauce should be free with each serving, with only the "solid" toppings extra.

                      Finally, it didn't blow me away. Not, in fact, that different from the frozen yogurt served at the "Pinkberry clone" near UC Campus. Yeah, yeah, yeah, better ingredients. But the end result is not quantitatively different.

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        Yes, I forgot about pricing. I agree it seemed like it was overpriced. I think the price point for the sizes was OK, I don't mind paying $3+ for a good small ice cream, but the serving container really made it seem small. I felt like it was a sample cup. My small with persimmon topping was $4.25. At Bi-Rite, the small cone is huge! In fact, once when I got a single cone and the guy scooped two scoops, I thought he made a mistake but he said that's their small. So better quality and value elsewhere.

                        1. re: singleguychef

                          I imagine that they will play around with topping prices over the next few months. I agree that they should consider restructuring those.

                          I thought Bi-Rite was a heavy, one-dimensional, cloying, sugar-bomb. I couldn't finish my cup.

                      2. re: singleguychef

                        Stopped by today for the first time and I agree with you.

                        I don't know what the fuss is all about?

                        First, I think I insulted them when I initially asked for their gelato flavors. I'm sorry I did not previously know it was ice cream........... but really.

                        We ordered the Strauss Yogurt but did not realize that it was not plain, not flavored yogurt. By the way Vanilla bean was on the board I mistakenly thought it was Vanilla Bean Yogurt. It was too sour for our taste even with the chocolate sauce.

                        The Vanilla Bean was a bit better since it was to satisfy a sweet tooth but the texture of both were too airy and icey. If I'm going to go for desert, I need a little more substance for my calorie splurge.

                        I was disappointed after hearing all the hype.

                        1. re: MSK

                          I wasn't disappointed. I've had a couple mediocre experiences at Sketch but figured I'd give them one last chance after the remodel.

                          $4.25 for a small cup of pumpkin with spiced walnuts. The ice cream itself was more flavorful than anything I've had from there before, a definite upgrade. Very smooth, not airy at all. With the topping, it was delicious. Serving size was a bit small but not ridiculously so, especially given the quality.

                          I'm glad I went back, and I'll be back again.

                          1. re: Agent 510

                            I've been there twice since it reopened, and I don't think I'm disappointed either. I had the Straus Yogurt (one of my favorite flavors) with roasted figs on my first visit, and while I didn't get the revelatory "wow" that I had when I first tried that flavor, I was still pleased with it. The roasted figs were succulent and had a delicate sweetness. My friend had the Earl Grey with cocoa nibs in a waffle cone. The cone was very thin and crispy, and not too eggy, making it a nice accompaniment to the ice cream.

                            On my second visit I had the Organic Coffee (made with Blue Bottle coffee) with salted caramel sauce. This combo was a bit too sweet for me, but I liked how the flavor of the salt from the caramel sauce still lingered in my mouth even after I finished the ice cream.

                            I still like Sketch for their products, and the owners are sweet in their own ways. It's not cheap ice cream, but there aren't many places that serve ice cream that tastes so "clean" and depict the simple pureness of the ingredients well.

                            1. re: dreamsicle

                              "t's not cheap ice cream, but there aren't many places that serve ice cream that tastes so "clean" and depict the simple pureness of the ingredients well."

                              You nailed it. Their product is completely unique on the Bay Area ice cream scene. Nobody else aims for their combination of texture and flavor profile. If you love what they do, there's nothing else like it. If you don't love what they do, there are plenty of more traditional options out there.

                          2. re: MSK

                            I think most negative reactions to Sketch are based on a differing set of expectations for what ice cream "should" be.

                            The texture is not thick, creamy, or toothsome. You cannot bite into it. It is smooth, light, and silky. But it is not icey. Icey refers to a high ice crystal content, and particularly with the new machines, there are no ice crystals in Sketch's product. I personally prefer Sketch's approach to texture, but I understand why some people prefer a more traditional texture. BTW - it's less of a caloric "splurge" than most ice creams due to the use of milk over cream, no eggs, and their restrained use of sugar.

                            The flavors are muted and clean. The Strauss Yogurt is one of my favorites, but it is just a plain yogurt, very mild and tangy (and not a great match for chocolate sauce). You don't get the same "pop" or flavor explosion that you would find with creameries who use artificial flavors, extracts, or concentrates. Again, I prefer Sketch's purist approach to flavor, but I understand that it doesn't meet certain people's expectation of what ice cream should taste like. BTW - they do offer free samples.

                            Basically, for some people Sketch isn't "ice cream" because it lacks the texture and flavor they associate with ice cream. For others, such as myself, it is better than any ice cream, because it improves on the texture and flavor we associate with ice cream. It's more a matter of personal preference than objective criteria.

                            I'm not sure if I would call my post hype. They certainly haven't had any publicity in the media associated with the remodel.

                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              I have to say that I also found the vanilla bean to have an "icy" character to it. Whether it was ice or not, there was a texture that took away from what should have been more smoothness on the particular day I had it. I preferred what I had on the next visit (chocolate) with the almonds. Yum.

                          3. re: singleguychef

                            "I did think it was disappointing that now they only have six flavors to choose from daily. It makes the experience less exciting, especially if it's a day when the flavors don't necessarily strike your fancy"

                            I agree with you. However, I'm willing to exchange quality for quantity. Fortunately, they've started posting the flavors of the day on their blog, so you can go on-line and check before you visit.


                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              Thanks for the info about them putting the flavors of the day on that website.

                              Having done my own impromptu combo of the pumpkin ice cream with gingerbread, I'm betting that Thanksgiving Ice cream cake will be fabulous ... made of pumpkin ice cream, gingerbread and Italian Meringue. The gingerbread adds the complementary perfect spicing to the pumpkin.

                              I'm surprised to see the comments on serving size. I had a small and it didn't strike me as stingy ... but then again I was mixing gingerbread into it. As far as the East Bay, I don't think there is a better ice cream. That doesn't mean I'm not a Bi-Rite fan.

                              No matter how many reports there are of Ici improving ... and it was better on my last visit ... I just can't work up any enthusiasm to going there again. Also, the owners at Sketch are glad you are there. I still can't get past the service at Ici. Better, but it still isn't all that helpful.

                              I really like the topping options and I think next time I'm there I'll ask the owners for recs of pairing toppings with the flavors of the day.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Next time you're there, you could also check the boards for the owners' recommendations on ice cream and topping pairings. I remember seeing "vanilla ice cream with poached pears and salted caramel sauce" on my first visit, which sounds like a great combo. ;)

                          4. The waffle is incredible. On a cool Berkeley evening it is comfort food at its best.

                            It's a somewhat small waffle, about a quarter of the iron, anything bigger would be too much. Served with your choice of ice cream and toppings. You smear the cold ice cream on the cooked-to-order waffle, and you get an ice cream pizza. The waffle is warm, with a crisp exterior, the right amount of chew, and a subtle flavor that doesn't clash with the ice cream. The juxtaposition of warm and cold, crisp and smooth, is so delicious.

                            Brunt caramel ice cream, candied almonds, chocolate sauce, waffle - I was in heaven.