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Sketch ice cream

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kevin Mar 25, 2008 10:53 AM

This was embedded in another review, here it is, I was curious what people thought of it after the newly re-formulated Sketch:

It was off to Sketch for dessert, specifically their faboulous ice milk almost "ice cream". when I visited a couple yrs back the ice cream served up here was truly some of the very best I have ever had. So arrived at Fourth St and entered Sketch and noticed to my dismay that they wouldn't be scooping the ice cream but rather it would arrive out of a machine that wouldn't be out of place at a Pinkberry or local fro-yo shop. This saddened me. And when I tried the ice cream, it saddened me even more. The magic was gone, the ice cream was not good at all. Pedestrian at best, and I had been one of Sketch's biggest fans on my one and beyond blissful visit there. Also, if you're trying to get two flavors they have to come from the same machine or else you have to buy to separate scoops at full price. What a fleecing to boot. I really wanted to love it again, but alas Sketch had gone severely downhill.

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    Hungry Hippo RE: kevin Mar 25, 2008 11:49 AM

    I concur. I've been a few times since they switched to the soft serve machines, and I think it's definitely worse than before (although still not bad if you're already at 4th Street). The only thing that improves is the vanilla with olive oil and salt is better with the soft serve than with the old ice cream.

    1. Robert Lauriston RE: kevin Mar 25, 2008 12:10 PM

      What flavors did you have?

      1. c
        chemchef RE: kevin Mar 25, 2008 12:21 PM

        I totally agree. I keep going back b/c I love Ruthie and Eric so much and I want them to do well, but I definitely thought that they had a superior product before.

        I've tried cocoa nib, earl grey, vanilla, and others I can't remember at the moment. While I think the flavors are good, I thought the texture was much better before. I also hate the fact that the ice cream melts so fast now, and that I can't get two flavors of my choice in one cup unless they're in the same machine.

        This tears me up. It used to be a weekly ritual for my husband and I to have dinner at Tacubaya and then go to Sketch afterwards. Now there's not as much incentive to drive down to 4th St. when we live about 2 blocks from Ici. At Ici, I spend $4.25 and can get two flavors of my choice and one of their awesome cones with dark chocolate in the bottom... Amazing.

        1. Morton the Mousse RE: kevin Mar 25, 2008 12:44 PM

          I think it's a huge improvement. Flavor wise, it's the exact same product, which is why I find it odd that you feel the flavor has suddenly become "pedestrian" - there hasn't been any change to their base recipes or ingredient quality. It seems unfair to compare it to Pinkberry, which is the exact opposite of a made from scratch, organic, artisan product. I think your impression may have been different if you visited on a different weekend - last weekend's flavors did not represent Sketch at it's best, as the assortment of seasonal fruit at the market right now is not exactly inspirational.

          I think the texture of the product is markedly superior - softer, silkier, more pleasant mouth-feel, temperature isn't quite as cold making the subtle flavors more pronounced. Its texture reminds me of fresh ice cream straight out of the maker, which is exactly what it is. Melting time hasn't been an issue for me because I eat my ice cream right then and there.

          I do understand the criticism that flavor pairings are now more limited, it's an unfortunate consequence of the machines. I find that they do a good job pairing the right flavors together in each machine. They really aren't trying to get you to pay extra for two separate cups.

          Of course, the big improvement is the introduction of add-ons. Before Sketch 2.0, my biggest criticism of their product was the uniform texture - I like a bit of crunch with my ice cream. Now, I have a fabulous set of toppings and sauces to choose from. Peppermint ice cream with cocoa nibs and chocolate sauce. Coconut ice cream with candied pecans and salted caramel sauce. Vanilla ice cream with poached quince. Almond ice cream with olive oil and salt. Heaven! I would argue that even though I have fewer options in terms of pairing two scoops, I have more options in terms of flavor and texture combinations.

          Plus, there's the introduction of their perfect cone and (my favorite) the waffle. I can't believe I went the first 26 years of my life without having ice cream on top of a fresh waffle. Their waffle is spectacular - light, crispy, subtle eggy flavor. On a windy night the hot waffle topped with cold ice cream, candied nuts, and caramel sauce is pure comfort food.

          So count me in as a die hard fan who loves the changes. I thought you couldn't improve on perfection - they proved me wrong.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Morton the Mousse
            pastryqueen RE: Morton the Mousse Mar 25, 2008 05:46 PM

            I agree 100% with Morton. The reason they switched to the current format is to control the texture of their product to a greater degree. I think that what you're getting is exactly what Eric and Ruthie have been striving for. I don't think their master scheme is to make people pay extra for extra flavor. . they really just want a very specific texture. I swooned when I first saw the new machines because it reminded me of somewhat frozen custard stands so I was very happy.

            Also, their add ons are top notch. Their baked goods are some of the best around. . they are master pastry chefs and it shows. The fresh fig cake, when it's in season is beyond compare. And admittedly, I adore those two lovely folks - so take that into consideration. :)

            Also, it seems to be a matter of taste and I seem to be in the great minority as I find both Ici and Bi-Rite vastly over-hyped. That being said you might take my comments with a grain of salt if you enjoy Ici and Bi-Rite because I don't get either one of them.

            Speaking of grains of salt. . if you've never had their salted, chocolate covered toffee, you've missed out on one of the greatest confections ever.

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            chemchef RE: kevin Mar 25, 2008 06:58 PM

            For the record, I did not like Bi-Rite. I thought the flavors were good, but it was too rich, too sweet, too heavy.

            I, too, eat my ice cream right then and there, but I have a pet peeve about ice cream melting before I get halfway through it, which Sketch's does. I like it to stay frozen till I'm at the end (or at least almost at the end).

            Having said that, I think that the little chocolate cake that Sketch makes is phenomenal. It was the best chocolate cake my husband or I have ever had. A couple of seconds in the microwave made the center perfectly molten while the outside remained pleasantly crisp. That, alone, is worth going back for.

            3 Replies
            1. re: chemchef
              Morton the Mousse RE: chemchef Mar 25, 2008 07:31 PM

              I must eat my ice cream a lot faster than you do ;)

              1. re: Morton the Mousse
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                chemchef RE: Morton the Mousse Mar 25, 2008 09:07 PM

                Wow, I guess so, Morton! I didn't know it was possible!! I am a self-proclaimed ice cream fiend. Just ask my husband.... :-)

              2. re: chemchef
                Atomica RE: chemchef Mar 26, 2008 06:44 AM

                I thought one of the great things about Bi-Rite flavors was that they were NOT too sweet. That's definitely the case with their chocolate. Now, Mitchell's, their stuff I find way too sweet and one-dimensional and often too rich.

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                peppatty RE: kevin Mar 25, 2008 08:13 PM

                Just had the revised Sketch ice cream yesterday. I was actually not too impressed by the original Sketch and was pleased with the texture of the new soft-serve style. I liked the coco nib, but the most memorable flavor was the burnt caramel swirl with the yogurt. I liked that it wasn't too cold, you could actually taste the flavor of the ice cream, and it had a nice, creamy texture that you wouldn't be able to feel if your tongue was frozen. Side by side with Harmony (San Carlos), I'd be at Sketch.

                3 Replies
                1. re: peppatty
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                  chemchef RE: peppatty Mar 25, 2008 09:05 PM

                  Isn't Harmony frozen yogurt?

                  1. re: chemchef
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                    peppatty RE: chemchef Mar 26, 2008 09:55 AM

                    Yes, but sketch also had a plain frozen yogurt that we had as a combo with their caramel ice cream. It was divine.

                    1. re: peppatty
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                      dreamsicle RE: peppatty Mar 27, 2008 04:45 PM

                      The Straus Yogurt ice cream is one of my favorite flavors too. I'm always tempted to try the other flavors but somehow end up with the Yogurt :P. It's simple yet heavenly.

                      It's been a while since I've been to Sketch but I still like the place after the "change". The toppings and the waffle cone that Morton the Mousse recommended are great additions to the store. Eric and Ruthie are as nice as ever and I admire the fact that they are dedicated in what they are doing.

                2. MollyGee RE: kevin Mar 27, 2008 10:35 AM

                  The current peppermint ice cream at Sketch is one of the best ice creams I've ever had and I have a minor obsession w/ ice cream (I think about ice cream more than once/ day). The texture is absolutely incredible, the color is stunning and the flavor is incomparable.

                  The old Sketch was good, but I think the new stuff is the loveliest ice cream in town. Ici is fine, but it's not at all consistent. I recently had a very dry chocolate ice cream there - was it processed incorrectly or was it old? Maybe too many people were ordering meyer lemon buttermilk ice cream w/ candied pepitas and the "vanilla" flavors sat around too long...?

                  1. rworange RE: kevin Mar 30, 2008 01:07 PM

                    From a recent NY Times article
                    http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/...

                    "reward yourself again with a double scoop of chocolate ice cream at nearby Sketch ... ranked by many local foodies as the best dessert shop in the Bay Area."

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: rworange
                      wolfe RE: rworange Mar 30, 2008 02:07 PM

                      Same article was wrong about this.
                      "The best views on campus aren’t from the 10-story Evans Hall, but from Indian Rock Park. Wedged in a residential neighborhood along the city’s northeast, the park has large rock outcroppings that offer 360-degree views across Berkeley and Oakland, and over the Bay into San Francisco."
                      More like 180 degrees since the view from 90 to 270 degrees is of the homes in the neighborhood.

                      1. re: wolfe
                        Robert Lauriston RE: wolfe Mar 31, 2008 09:02 AM

                        Which are in Berkeley, so there's nothing wrong with that sentence.

                        Overall it's a pretty dumb article. It makes no recommendation for breakfast on Saturday, suggests getting a roast chicken and beet salad from the Bowl for lunch, recommends the wrong dishes at El Huarache Azteca, and the suggested itinerary includes three trips to Fourth Street and three to UC southside.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          wolfe RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2008 09:35 AM

                          Everywhere you are offers a 360 degree view. Some are better than others. The sentence suggests beautiful vistas in all directions and you get houses in 1/2 of them. It's promising more than what is there. Sort of like marrow deficient marrow bones.

                        2. re: wolfe
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                          chemchef RE: wolfe Mar 31, 2008 12:18 PM

                          Not to mention the fact that it says that Berkeley is bad for public transportation. Apparently they haven't been to any places that are REALLY bad for public transportation. Berkeley is great compared to So Cal.

                          1. re: chemchef
                            Robert Lauriston RE: chemchef Mar 31, 2008 01:12 PM

                            It says "limited," which public transportation here certainly is compared with New York, or even San Francisco.

                          2. re: wolfe
                            Ruth Lafler RE: wolfe Mar 31, 2008 03:56 PM

                            Actually, the big boo-boo in this article is that it says the best views ON CAMPUS are from Indian Rock -- and then proceeds to tell you (correctly) that Indian Rock is ... not on campus.

                            Uh, but to get back on topic, put me in the underwhelmed by Sketch camp. I also think it's ridiculous that you can't have two flavors unless they're in the same machine. Is there some reason they can't do a dollop from each machine? It just seems unnecessarily dogmatic and controlling: you WILL eat ice cream the way WE want you to. It's feels cold and stingy, and stingy is not a feeling I want associated with my ice cream experience.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              rworange RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 31, 2008 07:38 PM

                              Wow, fine if you don't like the ice cream, but I've had nothing but pleasant experiences from the friendly owners ... it is the anti-Ici which is indeed a cold, unfreindly place.

                              1. re: rworange
                                Ruth Lafler RE: rworange Mar 31, 2008 08:33 PM

                                To be clear, it's not the people who feel stingy, just the methodology of the way they sell ice cream. I found Ici to be a bit more generous in spirit. Not that I'm running back there, either.

                                Maybe it just feels like they take themselves and their ice cream too seriously. It's earnest, not joyful.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
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                                  kevin RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 31, 2008 10:56 PM

                                  The weird thing was the last time at Sketch with the changeover and fro yo machines, the owner seemed real blase about their ice cream, which was kind of weird and off putting to me along with that admonition that you have to get your two flavors from the same machine.

                              2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                Morton the Mousse RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 31, 2008 10:58 PM

                                It's a logistical difficulty associated with the machines. The owners' wish they could mix-and-match flavors, and they did so happily back in the scoop days.

                                It's hard to control the rate of output with the new machines. It's almost impossible to get a cup 50% full with one flavor. Mix-and-match would inevitable result in cups that were 60/40, 70/30, even 80/20. Then, people would be upset that they didn't get the ratios they wanted.

                                It's the one real downside of the new machines, but they do result in a superior product. The owners spent a long time thinking about the trade offs, and decided it was worth it. I agree.

                                1. re: Morton the Mousse
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                                  kevin RE: Morton the Mousse Apr 1, 2008 09:26 AM

                                  I prefer the actual scoop days rather than the machine, the flavor and consistency were all there.

                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse
                                    Ruth Lafler RE: Morton the Mousse Apr 1, 2008 09:36 AM

                                    I'm sorry Morton, I know you're an apologist of theirs, but that's a nonsensical excuse. If they can't control their machines well enough to get an approximate 50 percent serving, then how are they controlling them well enough to give relatively uniform portions in the first place? Because it would bug me more than not getting to mix my own flavors to know that someone might be getting 15 percent more ice cream than I am! Second, I don't think anyone expects an exact 50-50, and all they have to do is explain that if the customer chooses to mix flavors from two different machines she might get slightly more of one than of the other -- sort of "buyer beware" -- they could even have a sign. Yogurt shops all over the world can do this, why can't Sketch?

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
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                                      kevin RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 1, 2008 10:27 AM

                                      they just want to bad the bill.

                                      You're right most yogurt shops will give you any two. sometimes they won't give you two flavors with the small but at least they will with a medium or so.

                                      1. re: kevin
                                        Morton the Mousse RE: kevin Apr 1, 2008 11:20 AM

                                        "they just want to pad the bill."

                                        No, they don't.

                                        I'd guess that less than 5% of customers respond to the machines by ordering two separate cups of ice cream. I've never done it, and I've never seen anyone else do it.

                                        If their chief concern was raw profits, they wouldn't have closed down for a month and invested tens of thousands of dollars in new equipment, just so they could get the occasional odd customer to order two cups. That just doesn't make any sense.

                                    2. re: Morton the Mousse
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                                      Hungry Hippo RE: Morton the Mousse Apr 1, 2008 10:29 AM

                                      If teenagers at the TCBY in the mall can coax their machines into producing approximately equal shares of product, I don't get why Sketch can't.

                                      1. re: Hungry Hippo
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                                        Agent 510 RE: Hungry Hippo Apr 1, 2008 11:43 AM

                                        Someone should send a memo to these guys that this is what charging $4.50 for a tiny cup does...it causes people to get all riled up over little details like this. At a more reasonable price, I'm guessing most folks would look the other way.

                                        1. re: Agent 510
                                          k
                                          kevin RE: Agent 510 Apr 1, 2008 12:07 PM

                                          I think my biggest qualm was that it just wasn't as good as when I went there before the changeoever to the the machines.

                                          1. re: Agent 510
                                            Robert Lauriston RE: Agent 510 Apr 1, 2008 12:14 PM

                                            The two pastry chefs who own Sketch make the best products possible by their own high and esoteric standards. If they charged what other places do, they'd lose money. It's a lot like Blue Bottle's coffee.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 1, 2008 12:50 PM

                                              Yeah, but basically it's all about them: their product, their standards. Clearly they don't care much about whether their way of doing business makes their customers happy. If you're willing to buy into their way of doing things, then I'm sure they're fabulous and charming. Otherwise, they're just people selling ice cream in a way that leaves a lot of people cold.

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