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Apr 24, 2009 10:14 PM

Petaluma: Lala's Creamery - The old-fashioned ice cream parlor reborn - phospates, parfaits, black cows, Straus cream

Across the street from Della Frattora is a new .. old-fashioned ice cream store.

The ice cream is made on-site using Straus cream. What is so brilliant about this place is they pay respect to the classic ice cream parlor. It is not some modern take on it with irony or even a faux type of thing. It IS an old fashioned ice cream parlor.

There is a long cool grey marble counter with stools There are lots of tables with cane chairs. They keep the flavors simple ... no bacon maple syrup concoction here.

Some flavors are seasonal and will change. Currently there is vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, rocky road, rum raisin, coffee, cookies and cream. As wild as it gets flavor-wise is grasshopper, bubblegum, choco-raspberry and green tea.

The sorbets have the word 'ultra' in front and include strawberry, mango and coco loco.

There are sundaes that include hot fudge and tin roof. Shakes, malts, banana splits, root beer floats and black and whites are also served.

The website says they will have cookies, cupcakes and other desserts. They've only been open a week and are still in opening mode. Some of the flavors are still a work in progress. My understanding is that the grasshopper was toned down a bit mint-wise.

Also, trust me on this. It IS an old-fashioned ice cream parlor because the next thing I'm going to write will make it seem not so and I just don't want to spend time defending this point. GO there and judge for yourself before jumping to conclusions. It's the kind of place you'd almost expect to see Jimmy Stewart scooping up ice cream for Donna Reed (or at least the kids who portrayed them in It's a Wonderful Life").

I had the coffee and rum raisin ice cream along with a phosphate ... a raspberry lavendar phospate .. it was the fanciest thing there. Most of the phosphates were straight-up flavors like cherry.

The rum raisin was lovely and smooth with enough raisins. The coffee was delicious, but I think they should just use the coffee and not add ground up beans. It made it a little too gritty and took away from the pleasantness.

The sample I liked best was the peanut butter and jelly. Too many ice creams don't taste true to those flavors and this did. The mango sorbet did not taste artificial as many do, but the sample was not enough to make a decision if I liked it. It is lightly flavored. The cookies and cream was a good version of that flavor ... at least from the sample.

The raspberry lavendar phospate was very refreshing and adding rasberry was a good thought. Lavendar on its own can be soapy, so the raspberry toned that down. Still, don't order this flavor unless you like lavendar. Go for one of the other flavors.

The selzer and root beer is from Greer's. Can't find anything about them on the web, but they are local to the area.

The staff is young, very pleasant, and seem to influence some of the flavors. One of the ladies came up with the idea for peanut butter and jelly and the owner's son and another guy thought the raspberry lavender combo was nice for the phosphate.

It seems this idea came about when the family visited an Amish ice cream parlor in Arizona about eight years ago. Yes, there are Amish in Arizona ... sort of

Anyway, the dad had the idea to sometime open an ice cream place like that and eventually bought some ice cream machines and started to learn the craft.

This is no Humprhy-Slocombe or Bi-Rite. I like Baksin Robbins better than Ici, so can't compare there. I'd say it is on par with Petaluma Creamery with more flavors.

The website says in the future they plan to host kid's birthday parties where the kids can make their own sundaes.

And that's the thing about the place. It is ice cream for kids ... and adults ... not adult ice cream that sophisticated urban kids can also enjoy. It is a family joint without dumbing it down. It is just a nice old-fasioned ice cream parlor.

Lala's Creamery
134 Petaluma Blvd, Petaluma, CA

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  1. When you say they use Straus cream, do you mean that they use the same Straus ice cream base that Bi-Rite uses?

    9 Replies
    1. re: lexdevil

      Don't know for sure. Chatting with the son, he said that his dad was keeping things as simple as possible, Straus cream, fruit (like strawberry) or flavor (like vanilla/chocolate) and sugar. He said when his dad was working through recipes, he even cut the sugar when making something with strawberries which were sweet anyway.

      I forgot to mention that coffe drinks and loose leaf tea by the pot were also available. The coffee is from Petaluma Coffee. Don't know who provides the tea. The staff was still training on making espresso drinks.

      1. re: rworange

        Thanks for pointing me towards this report, rw. This sounds right up my alley! Can't wait to have a lazy Sunday to drive up north and eat ice cream! Am excited that they have phosphates.

        I also really appreciate that you said that you prefer baskin robbins to Ici! I feel that way about other high end places sometimes. . just give me a scoop of gold medal ribbon and I am happy!

        1. re: lainielou

          While you are in Petaluma, give Petaluma Creamery which is owned by Spring Hill Cheese. That farm has Jersey cows which produce a higher butter fat content in the milk. The ice cream seems a little denser than most ice creams. They only have one or two flavors but they are usually good.

          I wouldn't say Lala's is any type of destination place yet. I think it is a good ice cream for the area ... again I'd have to do a back to back with Petaluma Creamery. Screamin' Mimi's is in a different category with more exoctic flavors. I'd have to refresh my memory on Fairfax Scoop to decide how they rank.

          I'm guessing currently they are more on the same leval as Silbermann's though with a better base because of that Straus cream. I like Silbermann's though. It is plain old nothing fancy ice cream.

          I'm not old enough to really ever tried a real phosphate. So I wonder how true they are to the originals

          Or if it is just seltzer water and flavoring ... there was only so much i could ask and was lucky I was in there during a little afternoon lull to have chatted that much. From the way the son talked, it seemed like his dad was trying to re-create an authentic experience and doing a lot of recipe research.

          i wasn't really watching when they made the phosphate as I was trying ice cream samples.

          \When I was really little, a few of the last of real old time soda fountains were still around and i appreciate the memory the place brings.

          There are also some jars of penny candy and a real bubble gum machine. It is really hard to pull this type of place off without seeming contrived, so I felt they did a really nice job of it in terms of ambiance.

          Petaluma Creamry
          621 Western Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952

          1. re: rworange

            >I'm not old enough to really ever tried a real phosphate.<

            Ha, but I am and not only to have tried them but to have made them at the soda fountain of a real mid-western drug store in the 50's. I read that linked article and I'll say that we never added phosphoric acid (never even heard of that) to them. A phosphate was flavored syrup and seltzer water, period. The concentrated syrup came in large (gallon?) jugs and we diluted it with "simple syrup", a solution of sugar and water we mixed up in the basement. All very basic and very good. I'll have to try them at Lala's. I've been there once and had a dish of "choco raspberry". It was good but nothing to rave about but hey, way better than Baskin Robbins. I liked the place and the very friendly workers there. I'll try another flavor my next time in Petaluma. As far as ice cream quality goes, Fairfax scoop is way better in my mind at this time.

            I'll now add a plug for the European Drinking Chocolate at Viva Cocolat just down the street. Chocolate lovers, you have to try this.

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              Thanks. I added your response to a topic I started about phospates on the general board.

              I will have to trot across the street to Lombardi's to see how it compares to the Clover ice cream they sell.

              I think it will be interesting to see how LaLa's evolves. They are too new are in terms of food, too rough around the edges. Could go either way. They talk a good talk, seem to have good intentions and the care and detail they put into the decor leaves me hopeful. However, I've seen other places like that which stayed where they were or got worse. Lala's is in a good location so it should pick up business and it is such a pleasant shop I have hope they'll get even better as they settle in.

              Darn, i was preoccupided with Lala's that I forgot to stop by Viva which i had on my list to try based on your (I think) previous mention.

              Viva Cocolat
              110 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA

        2. re: rworange

          Is this a custard base or an uncooked "Philadelphia" style ice cream without eggs? If the latter, they're using Straus dairy products, but not the pre-fab Straus base. Hard to say what keeping things simple means. There's nothing simpler for the ice cream maker than uncooked, eggless ice cream...except for ice cream made with a custard base made by someone else.

          Fairfax Scoop and Bi-Rite both use the Straus Base. It is a cooked custard base w/ eggs. The ice cream maker only needs to add ingredients to build the flavor, though they could also add fresh cream to increase the butterfat content and add a fresh dairy taste (a custard base will taste of cooked rather than fresh milk). This is the Ici trick, which comes from the Chez Panisse recipe. It's also why Ici's ice cream may have a slightly less sticky/custardy mouth feel than ice creams with a straight cooked custard base.

          1. re: lexdevil

            ... and Ici's ice cream lack flavor. Again, don't know more than what I wrote. looking at the website "Our ice cream is produced the old fashion way, by hand, and in small batches right in our store using fresh local ingredients"

            It is not the type of place where the ice cream gets analyzed only enjoyed. I wouldn't think of contemplating if butterfat was coating the roof of my mouth, how soft or hard it is, any iciness or lack of ... any more than I would have at the drugstore soda fountain when I was growing up. It's the type of place where you decide if you like the taste of the flavor you selected or not and enjoy a scoop of ice cream.

            1. re: rworange

              Be clear that I'm not making a value judgment. I am "little c" catholic in my enjoyment of ice cream. I know that some think that only a pure custard base is real (and favor Hagen Dazs over Ben and Jerry's for that reason). I enjoy ice cream made with guar gum and agar agar, with eggs, without eggs... Despite this, I'm always interested in understanding what I'm eating and how it works. My fondest ice cream memory is of the fresh nectarine ice cream at McCallum's in Berkeley, long before the advent of foofy flavors and ice cream elitism.

            2. re: lexdevil

              >Fairfax Scoop and Bi-Rite both use the Straus Base<

              I find that interesting because they are probably my favorite ice creams.

        3. With another errand in Petaluma today, I stopped in here for the first time. Yeah, I know, hard to believe there's an ice cream place I've not tried.

          The gallons of Straus base are visible in the refrigerator, so I guess that answers that question. The ice creams are made on site using the base. The texture is quite dense, but not as creamy as Bi-Rite.

          I sampled three flavors. Chocolate-raspberry, Tea & Honey and Mint chip. I wanted to try the Grasshopper but it was finished for the day. The flavors are not that intense, but they're not terribly sweet either. I got a single scoop of Mint chip, $2.98, as shown below . . . it's not dyed green.

          Noting the shamrocks decorating the place, I asked what green ice creams would be coming up for St. Patrick's Day. Nothing green, BUT they are working on a Jameson Irish whiskey flavor for next weekend. I was told they've done Guinness in past years. They're also playing around with Lagunitas cappuccino stout.

          1. We stopped here on Friday evening to get out of traffic and cool down. New flavors on the specials board: Saffron Ginger or Dark Chocolate Sorbet. I liked them both. The dark chocolate sorbet is made with coconut milk and has dense velvety texture. I was very impressed by this non-dairy option.

            1. For a truly authentic 1940's creamery, try Palo Alto Creamery on Emerson St. Their malted shakes and patty melts are the best I've had in the Bay Area.