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Fabulous news for ice cream groupies in Santa Cruz

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After hearing rave reviews from a number of folks I know, I visited the new Mission Hill Creamery on Front Street in Santa Cruz. It qualifies as a real find. The owner set forth to create a source of organic ice cream offerings that were prepared to his standards, which are pretty darned extraordinary. I sampled several of the approximately dozen gourmet flavors (including the Zinfandel Plum sorbet, the fresh apricot ice cream, the strawberry plum sorbet and the totally decadent chocolate.) before settling on a scoop each of apricot and pistachio.

The verdict - total bliss. It's not often that you get to indulge in such extraordinary textures and flavors while supporting other causes of appeal - all locally sourced ingredients, all organic. This is the best ice cream I've had in many years. It reminds me of gelatos and ices I had in Europe a couple of decades ago.

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  1. Agreed. Mission Hill Creamery is fantastic. Pistachio is one of my favorite flavors. My young son and his friends love Cookie Monster and Chocolate.

     
    1 Reply
    1. re: mecr

      OK, I just wanted to post an addendum that I recently tried the Maple Bacon flavor, and it was incredible. Hardly a week or so goes by that he doesn't have a new offering. If you haven't already tried Maple Bacon, head in to try it. Yes, it really has bacon, so if you're veggie or keep kosher you'll just have to skip, but for carnivores it is truly an indulgent pleasure. Because he makes ice creams and sorbets in small batches, it's advisable to check Mission Hill Creamery's facebook to see what flavors are available each day. He's religious about keeping the list current.

    2. Anyone try the Penny Ice Creamery? How does it compare?

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      The Penny Ice Creamery
      913 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

      7 Replies
      1. re: jsaimd

        Yep, I’ve been to both Mission Ice Creamery and Penny, as well as Kelly’s French Bakery for housemade ice cream. Santa Cruz has benefitted from an outburst of new artisan ice cream choices this past year.

        I hit up Kelly’s French Bakery in January when the walk-up window was closed for the winter. The ice cream was available at the bakery but I didn’t have a chance to sample a range of flavors since the bakery location isn’t set up for that. The counter lady just asked what flavor I wanted, so I went for French vanilla. A single scoop is $3, a small bowlful, and the largest serving size of the three. Made with Humboldt Creamery dairy, the French vanilla was rich, eggy and very creamy. But I ran into four or five sizeable ice chunks and the finish is gummy with a plastic-y mouthfeel. I’d like to go back this summer now that the ice cream window is open again and try more flavors.

        Mission Hill Creamery strikes the middle ground flanked by the other two. The owner loves what he does, wants to share his passion, and it feels good to buy from him. He was very generous with samples and encouraged me to taste every flavor in the case before buying. More choices of cone types here than anywhere I’ve ever seen, including a gluten-free option. I took a seat inside the cavernous storefront and was really struck by how many regulars he seemed to have with less than six months in business and how many he knew by name. Sad to read that he had to close down at the Culinary Center location last month. But he’s looking for another storefront, has developed retail distribution, and continues to sell at local farmers markets. I’ve not been to the farmers market --- does anyone know whether the ice cream is sold by the scoop or only pints?

        Mission Hill uses organic Straus base. The dense ice cream has a rich, creamy mouthfeel, leaving a butterfat film on the palate. The flavors were a bit sweeter than I prefer, and when I commented on this to the owner, he was surprised as he has cut back the sugar in his recipes. Flavors change frequently and are more mainstream than Penny. My visit was more than six months ago, so hard to recall what flavors I had. Looking at the list of rotating flavors on the website, maybe I tried Salted Caramel, Turkish Coffee, Rootbeer Float, and I do remember a sorbet made of Pink Grapefruit and alcohol bitters.

        Then, I’ve been to Penny Ice Creamery twice, the second time was yesterday to close out National Ice Cream Month. Penny starts from scratch with Clover Organic milk and cream, not base like Kelly’s and Mission Hill, utilizing its own pasteurizer. Here’s the small room with the pasteurizer and ice cream making machine.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

        Prices are the highest here ($3.50 for single and $5.00 for a double). Serving size is the smallest of the three and the single scoops are too small. The housebaked waffled cones are fantastic. Tuesday and Thursday happy hour deals take some of the edge off. Flavors are more novel, sugar level is lower, and the ice cream is closest to the iciness of homemade with minimal emulsifiers. The ice cream is rather light in texture. It’s served quite cold and has a clean finish. I’ve enjoyed Strawberry pink peppercorn, Rum raisin, and Olive oil, sea salt and chocolate ripple. I found this week’s Basil ice cream interesting and quite true, but didn’t feel I wanted a whole scoop of that. With colder temperatures and lower sweetness levels, the flavors are quite pure in expression. At the same time, some flavors can seem much too faint. This was the case with Meyer lemon, Black tea with peach, and others I tried that I can’t recall.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

        The number of flavors is rather limited here. While I like the product very much and prefer a clean finish and iciness to artificial creaminess, my biggest gripe here is the counter staff. My first visit the man that helped me couldn’t have been more pretentious and aloof. Yesterday, the woman behind the counter acted like she was too hip to work in an ice cream store and never made eye contact with me. She handed my requested tastes over the counter like I was one of the great unwashed and not deserving to sample her product. I found both of them offensive, and a marked contrast to places like Bi-Rite, Scream Sorbet, Humphrey S., Mitchell's, Fru-ta, and many others that make their ice cream shops happy places. I don't care to be around that kind of sulkiness. The cashier was much warmer, smiled and even said “thank you”, luckily, so I would consider returning.

        -----
        Kelly's French Bakery
        402 Ingalls St, Santa Cruz, CA

        The Penny Ice Creamery
        913 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

        Mission Hill Creamery
        504 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I was back at Kelly's French Bakery for ice cream yesterday. The ice cream window has been discontinues . . . not enough traffic to justify it . . . and you wait in the single line to the cashier for service. This time I asked for a taste sample of seasonal flavors, Pecan Pie and Pumpkin, before making my selection. The pumpkin was a bit faint. I got a single sugar cone, still $3 and generous here, of Pecan Pie. The toasted pecan pieces are coated with the gooey pie filling custard and this tastes like pecan pie ala mode, heavy on the ice cream part!

          -----
          Kelly's French Bakery
          402 Ingalls St, Santa Cruz, CA

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Forgot to mention that Oakland's Scream Sorbet has a stand at the Wednesday afternoon farmers market in downtown Santa Cruz. And the folks are as nice here as in the Oakland store offering up samples freely. I had a miniscoop of pistachio, my all-time favorite Scream flavor, so rich and luscious. The Penny Ice Creamery also has a booth at the market.

            -----
            The Penny Ice Creamery
            913 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Tuesday I was back at Penny Ice Creamery for the happy hour. And I'm pleased to say that this was indeed a happy time with genial staff who actually smiled and offered samples instead of the misplaced hauteur and sourness I'd experienced before. Tried ricotta peach and wound up ordering the strawberry (height of the season!) and whiskey custard laced with Jack Daniels. For happy hour, a double scoop (usually $5.50) is the price of a single ($3.50).

              Double scoop in a cone
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I squeezed in a visit to Kelly's during yesterday's errands in Santa Cruz. Wanted to let folks know that ollalieberry swirl is one of the current seasonal flavors and it's wonderful.

                 
              2. re: jsaimd

                I'm never sure whether to bump an old thread or start a new one, but I'll go with bumping this one.

                We tried Penny Ice Creamery today. While I can't compare it to Mission Hill Creamery (yet!), it was wonderful.

                I had the Devout Stout, the kids had mint chip & chocolate sorbet, & my husband had the brown sugar strawberry sour cream something or other (it had 4 flavors, he recalls, & the last 1 escapes both of us, unfortunately). I also tried a sample of the Wild Fennel & was tempted to try the Plout sorbet. I opted for Devout Stout in the end & was happy. It was sweet but not overly so & light. My husband tried a bite & said it was more refreshing than his choice.

                We lucked out & were only 2nd in line. By the time we left, the line was out the door & onto the sidewalk. We also lucked out with a parking spot in front & a table with 4 stools out front. Not bad for a busy summer Sunday in Santa Cruz & it made for a great side trip on our way to Pacific Grove.

                We were very happy with the quality of the ice cream & the waffle cones. No one left a drop or crumb behind.

                1. re: browndogs2

                  We hit up Penny Ice Creamery again yesterday. The kids had chocolate sorbet and peanut butter chocolate ripple, my husband had burnt cinnamon, & I had earl of grey. It was just as delicious as our 1st trip last summer.

              3. Penny Ice Creamery has a Groupon until Sun 1/16/11 $4 for $8 worth of ice cream:
                http://www.groupon.com/santa-cruz/

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                The Penny Ice Creamery
                913 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

                1. Wanted to update this thread with Mission Hill Creamery's new address:

                  1101 Pacific Ave
                  Santa Cruz, CA 95060
                  (831) 216-6421
                  http://www.missionhillcreamery.com/

                  During the time that it was closed, I noticed that pints appeared at many supermarkets and the ice cream is fairly easy to buy prepacked in Northern California if you can't make it to Santa Cruz. The website has a list of stores, and also highlights that it's available at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.