Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Ice Cream Revolution

My new neighborhood, the Mission, is blessed with an array of interesting ice cream options. This may have begun with Mitchell's, which opened way back in 1953 and makes its own flavors like Jackfruit, Lychee, and Sweet and Salty Peanut. The current trend seems to be toward complex, adult flavors. Among this crowded field, two stand out for their creativity: Bi-Rite (The Creamery) and Humphrey Slocombe.

Bi-Rite Creamery is located adjacent to Dolores Park (and a very short walk from me), and on sunny days when the park is full, a line of customers snakes out and up 18th Street. Like nearby Bi-Rite market, the Creamery prides itself on using organic, locally grown products and operating in a sustainable manner. Signature flavors include the Salted Caramel, Balsamic Strawberry, and Honey Lavender. Their sorbets are vegan.

There are twelve flavors on hand at Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream (Harrison at 24th) at any given time. Yesterday, when I visited for the first time, flavors included Salt & Peppa, Secret Breakfast (Bourbon and Corn Flakes), and Bluebottle Viennese Coffee. A local restaurant asked if they could create a flavor that tasted like smoking, and HS came up with Fume (with an accent aigu on the e), flavored with Lapsang Souchong, the distinctly smoky tea from China's Fujian province. I asked if the sorbets, Honeydew and Hibiscus Beet, were vegan, but learned that they use an animal-based stabilizer. They are, apparently, looking to remedy that.

I opted for a scoop each of the Peanut Butter Curry and Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit. The PB Curry was delicious and tasted just like Indonesia: a complex curry flavor with bits of real peanut butter mixed in. They don't seem to use a generic curry powder either; I distinctly tasted brown mustard seeds in the mix. As for the Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit, it was tasty but I was less impressed. Passion fruit has a very strong taste, and here it threatened to overwhelm the milk chocolate. I think that dark chocolate would be a better match for that fruit's intensity.

Fortunately, Fetal Kitten is not a flavor, but rather the artist's joke.


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