I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream. ~Heywood Broun
in the days of my early early childhood in california, ice cream was a big part of my life. after church on sundays, or, really, any time we were running errands, my dad would treat my little brother and i to an ice cream cone from the local drug store. i clearly remember the stand, waiting in anticipation for the scoop, the crunch of the cone, and how it tasted. i had a few methods of choosing a flavor, i remember choosing my ice cream based on color (strawberry was pink). i also choose ice cream based on peer pressure (my best friend always choose bubble gum). but probably the strongest motivation was to choose based on what my little brother was NOT choosing, that is, making him go first and choosing something different. i remember my five-year-old irritation when he, being just almost 3, would choose based on–peer pressure–whatever his older sister choose.
then i drifted away from the ice cream shoppe experience. instead, throughout the rest of my childhood and adolescence, preferring other treats, like haggen daas bars, italian ices, popsicles. in college i preferred to purchase ice cream in the gallon size, treating myself to some each night before falling into exhausted sleep. post-college, i discovered boutique ice creams available in certain markets as pint sizes. during my tenure in sometimes-working apartments, i found many-a-freezer that melted and refroze ice cream i kept at home, transforming it into a goopy, disgusting mess, resembling nothing of the delicious ambrosia i had purchased earlier.
so, for practicality’s sake, and to resist the urge to make ice cream eating a daily process, i returned to the ice cream shoppe experience. as an adult, getting the most bang for my calories has become an important ordeal, and truly enjoying each taste of my food makes life a worthwhile experience. after going here and there locally, trying out different styles of ice cream, rejecting major chains and cold stone creamery (which makes my stomach feel ill), i finally found a few shoppes featuring the desired frozen treat!
there is nothing more fantastic than spending an evening in italy with friends and heading out, after dark, to the local gelato shoppe to enjoy delicious gelato and engage in the italian street life. after returning from italy my freshmen year in college, i have been especially occupied with finding a gelato shoppe that not only offers delicious gelato, but also envokes a culture that reminds me of the gelato experience in italy. just recently, a fantastic little shoppe run by a turkish family opened up in a neighborhood near mine. i tried not to get my hopes up, as other local gelato shoppes have been somewhat disappointing. my husband and i decided to try it one summer afternoon when even a mediocre frozen treat was welcome in our quest to beat the heat. i worried needlessly because it was love at first taste. fainting goat gelato has a number of deliciously traditional italian staples, as well as a signature flavor, which is made out of goat’s milk and tree sap. it is fantastic with the hazelnut gelato (my personal favorite). gelato is denser than ice cream, which means that when i savor the peach gelato, it feels almost like i am eating a fresh peach, but with a richer, creamier, cooler spin to it. and fainting goat uses all local, organic ingredients too!
the wonderful thing about fainting goat is that it is open until 11pm every night. on the evenings following hot days, my husband and i can take a post dinner stroll up the hill to find this treasure of a shoppe still open, warm, and inviting. since it is family run, in the evenings the whole family has gathered in the shoppe to discuss their days and enjoy each others’ company over delicious gelato! lingering over my gelato there at 10:30 at night made me feel like i was back in italy, enjoying family and friends!
of course, sometimes something with a summery american feel to it can invoke wonderful memories associated with childhood, friends, and family. unfortunately, the fat content in most ice creams ends up making my stomach upset, so i have to choose my icecreamery carefully! up the street from our neighborhood there is a new, local, icecreamery called molly moon’s. they retain many of the traditional flavors: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, birthday cake, mint… for times when a flavor induced foray into our memories is desired. but there are also a number of rather sophisticated, unique, and, above all, delicious! flavors to tempt even the snobbiest of foodies. my favorite is honey lavender. i love the scent and flavor of lavender, but have definitely experienced the soapy taste that comes with its overuse. the honey lavender at molly moon’s is just right! it has a perfect balance of honey and floral that is not too sweet, and not too floral. they also have some fantastic sorbets, a salted caramel, and strawberry balsamic. the ice cream at molly moon’s is worth the trip outside our neighborhood, but is best enjoyed in the afternoon, when we have time to walk around, window shop, and crunch on the home-made waffle cones the ice cream rests in! it’s a perfect compliment to walking around the small farmer’s market that takes place across the street on wednesday afternoons, and finished off as we rest on the benches under the shade of old trees, watching the thousand details of busy city life unfold from a removed state of ice cream bliss!
then again, sometimes i want to be a little healthier! with the delicious frozen yogurt revival, many places have started offering a soft serve frozen yogurt, low in calories, fat-free, with real health benefits! my favorite is red mango, a korean chain. red mango has three flavors of yogurt, a delightfully sour original flavor, green tea, and pomegranate. i love the korean influence on the toppings because, in addition to the chocolate, candy, and beautiful fresh fruit, mochi, or sweet rice cake bits, is also available to top your yogurt! the yogurt is fantastic on its own, but i especially enjoy it topped with quartered fresh strawberries!
however you love to beat the heat in the summer, a cool, creamy, delicious treat is always a great addition! these kinds of treats will always remind me of bygone summers, sitting on the bay with my family, or walking around the city with friends. they are an amazing, and delicious ritual of my family’s summer culture…right up there with late nights on the porch, eating watermelon, and grilling at every possible opportunity!
what is your favorite summer ritual?
you can check out my favorite spots for frozen confections here: