Monday, March 20, 2006

ice cream

Maybe it’s my contrarian nature (or maybe it is because I had Fenton’s yesterday), but I thought what better way to mark the start of Spring than by writing about ice cream. Weather be damned.

I used to think that the best ice cream came from small shops in New England like Four Seas, but I wasn’t giving the Bay Area enough credit. We have at least 3 neighborhood ice cream stores that rival the nation’s finest. Each is unique and worth a visit to sample its specialties.

The closest to me is also the most youthful in the group as Rick’s Rather Rich Ice Cream opened in 1958. Their gourmet ice cream is made onsite, and its base is every bit as rich as its name implies. Rick’s flavors change often, but they usually have 30 or so options. Their banana is excellent, and the seasonal cinnamon and pumpkin are not to be missed.

Started in 1953, Mitchell’s Ice Cream is a few years older and, with a 16% butterfat base, even richer than Rick’s. Mitchell’s also features an outstanding banana ice cream and, for Fall, pumpkin. But, they specialize in more exotic tropical flavors like buko (baby coconut), guava, langka (jackfruit), macapuno (sweet coconut) and ube (purple yam). My favorite is mango. At Mitchell’s there is always a line and they have no indoor seating, so plan accordingly.

At 111 years old, Fenton’s Creamery is the grandfather of the group. A traditional ice cream parlor, Fenton’s is known for gigantic servings and outstanding sundaes. A single scoop is closer to a pint, and a small hot fudge sundae could easily feed three. But incredible value isn’t the only reason that Fenton’s has long lines day and night, their high-quality and classic flavors are wonderful. Fenton’s also serves a soda fountain menu, although I can’t imagine being hungry enough to have a sandwich and one of their frozen treats.

Rick’s Ice Cream: 3946 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA (650) 493-6553
Mitchell’s Ice Cream: 688 San Jose Ave, San Francisco, CA (415) 648-2300
Fenton’s Creamery: 4226 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA (510) 658-7000

Bonus link: Watch the newest Got Milk? ads. I like Landing Party