Sunday, July 17, 2005

The great L.A. summer ice cream tasting

Intrepid Chowhounds Patrick and Peter braved the heat a few weeks ago to help me taste a myriad of locally-made ice creams for an article I wrote for Variety's new VLife Weekend. The article was fairly short and is only available to Variety subscribers, so here's a more exhaustive rundown of a good sampling of L.A.'s ethnic ice creams.

The Variety article includes Palapa Azul, a great Mexican ice cream concept made in L.A. which I haven't had a chance to try yet, but I'm looking forward to flavors like hibiscus sorbet, flan and sweet corn. It will be available nationwide at Whole Foods and other outlets.
Here's what we tried:

Mashti Malone: Mashti Shirvani has been making Persian-style ice cream in L.A. for 25 years, recently opening another ice cream parlor in downtown Glendale. The ice cream is fluffier than gelato, with a mind-boggling array of middle Eastern-inspired flavors. Unusual flavors: An etherally perfumed orange blossom with pistachios, rosewater saffron, mango, pomegranate sorbet, Turkish coffee. A favorite with the tasters who enjoy unusual flavors, although there's always someone who thinks some of the flavors verge uncomfortably close to perfume.

$4.95 per pint

1525 N. La Brea Ave., L.A. (323) 874-6168

Boule: L.A.'s highest-end ice cream from the artisanal patisserie and confiserie is made with organic cream, Valrhona varietal chocolate and fruit from Chino ranch. Unusual flavors: fresh spearmint with guanaja chocolate, Cavaillon melon, cherry Earl Grey with Kirsch, tangerine sorbet sweetened only with agave syrup. The spearmint was the clear winner of all the ice creams we sampled, and the melon was as close as it gets to great Italian melon gelato.

$2.50 per scoop

420 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A. (310) 289-9977

Al Gelato Continental Desserts: A classic Italian style gelateria with dozens of flavors which also serves hearty pasta dishes, soups and pizza. Unusual flavors: orange, toasted coconut. We liked Al Gelato's gelato, but I was less happy with the owner who wouldn't talk to me because "too much publicity would just confuse things.", TK

806 S. Robertson Blvd., L.A. (310) 659-8069

Massimo's Delectables: Massimo's is classic Italian gelato made by an Italian transplant to Venice, Calif. One taster said the hazelnut chocolate tasted "like brownie batter," but in a good way. Unusual flavors: apple with a caramel ribbon, pear sorbet. One of L.A.'s best gelatos; the co-owner told me she is looking for another location to open a new ice cream parlor since they lost their lease on Abbot Kinney.

13222 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 823-8381

Dr. Bob's: Made by a Cal Poly professor in Upland, Dr. Bob's is an ultra-rich American style ice cream which uses premium ingredients like Scharffenberger chocolate. Unusual flavors: Scharffenberger "the Works" combines cocoa nibs, ground cocoa beans and dark chocolate; strawberries, brown sugar and sour cream; black raspberry chip. Dr. Bob told me it's time for his seasonal fresh peach flavor to make its appearance. Everyone though the Works was in the top five , although I find super-premium American ice cream a little heavy for my taste.

Available at Gelson's and Whole Foods, approx. $5.29 per pint.

Fosselman's Ice Cream Co.: Travel back in time to the old-fashioned ice cream parlor at Fosselman's, which offers traditional cones, sundaes and banana splits with homemade-tasting ice cream. In a nod to the San Gabriel Valley's giant Asian community, flavors like taro and green tea are available. Unusual flavors: peach, lemon chiffon, banana Heath bar. We liked the peppermint, the coffee and the peach.

$1.95 per scoop, $3.95 per pint

1824 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 282-6533

Mikawaya: This Little Tokyo dessert shop recently branched into making its own gelato with a lighter Japanese sensibility. The coconut was fresh tasting and kona coffee wasn't too sweet. Unusual flavors: green tea, tiramisu. Overall, this was our least favorite of the bunch, but it would still make a good stop after a downtown sushi dinner.

118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, L.A. (213) 624-1681



25 comments:

cybele said...

I love, love, love Mashti's orange blossom with pistachios. They also did a limited edition of a saffron with ginger and cardamom that was fantabulous. I've definitely got to stop by the Glendale spot.

sassy little punkin said...

we tried (and loved) almost the same flavors at Fosselman's! i've been doing an around the city sampling feature for LAist right now; your piece has inspired me to expand my tasting options even more!

Daily Gluttony said...

Pat,

Awesome post...thanks for the great ice cream info!

Anonymous said...

It is at best an oversight (and at worst the Eighth Deadly Sin) to survey ice cream in L.A. and omit Bennett's at Farmers Market.
Scott Bennett makes most of his own product (you can watch through his kitchen window) and he's a zealot about finding the right blend of flavors -- witness, to note but one
sublime treat, his Cabernet Sauvignon sorbet.
The mocha chip is enough to make dieting illegal. . .
Fresh, homemade, delicious -- do not
leave this place off any list!

Anonymous said...

Beg to differ on Bennet's. I've tried several different flavors over the years and each was lacking. I'm a fan of dark, rich chocolate, though, and most of Bennet's chocolates taste milkier. I also expect a cream that includes toffee, choc chunks, etc. to provide more than one little taste of each. The coffee ice cream is okay.

Bloghungry said...

Amazing post! Very valuable info. Thanks for broadening my ice cream horizons.

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