Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Golden Age of Ice Cream

Sweet Rose
In Los Angeles, we are lucky enough to be living in a golden age of ice cream. Ten years ago, high quality ice cream was sparse in LA. Now, there are excellent ice cream shops all over the place (with more coming). Here is a list of my favorite ice cream shops in the Sku Eating Area*

1.  Traditional Ice Cream

No one beats Fosselman's in Alhambra for old-fashioned, high butter-fat traditional ice cream. Sure, they give a nod to modernity with flavors like taro and lychee (which are both very good), but this place is still an old-fashioned parlor dishing it out the old way.  My favorite flavors are coffee & cookies and peppermint (which is especially good in a hot fudge sundae).

Mateo's Ice Cream and Fruit Bars at Pico & Vermont is a traditional  Mexican ice cream shop with excellent paletas and great tropical fruit flavored ice cream.

Top Round, the Roast Beef sandwich place on Olympic and La Brea, does thick, creamy frozen custard, the mid-western way, which you can get plane or in a concrete with various mix-ins. Probably the best frozen custard I've had in LA.

2.  Hipster Ice Cream

The new wave of ice cream definitely has some of that ridiculous hipster vibe - everything locally sourced from farmers markets, cacao percentages listed on a chalk board, uncomfortable metal chairs, flavors like uni-fennel sorbet and olive oil goat cheese swirl, but you know, the stuff can be really good.

In this category we've got Sweet Rose Creamery, probably my favorite (everything is great from the punchy fruit sorbets to the standards like salted caramel and coffee), Carmella (especially the ice cream sandwiches), Jeni's (where pretty much everything is good) and Salt & Straw, which is definitely the silliest (which makes sense since it's an import from Portland) but still quite good.

3.  K-Town Favorites

Koreatown has developed its own unique ice cream culture with places like Snow LA, HoneyMee (which has multiple locations in the LA area) and CottonHi. SnowLA is a shaved ice cream place mostly fun for the diverse toppings bar. HoneyMee has a really delicious ice milk soft serve base. I like it plain or topped with honey, though if you like the idea of a big, waxy honeycomb in your ice cream or ice cream in a hot dog bun, you can get those too. CottonHi is soft serve topped with cotton candy. It seems like a silly novelty, but the soft serve is really good.

4.  Gelato

Bulagarini in Altadea was the winner of my gelato tour of many years ago, and it still towers above the competition.  Altadena is a bit outside the Sku Eating Area, but it's worth the trip. The yogurt gelato with olive oil is the classic, but the seasonal fruit is wonderful and the nut gelatos (e.g., pistachio and macadamia nut) are as trasnscendent as a frozen dessert can be.

As to more Sku-adjacent gelato, we are now lucky to have Grom, an Italian gelato chain that serves up great stuff just like you can get at an Italian train station. The only downside, and it's a pretty big downside, is that it's located at Hollywood & Highland. Rumor has it that we will be getting a Venchi, an even better Italian gelato chain, when Eatly opens in the Century City mall. 

Those are my favorites.  Did I miss anything good?  Let me know, but don't say Milk. Milk is an abomination, a really popular abomination where you stand in a long line to get beautiful, overly sweet, mediocre ice cream. God bless them though, because I'm happy to let people stand in line there while I breeze into Sweet Rose across the street.

*The Sku Eating Area or "SEA" is not an official LA culinary designation, but it is the area of the city in which I most frequently eat and therefore that with which I am most familiar. It includes an area of mid-city bounded by Hollywood/Franklin/Los Feliz Blvds. to the North, La Cienega Blvd. to the West, Venice Blvd. to the South and the 110 freeway to the East as well as the western San Gabriel Valley.


Anonymous said...

How about Scoops? The original LA hipster ice cream shop!

sku said...

Scoops was a flavor innovator and deserves credit for that, but I've never been a huge fan of their ice cream.

Luke Asa said...

I really enjoy Mashti Malone's over on La Brea. before going there I'd never had an aromatic ice cream flavor.

sku said...

Good edition, Luke, Mashti's is an old and reliable stalwart.