Monday, June 27, 2016

Game of Cones: I Scream for Ice Cream

My default home freezer dessert is Talenti Gelato -  they are one of the manufacturers who use the fewest ingredients in their product (all ones that I can prounounce), and gelato is lower in calories because of its lower cream and air content. Gelato shops were a hot moment in the early 2000s, but ice cream appears to be enjoying a real renaissance, with more artisanal and homemade choices and flavors that Baskin-Robbins never even dreamed of. Here are some new and longstanding faves:

Kansha Creamery, Gardena

Matcha, matcha, man: High tea with a scoop of
oatmeal cookie caramel at Kansha Creamery.
New kid on an old school block of Western Avenue, in a strip mall with several Japanese restaurants, next to The Local Place, an outpost of King's Hawaiian. Kansha's ice cream is made fresh daily on-site; they are known to  close early when flavors run out. When I finally made it over there, they had Lupicia Select Matcha (clean and not unpleasantly soapy taste of high-quality green tea) and something called "Mr. Universal," which was flavored with crumbled oatmeal cookies and a sweet but non-sticky caramel swirl. The vibe is hip young Asian, but not-so-hip,  middle-aged Asians (me?) are welcome too. A taste of their mugicha flavor reminded me of the tall, cool pitcher of barley tea that is in Jolene's fridge all summer long.

Atticus Creamery, West Los Angeles

I've been going to Atticus Creamery since its first store opened about a year ago, conveniently across from the Westside Pavilion. Don't let the somewhat cliched DIY decor fool you - this small batch shop has created some intensely inventive flavas like Brown Sugar Apple Pie (my personal favorite), Honey Honeycomb, and Lemon Lavender. Their mini pies are also incredible, made from scratch with fillings like Earl Grey and Strawberry Pistachio.

A new location recently opened at The Grove, but I like the neighborhood feel of the Pico shop, with its tiny strip of Astroturf across the threshold and proximity to many great restaurants, whose one shortfall - happily for both Atticus and me - is dessert.
Picture-perfect cone at Atticus Creamery

Saffron & Rose, Westwood

Even if you've never had food from the Arab regions of the Mediterranean, you get the idea while driving down Westwood Boulevard between Wilshire and Pico that the Iranian, Lebanese, and other expatriates that have made this area flourish, take their cuisine very, very seriously. While patronized by a good cross-section of Los Angelenos, the many cafes, bakeries, and stores are supported by a tight ethnic community that takes great pride in its culture while welcoming outsiders.

Ice cream is the universal language spoken at Saffron & Rose, where friendly staff don't just offer tastes of this or that. Shiho and I actually had a sort of ice cream sommelier serve us the other day, pressing actual pairings upon us as we hemmed and hawed before his freezer case. Faced with the staggering array of options, we actually liked what he suggested: the eponymous saffron with pistachio and white rose for Shiho, and espresso and medjool date for me.

Saffron & Rose has been a venerable institution on Westwood Boulevard for as long as I can remember, and was featured in The New York Times this spring in one of several articles about the traditions of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The distinct and sometimes flowery flavors are a great foil for the robust and aromatic tastes in Persian cuisine, and can even seem like a sort of calorie-laden aromatherapy with choices like orange blossom, fresh ginger, cucumber, and saffron with orchid. There are plenty of more traditional flavors like strawberry, mint chip, and cookies and cream. But when in Tehran...

Just mad about saffron... and rosewater... And date
and espresso. Flavor pairings as served up at Saffron & Rose.

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