I was pretty indifferent when Gourmet magazine declared ice cream the new "cupcake," meaning that it was the new trend dessert. Ice cream has been around forever, same old vat of frozen fat and sugar collecting freezer burn in the back of my fridge. What's new about ice cream?
But living in a foodie paradise like Berkeley, I've discovered Ici, an ice cream shop started by former Chez Panisse chef of nine years, Mary Canales. All of the ice cream (and the cones) here are homemade from organic ingredients. The flavors, which are strikingly unusual, play up to a pretty dynamic palate.
In addition to the usual standards like vanilla and chocolate (I skip those), there's peach-habereno, black pepper pistachio, lavender honey, brandied cherry, cardamon candied pecan, vanilla sour cherry, apple cider, malt ale, rose pistachio, and um quite a lot more. It varies from day to day, from season to season, and you never know what's available — but that's OK because it's hard to find anything that disappoints.
While it's not unusual for desserts to come in weird flavors these days, it's clear that the product here is more than just novelty. You can be sure, for instance, that the cardamon isn't just vanilla ice cream with some cardamon powder sprinkled throughout. Instead, there's a delicate mixture of spices and candied pecans that really balances the flavors out for a "full" taste.
There are also Bombes (ice cream cakes), ice cream sandwiches, and strange little bags of brittle for sale. Of the latter two, I prefer the rosemary-pinenut brittle and the lemon-ginger ice cream sandwich (lemon ice cream between two thin ginger cookies).
Though the lines are long and the demand is high (lines still go out the door in rainy weather), I've never encountered any "soup nazi" behavior from the staffers here. Once, after a scoop of candied lemon fell off my cone after two licks, they were happy to replace it free of charge.
Prices are cheaper than you'd think (approx $3.50 for a single scoop cone, $4 for a double scoop). It's an affordable treat!
Ici (pronounced Ee-cee) is an ice cream shop in Berkeley that opened in September 2006. It was started by Mary Canales, a former pastry chef at Chez Panisse of nine years. In addition to ice cream, the shop also offers ice cream cakes, ice cream sandwiches, sorbets, milkshakes, and individually packaged sweets like brittle and marshmallows.
The ingredients Ici uses are locally sourced and meet organic standards.