With summer rapidly approaching, it's time to explore your ice cream options in the beach-adjacent parts of town. Assembled here, in no particular order, are five of my favorite purveyors of top-quality, small-batch ice cream that won't melt before you hit the beach (not intended as a guarantee given local traffic conditions.)
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Located in the Brentwood Country Mart (with a second location in the works!), Sweet Rose Creamery is the creamiest component of the Rustic Canyon restaurant group of Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan. The team turned to Shiho Yoshikawa of San Francisco's Tartine bakery to be the ice cream chef. Yoshikawa uses Clover organic milk and cream, organic eggs and sugar, and eschews any stabilizers or ice cream bases. Every day, the store makes all of its cones, toppings, sauces and ice cream sandwiches from scratch. In a roundup of the best ice cream, LA Weekly ranked the store second in the entire metropolis, and the only one on the list west of the 405, saying, "...[T]he shop makes some of the best sundaes (including one topped with slices of bacon) in town. Their banana split is a delicate but meticulously crafted work of art." There are a handful of flavors that are constants, like Verve Coffee, Salted Caramel and Fresh Mint with Homemade Chocolate Chips. "My favorite is (Old-Fashioned) Vanilla," says Yoshikawa, citing its simplicity. The rest of the flavors are micro-seasonal, rotating month to month, drawn from whatever ingredients happen to be available at the farmers market at the time. Among about a dozen current delights are Desert Tomato Sorbet, Olive Oil and Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet. There is also a healthy selection of dairy-free flavors rotated throughout the week. Pictured: A double scoop of Chef Shiho Yoshikawa's Old-Fashioned Vanilla and Fresh Mint with Homemade Chocolate Chips from Sweet Rose Creamy.
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It doesn't get any fresher than watching as your ice cream is put together right in front of you. At Ice Cream Lab, on Little Santa Monica in Beverly Hills, that's exactly how it works. A 100 percent organic ice cream is fused on the spot with liquid nitrogen - no additives or emulsifiers. "We don't pump in flavors or syrups," says Tommy Ngan, who founded the ice creamery with Joseph Lifschutz. "It's like tasting beer from the barrel," adds Lifschutz. Although they've just launched, the store is off to a booming start due to locally sourced ingredients that are woven into seasonal flavors, highlighted by their signature Salt Lick Crunch. And they use local favorite Intelligentsia coffee to make its popular Coffee Brittle ice cream. "We keep the menu fresh," Lifschutz says, adding that a couple of flavors will be rotated out every two weeks or so. Pictured: Ice Cream Lab's signature Salt Lick Crunch
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From the famed Sprinkles Cupcake people comes Sprinkles Ice Cream. It's actually been around for about a year, right next door their cupcake operation on Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. But this month, the company has opened a beachside cart in front of historic Casa del Mar hotel, just south of the Santa Monica Pier. Five flavors were available during their red-hot debut over the mildly warm weekend. Of course, the signature Red Velvet was on display, as was the Salted Caramel. But the most unique flavor is the Cap'n Crunch, which will whisk you back to childhood - or if you're a weed-smoking college student - back to late last night. "My favorite is the Blood Orange Sorbet," says Ellen Huggins, citing its refreshing qualities. Her colleague, Amelia Arender, prefers the Rocky Road. "I like the marshmallows because they're more like marshmallow cream than the sticky kind." Sprinkles uses only organic ingredients, and imports its Callebaut chocolate from France. They create their ice cream in small batches, so there's never a freezer-burn issue. "Take yourself to the store - that's where the really decadent stuff is," Arender says. For instance? How about toppings like hot fudge or, Huggins' favorite: salted butterscotch. "I could just eat that if they sold it in a thing," she says. Pictured: Blood Orange Sorbet from the Sprinkles beachside cart.
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Boasting perhaps the coolest interior, with Midcentury-style pin-up photos of its lovely employees, Beachy Cream is more than just an ice cream store - it's indulgence paradise. "Some people say their ice cream is "organic,"' says general manager Ash Fox, who points out that there might only be one organic ingredient in it. Beachy Cream's ice cream is 100 percent organic, he adds. The store, which has been at the Wilshire and 12th location for a year in May, is developing a well-deserved reputation for delicious ice cream sandwiches, which it offers in a take-out fridge. It currently has a cart (and is getting a second) for sidewalk and pier traffic, and private events. About 16 flavors are available at a given time. Their signature flavor is a swirled Strawberry Balsamic. Other hits include Fresh Mint Brownie Chunk, Bitchin' Hot Chocolate (with cinnamon and cayenne), Walnuts & Whisky, Margarita, Egg Nog and Bourbon & Bacon. But in addition to organic ice cream and luscious pin-up girls, the store takes decadence one step further, offering chili and hot dogs (and, obviously, chili dogs!).
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The brainchild of indigenous Angelenos, Natasha Case and Freya Estrella, Coolhaus really launched the new ice cream sandwich phenomena. Case and Estrella have hit the big time, now offering their cookie-and-ice cream sandwiches in 20 states, and can be found in the refrigerator at Whole Foods. The store began as a mere truck, and now operates a fleet of them, as well as a brick-and-mortar (appropriate given the architectural background of its founders) in the Helms District of Culver City. However, the truck is still running, and can often be found near Shutters on the Beach (guess where). Personal favorites include the Baked Apple Pie ice cream between oatmeal raisin cookies. Of course, the Louis Ba-Kahn: a chocolate chip cookie sandwiching Brown Butter Candied Bacon ice cream. Naming an ice cream sandwich after an architect might seem unusual until you wrap your hands around a Coolhaus construction (other metaphors included "engineering the ice cream sandwich craze"). The company has been successful for good reason: The blueprint for Coolhaus' high rise is a solid foundation of quality ice cream. Pictured: A Coolhaus classic: Baked Apple Pie ice cream between oatmeal raisin cookies.
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