It's summer. It's hot, yadda yadda; time for ice cream, yadda yadda. With that obligatory intro out of the way, herewith are 10 of this food critic's favorite ice cream treats, because, you know, it's summer and it's hot...yadda yadda.
All of the Flavors Together at Matcha Love
After slurping Santoka's legendary but ultra-savory bowls of ramen at Mitsuwa's food court in Costa Mesa, you want something cold, something sweet. Until recently, that meant one of two things: Some sort of boba drink at Sky Express or a box of mochi ice cream from the supermarket. With Matcha Love, there's is a third and much preferable option—soft serve green tea ice cream in sweet, tannic swirls; but also a black sesame flavor that tastes like smoky peanut butter. Another tea flavor called hojicha is almost floral. But then you eat them all of them together in the same sitting and attain Zen enlightenment in a waffle bowl.
665 Paularino Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Any Ice Cream in the Fresh Waffle Cone at Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor
Would a visit to Disneyland really be complete without at least one churro or one ice cream cone? I don't think so. When you want the latter, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is THE ice cream shop. It's right there on Main Street so that you can get a scoop as soon as you begin your day in the park, and maybe another one on the way out. Their flavor selection is basic, with nothing more complicated than Cookies-n-Cream. Whatever you choose, you're better off getting it in a cone than in a cup. The cost is the same and the cone is made right there, in-house. You’ll know this because it's the smell that wafts everywhere and triggers a Pavlovian response that you want ice cream and you want it now.
Disneyland Park, Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, CA 92802
Cookie Monster Ice Cream at B. Candy
If there were a cuter, more kawaii dessert boutique than B. Candy, it would have to exist in some sugar-addled teen's Hello Kitty fantasy. On the shelves are gigantic Peeps plush toys, Pucker Powder sold by the spout and pinkness everywhere. The bar stools are fashioned to resemble cupcakes and ice cream cones. And when you finally pull yourself away from browsing the merchandise, you discover the ice cream is made by someone who's obviously very skilled at the art. It's texturally perfect and exists in so many intriguing flavors it's difficult to settle on just one. One of the best flavors is the Cookie Monster; named after the Sesame Street monster and colored blue in his honor, it not only has cookie dough pieces, but also probably Oreos and everything else the notoriously ravenous cookie junkie might consume in one of his binges. Basically it's the best cookies-n-cream ice cream you'll ever have where the fun is doing a post-mortem on what actual cookies were crumbled up and tossed into the mixer.
3100 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Cotton Candy Cloud at Snow Monster
Snow Monster is known for their jarred milk teas, but it also offers this, um, phallic looking thing. Quite simply, it's a cup of Fruity Pebbles soft serve piped tall, rimmed with a bushy halo of cotton candy, that looks like, um, well you know what it looks like. This ice cream obelisk is one of the many desserts that Snow Monster serves—including macaron ice-cream sandwiches and shaved snow—but it's easily the most excessive item they make. By the way, the ice cream doesn't need the cotton candy and the cotton candy doesn't need the ice cream. But thankfully, the soft serve is not overly sweet. I'm not sure if it was because my tastebuds were dulled after finishing the cotton candy, but it was pleasantly surprising how good the ice cream was—this despite the pulverized Fruity Pebbles churned into it.
4255 Campus Dr A124, Irvine, CA 92612
"Dear" at Honeymee
If Honeymee didn't offer its soft serve with honey, I probably would not be writing about it. Because despite the chain calling its product "True Milk Ice Cream", it's just ice cream. And though it's good and smooth and creamy and cold—all things I expect all ice cream to be—it's that honey and specifically the honeycomb they offer as topping that sets it apart from, say, McDonald's and Foster's Freeze. I tried the "Sweetee" (all its ice creams are named with cutesy titles) and realized, honey does kind of work with it. And why not? If you're not averse to adding caramel to your sundae, honey isn't that far off. My preferred ice cream, though, is the "Dear", which gets generous squirts of Ghirardelli chocolate sauce and sprinkles of sea salt on top. The salt balances the sweetness, and the chocolate, well, it's chocolate!
5414 Walnut Ave, Irvine, CA 92604
Ferrero Rocher Gelato at Dolce Gelato
Dolce Gelato is proud of being an independent, family-owned, single-store shop unique only to Laguna Beach. But what it should really be proud of are the amazing gelatos, which exist in flavors you never thought could or should be mixed with sugar and milk. One night, I saw basil, chocolate habanero, and "bread and butterflies", which is the flavor of brown butter and country bread. And when you see something so wild that you ask for a sample, it will taste exactly like that flavor because whatever it is, that thing is actually in there. The Ferrero Rocher gelato I finally committed a whole cup to tasted exactly like it, with the essence of the creamy chocolate, the roasted hazelnut, and the wafer shell all churned into the crests of its soft-frozen waves.
247 Broadway St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
"Pinky" at Mochilato
Mochilato is the retail outlet of Mikawaya, the company who puts out those mochi ice cream boxes you see in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores. But even better: The boutique sells more flavors than what is commercially available, arranged like truffles at a chocolate shop. There's a flavor for every sweet-toothed persuasion, from hazelnut, to mango, to peaches 'n cream, to green tea. And the names, of course, are cute as buttons. The strawberry mochi is dubbed "Pinky" with the fruit's flavor present in the thin, stretchy pull of glutinous rice casing as well as its gelato center. With no stick, no cone, and no bowl, there's nothing more than just a layer of dough between you and the ice cream.
14310 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92604
Sorbet Cream at Frostbites
Italian ices are what Frostbites makes its name on. Actual pieces of fruit are whirred up into the slurry. There's enough per spoonful that you'll chew the coconut shreds, get the strawberry seeds stuck in between your teeth, and detect the distinct meatiness of mango. But it's all a bit one-note without the soft serve vanilla ice cream that must accompany. They call the mash-up "sorbet cream", and together the ice cream and the Italian ice creates a concoction which is a sunny mix of dairy and fruit...sort of like a deconstructed Creamsicle.
9111 Valley View St #103, Cypress, CA 90630
Strawberry Bar Covered In Milk Chocolate and Graham Crackers at Longboards
In the age of luxe loncheras, those slow-crawling, sticker-covered ice cream trucks of old are joined by a new school of frozen-treat peddler. One of the better ones is Longboards since it not only sells ice cream bars it makes in-house, but lets you customize them whatever way you like. You might say it's the Chipotle of ice cream trucks. You pick your flavor of pre-frozen bar from chocolate to coconut. Then, you choose what melted Ghirardelli chocolate you want it to be dipped in: milk or dark. And finally, an array of toppings from peanuts to potato chips in which it will be covered. The best combo I've discovered so far is a strawberry bar, dipped in milk chocolate, rolled in graham crackers. Unlike some of their signature combinations, this one has no official name. But if they asked me, I'd call it "chocolate-covered strawberry shortcake".
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Popcorn Ice Cream at THE RANCH
When you eat THE RANCH, pastry chef David Rossi's plate designs are often so elaborate and gorgeous it might just distract you from his masterpiece: the popcorn ice cream, the best new flavor discovery since sea salt and caramel. Order it, and you'll shake your head how uncanny this humble scoop is in re-creating the buttery and toasty notes of the movie-theater snack. Perhaps when Extron owner Andrew Edwards decides to go into the ice cream business as he did the restaurant business, they'll sell it in cartons.
1025 E Ball Rd, Anaheim, CA 92805