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Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Photo by John Gilhooley

You just recovered the mittens you stored away last season from the deepest part of your coat closet. Last night, you wore socks to bed because you didn't want your toes to lose feeling again. The heater's being used for the first time this year, and it still hasn't cooked out that dusty smell. My point: it's finally cold out. So...now's a good a time as any to do list of ice cream shops in OC, don't ya think?

The following is a list of places you can deliciously hasten hypothermia this winter.

10. Farrell's

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Photo by John Gilhooley

Farrell's reminds us that this is the living incarnation of and possibly the inspiration for Phineas Q. Butterfat, the fictional ice-cream parlor on The Simpsons at which Homer tried to win back his daughter's love by buying her a mountain of ice cream. And for once, the cartoon will not be an exaggeration. People seem to surrender their sense of restraint at Farrell's. They figure, "Well, as long as we're here, why the hell not?" At the line to enter, an oft overheard lament is that neither the food nor the ice cream is really the reason to be there--it's the experience. Why else would people order the Farrell's Zoo if not for the spectacle? It's a ridiculous serving of ice cream piled into an industrial-sized mixing bowl overflowing with ladles upon ladles of sugary sauces, fistfuls of nuts and whipped cream, all topped with a sparkler and heralded by an employee banging on a bass drum. 779A The Shops at Mission Viejo, Mission Viejo, (949)364-5411. Check http://www.farrellsusa.com/ for other locations.

9. Frostbites Crepes & Frozen Delights

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Edwin Goei

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. Ste 103, Cypress, (714) 484-1577  

8. Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers is owned and operated by a middle-aged Korean couple, who couldn't be warmer to you if you were their own children. If you come in with anyone under 12, they'll coo like a grandparent and coddle your tyke like he/she is part of their extended family. The store is a cross between

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange CountyEXPAND
Edwin Goei

As the food court at Fashion Island changes and evolves, Gelato Paradiso seems a constant, the Rock of Gibraltar if it were made out of milk and sugar. We are of the belief that if there ever came a time that Gelato Paradiso fails at Fashion Island, Armaggedon is upon us. There always seems to be customers lining up at the stand at all hours. And this is a good thing for gelato. The product thrives on turnover. It is imperative that it is never allowed to freeze fully, lest you want a solid block of inedible frozen milk. Try the hazelnut. It's tiny spoon-licking good, smooth as velvet where there wasn't itty-bitty chunks of actual nut. 952 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, (949) 640-9256; Check http://www.gelatoparadiso.net/ for other locations.

6. Mochilato

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Edwin Goei

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 Drive Ste E., Irvine, (949) 559-1116.

 5. Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Edwin Goei

There are few places like Watson's left in America, and even fewer in Orange County. It's something Norman Rockwell immortalized in paintings. As they've been doing since Opie and Andy Taylor were new to to TV (actually even probably longer than that), Carnation is the brand of ice cream they serve here, fashioned into banana splits with foamy tops of cream, scooped into tall sundaes, and plopped on the side of an apple pie to make it an a la mode. Most will choose to whir it into their signature chocolate malt. Since the latter easily serves two, share yours, ideally out of the same glass with two straws, as if you were in a Norman Rockwell painting yourself. 116 E Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 633-1050; http://www.watsonsdrugs.com.

4. Joe's Italian Ice

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Edwin Goei

In the night, the luminous stand looks like something straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, a refuge for the desolate. Its specialty is authentic Philly-style water ice in permutations too numerous to recount but include those named Razzamatazz and Bananadana. But it isn't complete without a dollop of their rich, soft-serve vanilla ice cream of an ultra-dense, calorically concentrated East Coast character. Or better yet, have their ice cream straight up as a chocolate dipped cone. This is the real stuff, not the ice milk that the fast food chains sell for a buck. Of course, it's piped as tall as torch. No space inside the cone will be left empty. 12302 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 750-1076; joesice.com.

3. Bruxie

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
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The frozen custard that Bruxië serves is mere ice cream the way a Ferrari is just a car. It deserves its own category. Unless you're from the Midwest, it will be a soft serve unlike any you've ever tasted, coaxed into an unequaled velvet texture that's smooth down to its molecular speck. The Bruxië boys source this ambrosia disguised as a frozen treat from an unnamed Wisconsin supplier, who churns it with the right ratios of science, tradition and egg yolks. Take the silky confection in a cup or, better yet, in a waffle cone. As luck would have it, eating this soft serve at Bruxië also means you're at OC's preeminent (okay, only) waffle stand. 292 N. Glassell St., Orange, 714-633-3900.

Ten Great Places for Ice Cream in Orange County
Edwin Goei

Hans looks just as it always was: an ice cream parlor caught in a time warp. The place oozes old-time parlor nostalgia, which like Watson's, is also seemingly cribbed from a Norman Rockwell scene of Main Street U.S.A. circa 1945. A bar area is still equipped with cushy stools and phosphates are still on the menu. The ice cream is a fluffy, whipped-up-with-air, frozen amalgam of sugar, milk, and cream. If available, try the banana, which is packed with so much banana flavor it can be classified as a monkey narcotic. 3640 S Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 979-8815.

1. Strickland's

The most endearing thing about this sole California franchise of the Ohio-based chain isn't the gleaming machines that produce the smoothest ice cream you'll ever spoon up; rather, it's the ever-rotating flavors. A visit made when a new flavor is introduced feels like an event, and the best are those that rarely see supermarket shelves. The mango, grape and lychee varieties are wonderful; the taro comforts like a cross between candied yams and Ovaltine; and if given a chance, the green tea could displace the established Japanese store brands as the new benchmark for the flavor. Forget about taking any home in the prepacked cartons: The dense, high-butterfat characteristics of the confection harden them into blocks. This is ice cream you want to enjoy fresh from the churn, scooped into a cup or a cone in sharp, pointy peaks. 4523 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 387-9955; mystricklands.com.

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