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Will Stop for Ice Cream

Remember our road-trip tradition of ice cream? You know you're a fanatic when you actually plan your stops around ice cream shops, right?!?

Well, we are just back from a filthy but fabulous camping trip around northern California. 1200+ miles. 10 days. 4 state parks. 1 national forest. Miles on foot. Miles and miles on bikes. Tons and tons of memories and - most importantly for this post - 4 planned ice cream stops.

As we traveled and tasted, we decided that we needed a new scale for judging these goodies. It's not like we're comparing Penny Ice Creamery to Baskin Robbins...all of the stops were organic, seasonally -flavored creations. And all were comparable in price, so we knocked that out of consideration. Also, we were evenly split on ice cream versus gelato.

We ranked them based on (1) innovative flavor combinations; (2) execution of said flavors; and (3) texture. Here are the stops, in order... [then I'll give you ranking at the end!]

Arcata Scoop
1068 I St 
Arcata, CA 95521
(707) 825-7266

What we tried: Earl Grey, Honey-Vanilla-Lavender, Coffee, Coconut, Dark Chocolate, and something Blackberry

Cool notes: The decor was deliciously unique...from the milk carton chandelier to the giraffe balançoire [short for battements en balançoire, "battements like a seesaw"].

From their website: Fresh ice cream and sorbet that is made on the premises in small batches. We support our local farmers and other businesses by using local, seasonal ingredients as they become available. We use the highest quality organic ingredients we can find to make the popular flavors like strawberry and cookies & cream, as well as the more unusual... vanilla honey lavender, toasted sesame, jalapeno... Don't want dairy? There's always two non-dairy options.

Pazzo Marco Gelateria

What we tried: Dark Chocolate and Caffé  Espresso

Cool notes: It was one of the best kept secrets of Gualala. Even the guy at the visitor center had no idea what I was talking about. I guess I should have clued in when their company website only gave a post office box for an address instead of a street address. But we finally located some!

From their website: Each week from our micro creamery in Gualala we create a new assortment of gelato flavors using local farm fresh organic milk, cream, free range chicken eggs and the best in-season ingredients. Find our Gelato at the Surf Market, the Sea Ranch Lodge – Black Point Grill, Anchor Bay Thai Kitchen, Trinks Cafe and from our gelato cart on weekends during the summer months in front of the Surf Market.

Three Twins San Rafael
641 Del Ganado Rd
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 492-8946

 What we tried: Dad's Cardamom, Horchata, and Sea Salt Caramel

Cool notes: The splashes of lime green added a cheerful je ne sais quoi to the entire experience. And I was still spry enough to sit at the mini kid table with Dylan. Funniest thing I heard a dad say as he walked in with his two daughters in two,  "There's a line today, please don't ask for 8,000 samples, okay?" I didn't give my boys that caveat and we - shamelessly - held up the line. But the gal behind the counter and all of the customers behind us were patient.

From their website: By sourcing milk and cream from within 17 miles of our California factory, and carefully mixing and freezing each batch to ensure a smooth texture, we dish up extraordinarily fresh and tasty flavors. Making great ice cream isn't a costing exercise for us, so we make our recipes based on what will deliver the best flavor – not by trying to arrive at the lowest cost. Our vanilla is richer, our chocolate is bolder and our coffee is more intense than most. We think you'll love the results!

Lush Gelato
Epicurius Garden (across the street from Cheeseboard Pizza)
1511 Shattuck Ave           
Berkeley, CA 94709         
(510) 666-0644   

What we tried: Bleu cheese, oatmeat stout, Cowgirl Creamery creme fraiche, marscarpone-balsamic, cantaloupe sorbetto, sea salt caramel, dark chocolate, burnt sugar-rum, honey-ginger, rum-horchata, and lemon cookie

Cool notes: A fitting addition to Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. I can't believe I'd never found it before. Walk out the side and enjoy your cones (or cups) in alongside a babbling brook and Asian-style rock garden.

From their website: We make our Gelato and Sorbetto from scratch in small batches using organic and local ingredients whenever possible. We make our cones fresh daily. Our cups and spoons are biodegradable

Of the four stops, lots of noteworthy bites - the Earl Grey at Arcata was divine. Three Twins' cardamom. That's all I have to say. And the cantaloupe sorbetto rivaled anything I ever tried in Rome. But overall 4th place belonged to Pazzo Marco; 3rd place went to Three Twins; the title of runner-up was awarded to Arcata Scoop...

and 'Top Scoop' honor belongs to...drum roll, please...


The only thing we didn't agree on: if Lush unseated Penny Ice Creamery as our family favorite. We were torn 50-50 on that one.


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