When you don’t want sugar or dairy but you do want creamy goodness try some Hakuna Banana. Happened across this perfectly lovely frozen treat in my local Whole Foods store. Turns out it’s the creation of two Angelenos and while only available in the general Los Angeles area for now, look for it to go wide one day soon. It’s the no fuss nice cream you’ll love at first bite. Available in four tempting flavors:
In a very crowded ice cream market, Quenelle more than holds it’s own — if you happen to find yourself over the hill (and in LA that doesn’t mean old, that means literally over the hill in the San Fernando Valley). I’ve always kind of liked Burbank. It’s a bit like the town time forgot with it’s small town storefronts along streets that surround the studios. It’s nice to see some new life on these streets.
Quenelle is a tiny wood-clad storefront on Magnolia Blvd with an unmissable sign, right next to a screening room. The inside might fall a bit short on decor but ignore that and order some cream. Flavors are unique and constantly changing. The texture is a bit on the melty side but you can’t beat $4.75 for a double scoop waffle cone.
If you work at one of the valley studios or are nearby visiting a prop house or something similar, give it a try. Sunday is National Ice Cream Day so the timing is perfect!
Row 1 (left to right): Aesop products & the lovely stores they sell them in | natural light flooding into my home | a Duxiana mattress
Row 2: my favorite piece of art — a printed mailer received from a vendor in the early 90’s floating in a frame. it makes me smile to this day | ice cream in any form but especially one of the crazy flavors from Gelato Messina | Vogue Living Australia magazine — i have a 20+ year collection!
Row 3: morning hikes in the Santa Monica mountains | a good mid-century modern staple like this Saarinen dining table | Australia — just 19 when I first visited, my heart has belonged to the land down under ever since ♥♥♥
Today’s Contender: Saffron & Rose Ice Cream
Location: 1387 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA
Flavor: Amazing Almond & Caramel Crunch
This is the real deal my friends! All natural organic Persian ice cream in the most intriguing flavors — white rose, cucumber, mango, guava, espresso bean, lavender, saffron pistachio and so many more. The woman behind the counter not only made me try most everything in the case but provided pairings that had to be eaten together which is how I ended up ordering a small cup with 1 scoop of Amazing Almond and 1 scoop of Caramel Crunch. It was creamy and soft, maybe a bit too sweet, but oh so good.
I was there mid-afternoon on a Thursday and there was a steady line the entire time. This place is a not so secret gem and I can only imagine a huge crowd on weekend evenings. Oh and look at the orange bio-degradable spoons they use — they’re ORANGE and they make me smile.
I think I will have to visit many more times to find my favorite flavor. Although I’ve already gotten a start by bringing home a pint of pomegranate to enjoy later on. It’s a seasonal flavor nearing the end of season so I just couldn’t resist.
With an ice cream boom happening in Los Angeles, I think this place tops the list in my book. It’s hot outside. We all deserve a little ice cream treat.
Today’s Contender: Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream
Location: Ohio based with scattered USA locations including Redondo Beach, CA
Flavor: Graham Central Station
This could be one of the best flavors of ice cream I have ever tasted. Graham flavored ice cream with graham cracker swirls and chocolate covered crunchies of some sort. It’s their most popular flavor and I understand why. Even with its whipped-like texture (an airy, almost dry texture i don’t normally like or associate with premium ice cream) it’s damn good. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since i took that first bite. And that’s saying something.
If you ever find yourself near a Handel’s, stop by and have a scoop. Or better yet splurge on a sampler — 4 giant scoops in a take out box for just $5. And the best part, the people in line (there will be a line!) all compare notes and help each other decide on flavors. It’s not only good ice cream but a good time.
Today’s Contender: Honeymee
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Flavor: Vanilla with Honeycomb
On a 93 degree day with no air conditioning you bet I’m going to blow my no carb kick and go for ice cream. Honeymee is a fast growing chain of soft serve ice cream stores popping up in Asian neighborhoods throughout the greater the Los Angeles area. The menu consists of just 4 items — plain vanilla, vanilla with chocolate sauce & sea salt, vanilla with honey sauce and vanilla with a small square of pure honeycomb. And if you want you can have any of the above combos in a soft hotdog like bun — a true ice cream sandwich.
The ice cream itself is not too sweet. Just a clean cool taste with a nice density and creaminess. I appreciated the natural honeycomb but probably would have been more satisfied with a sauced version — or maybe that was just craving that came on with my first bite of sugar in 4 weeks.
All in all, I would say this is a nice little treat. Just the perfect size. Cute branding (always a plus) and just enough choice to keep it interesting but not overwhelming. The shop I visited was in Buena Park attached to a car wash. Odd little location but yummy just the same.
Today’s Contender: Matcha Love
Location: Costa Mesa, CA
Flavor: Matca Green Tea Soft Serve
I’m a fan just for the color alone! Matcha Love is a small food court vendor inside Mitsuwa Marketplace serving just 4 flavors of soft serve — Matcha, Black Sesame, Roasted Green Tea (Hoji-cha) and Vanilla. They say it’s the best Japanese inspired ice cream outside of Tokyo. I say not bad. Takes a bit of getting used to at first bite. But once you are past that initial burst of the green tea flavor, it’s creamy and just sweet enough. A nice change from traditional American soft serve flavors. I say what would be really great — dip in Yoku Moku cookies (my absolute favorite Japanese specialty sold at the vendor right next store). Oh how I long to go back to Tokyo . . .
Today’s Contender: Salt & Straw
Location: Portland Oregon & Los Angeles, CA (where I visited)
Flavor: Toasted Coconut with Candied Macadamia (vegan) & Chocolate Gooey Brownie
I know I’m supposed to love this ice cream — it’s been touted as the best in the country, the shop’s founders the darlings of the foodie world. And I have to say, I loved the experience of Salt & Straw. The shop is small and old fashioned general store cute with plenty of eye tempting goodies lining the walls and shelves as you wait your turn. The workers are super friendly, encouraging you to try as many of the flavors as you like (many unusual and even bordering on strange ) with ample spoonfuls. The portions are also quite large for the money and you can even split a single scoop into two flavors if you want. So what’s not to like?
Let’s say I’m not 100% sold on the ice cream — the texture is more chewy than creamy and rich doesn’t even begin to describe these scoops. I couldn’t even finish my split single scoop cone — me! And I even gave it a second try the very next day, ordering more “traditional” flavors if that’s even possible here — a cookie dough chocolate swirl crunch and a pumpkin caramel swirl — with the same thoughts/results.
I will say it’s nice that they always have a vegan offering on the menu — you have to ask as it’s not marked as such. As a former vegan it is always nice to find a tasty ice cream-like treat. Although since rejoining the dairy eating contingent again, I can say with authority that nothing beats how a cream based treat coats your tongue and offers a fully rounded flavor experience.
So I say give it a try yourself. Just because it’s not my cup of tea, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy Salt & Straw. Clearly many others think it’s worthy of plopping down their money for.
$6.25 for a double scoop plus $1.00 for the waffle cone.
If you like ice cream like I like ice cream, here is a gift you should give yourself this Christmas. Order by this week and you’ll have it in time for the holiday, shipped on dry ice overnight from Texas. It’s generally a grocery store variety but only available in a small portion of the country. And Vanilla should be the number one flavor on your list. For additional flavors check out their offerings here. Now that’s a Christmas wish come true!
Four half gallons will set you back $129. To place your order call (979) 836-7977.