When not just any ice cream will do, indulge in summer’s favorite frozen dessert at these top LA artisan ice cream shops, where scoops are handcrafted with premium ingredients and available in extraordinary – and bizarre — flavors beyond your imagination.
If the name fits
“Unusually creative and absolutely delicious” is the way Salt & Straw describes their ice cream. The shop’s quirky name (a reference to the rock salt once used to freeze hand-churned ice cream and the straw it was packed in to keep it cold) is as unique as their flavors. Founded by two cousins, Kim and Tyler Malek, one with a flair for the culinary arts and the other a mind for business, and both of a mind to create something amazing, the opened their first shop in Portland in 2011, and now they have three in Portland, five in LA and one in San Francisco.
Their handmade, small-batch scoops are sourced from select local and sustainable farmers and artisans, from Southern California and Oregon (they also have shops in Portland, where they started). The shop features an ice cream sommelier who will take customers through tastings of their classic delights, like, sea salt with caramel ribbons, almond brittle with salted ganache, chocolate gooey brownie and peach vinegar cobbler with toasted nutmeg, olive oil and lemon custard; or their revolving menu of inventive flavors, such as rhubarb crumble with toast anise, wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies, naked stage “we are love” tea and roses, and lemon grand poppy sherbet. The community-minded shop has frequent fundraisers to give back, such as partnerships with local schools where students get to invent flavors, and proceeds from sales are donated to the schools.
Cool is the new hot
Coolhaus’ founders Natasha Case’s and Freya Estreller’s venture into ice cream was a departure from their backgrounds in design and real estate, but they paid homage to their professions by naming their ice cream creations “cool houses,” otherwise known as ice cream sandwiches. But instead of ordinary chocolate graham cracker and vanilla, their custom-made “sammies” are filled with ice cream flavors like brown butter and candied bacon, pistachio black truffle, balsamic fig and mascarpone, aunt Glady’s fruit cake, beer and pretzels and dirty mint chip, bookended by gourmet cookies such as snickerdoodles, confetti whoopee pie, gluten-free cocoa pebbles, and of course chocolate chip.
The Coolhaus duo took their creations, dubbed “Farchitecture,” or Food + Architecture, to their hometown streets in Los Angeles in in 2009 in a beat-up old postal van, which became the first of their current national fleet of 10 mobile ice cream trucks and carts in LA, Dallas and NYC, and two storefronts in Culver City and Pasadena. Their line of treats has expanded to decadently dipped ice cream bars on a stick, such as mies vanilla rohe dipped in salted caramel milk chocolate rolled in crushed pretzels, and their scoops served up in their shops included a changing menu of seasonal flavors such as Mo’ Honey, No Problems, a sweet honey ice cream with OG Honeycomb cereal and McFaddy’s chocolate-covered honeycomb, and Hazed and Confused hazelnut ice cream with hemp protein power, Grape-Nuts cereal, hemp seeds and hemp-based CBD oil.
Ice cream by design
Before artisan ice cream was a thing, Jeni Britton Bauer was ahead of the trend. She founded Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in 2002, using dairy from grass-pastured cows, natural ingredients and from-scratch recipes to create inspired flavor combinations, like Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam, Savannah Butter Mint, Mango Butter Milk Frozen Yogurt, Cocoa Curry Coco, and Gooey Butter Cake. Jeni’s purist approach and complex processes of building texture and flavor without synthetic flavorings and dyes, stabilizers and emulsifiers not only makes great tasting ice cream but also gives her scoops a uniquely smooth texture and buttercream body.
From art student to baker and then perfumer, Britton transferred her aesthetic eye, culinary artfulness and passion for creating sensational concoctions into an ice cream enterprise that has earned her the distinction of one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business. Her dedication to quality extends beyond her product to extraordinary service and the environment of her sparkling-clean and beautiful storefronts in four SoCal locations and eight cities nationwide, where patrons can enjoy their dessert in a space fitting to serve up sophisticated mixtures like Roxbury Road, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso.
Sweet Rose Creamery utilizes its ample-size research and development kitchen in Santa Monica, featuring a 1,000-square-foot freezer, to experiment with ice cream flavor combinations, using all organic daily and integrating season produce form neighborhood farmers’ markets, perfecting classics like Old Fashioned Vanilla, Chocolate Caffe Luxxe Coffee, Salted Caramel and Cookies& Cream, and inventing new flavors like their Chef’s Picks of Chef Fox’s White Chocolate with Minty Pea & Macadamia Nuts, Brown Butter with Orange Wafer, Lemon Chiffon and Rose Geranium with Raspberry Ripple.
The masterminds behind the operation, restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan and co-owner/Executive Chef Shiho Yoshikawa, who opened the original ice cream shop in at the Brentwood Country Mart in 2010, have since opened four more shops and continued to grow the company and leverage its talent and resources as a member of the family of celebrated eateries that includes Huckleberry, Milo and Olive, and Rustic Canyon. In addition to ice cream, the shops sell pastries from sister restaurant Milo and Olive and coffee from local roaster Caffe Luxxe.