So, if you've followed the happenings in the East Bay dessert world, you know that a couple of Chez Pannisse alums recently opened a cutie-patootie ice cream "parlor" called Ici in Berkeley.
But is there room in the hearts of East Bay-ers for TWO cutie patootie frozen dessert joints? Because, unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past year or so, you know that we over here love us some Sketch. Eric & Ruthie have developed what can only be described as a cult following for their lusciously heady frozen confections.
This past weekend, C and I were battling Cals fans as we drove through Berkeley, and fortuitously found ourselves in a holding pattern directly in front of Ici, on College Avenue. As I swung the car into the yellow, I yelled (with all the passion of a football coach, natch), "Run, go, RUN! Two flavors. Pick two. Any two. Just MOVE!"
Good man that he is, he was in and out in less than two minutes, a single scoop cone of vanilla for him, and a cup of Earl Grey and Pine Nut Praline for me. Before I go any further, let me just say that their cone is the BEST CONE I HAVE EVER EATEN - light and flaky like a Pirouette, with a happy little nubbin of dark chocolate at the base.
Side note: I don't think I ever told you guys this, but my first and last attempt at ice cream making was an Earl Grey flavor. One that I tried to serve to this obssesed couple. I over-steeped the tea, so the end product was pretty much inedible -- it was horribly tannic and horribly horrible. Thus, I feel uniquely equipped to judge Earl Grey ice creams.
The verdict? I found Ici's ice creams all a little too sweet for my palate. On the other hand, the flavors themselves were tremendously pure and, well, flavorful. Texturally, the vanilla and tea were lovely and smooth, with a nice mouth-coating butterfat content. There was a hint of extremely fine graininess to the pine nut ice cream, which didn't distract from the experience; unfortunately I couldn't help but think would never happen at Sketch.
It's important to note, however, that Eric & Ruthie don't sell what they make as "ice cream" -- their repertoire is predominantly gelato with a few granitas thrown in for fun. That said, I still think that what they do is perhaps a little more refined than Ici, and I like that. So, for the time being at least, I will be heading to Fourth Street rather than College Avenue for my frozen treat fix.
Ici Ice Cream
2948 College Avenue, Berkeley
Open Tues - Sun, 11am - 9pm
Sketch Ice Cream
1809-A Fourth Street, Berkeley
Open Sun - Thurs, 12pm - 6pm, Fri & Sat 12pm - 8pm
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