Ice Cream: Classic Sweet Indulgence Breaks the Mold

DoorDash San Francisco
  &  
Strawberry ice cream from Brooks Ice Cream Parlor.

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream. Not just any ice cream, either, but small-batch, ultra-premium ice cream. Indulgence, variety and high quality are all trends that have helped to build a new category of artisanal ice cream.

Ice cream cake from Humphry Slocombe


“Ice cream is always an affordable luxury and connected with emotions,” Humphry Slocombe co-founder and marketing director Sean Vahey said. He points out that whether we ate ice cream when we were sick or at a birthday party as children, we never let go of how it makes us feel.

“Ice cream is always an affordable luxury and connected with emotions,” 

- Sean Vahey.

The farm-to-table movement also took hold at ice cream shops such as Smitten, which offers ice cream made to order through its patented liquid nitrogen ice cream machines, often featuring seasonal flavors with the freshest fruit of the moment. Salt & Straw also broke boundaries with a similar ethos of new flavors and local, seasonal ingredients and partnerships, but its name also hints at an element that sets the modern ice cream purveyors apart from the rest of the pack: salt. Savory elements add sophistication to a treat that is traditionally exclusively sweet. Salt & Pepper ice cream from Humphry Slocombe, Salted Malted Chocolate Chip Dough from Salt & Straw, and Salted Butterscotch from Tinpot Creamery are just a few of the more overtly salted flavors, but a hint of salt is often the flavor enhancer that while subtle, often makes ultra-premium ice cream flavors pop. Demand for this type of ice cream has been so great, it’s not unusual to find ultra-premium scoop shops across the street from one another. 


Another strong trend in ice cream has been Asian ingredients and ice cream styles. While green tea ice cream has long been a favorite at Japanese restaurants, there’s been an explosion of matcha ice cream options in the past few years. The Japanese dessert mochi ice cream was the fastest-growing category in the ice cream market as of 2018, according to FoodDive. More recently, additional Asian styles of ice cream have taken hold, including rolled ice cream from Thailand, powder or snow ice cream from Taiwan and bingsu, a Korean style of sundae made from shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, and fruit, typically topped with ice cream. Other styles of ice cream include tropical ingredients such as purple yam and pandan from the Philippines, Mexican style paletas or popsicles and Indian style ice creams including the dense and creamy kulfi and falooda, a kind of milk-based ice cream float made with rose syrup. 


Korean-style shaved ice, chocolate pistachio bingsoo, from U:Dessert Story in Berkeley.


Recently there have been twists on the way ice cream has traditionally been served, too. Beyond the requisite sugar cones and waffle cones, you’ll find Asian egg waffles or Belgian waffles being used; one ice cream shop, CREAM, even turns cones literally on their side, transforming them into “tacos” to hold ice cream. And in many of today’s sweet shops, the wafer cookies of old-fashioned ice cream sandwiches have been replaced by the likes of glazed donuts and French macarons. What these twists all have in common? High-quality ice cream and handcrafted confections that are made to order. 


While ice cream is an indulgence, it’s not always an unhealthy one. Plant-based ice creams, frozen desserts made using probiotics, unrefined sugars, and alternative sweeteners like monk fruit, and ice cream made from dairy alternatives such as coconut milk or oat milk are growing in popularity, giving you not just one, but many options to choose from.


Interested in trying some of the ice cream styles mentioned above? Try ordering from one of the merchants below.

San Francisco


Humphry Slocombe

SoMa, San Francisco

Pints include unique flavors like Honey Graham with a base of raw blackberry honey ice cream and homemade graham crackers, plus add ons like frosted peanuts and party packs.

Salt & Straw

Hayes Valley, San Francisco

Flavors that made the brand famous include Honey Lavender and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper.

Smitten

Hayes Valley, San Francisco

Decadent fresh flavors and some vegan options like Brown Sugar Chocolate, with cookie dough chunks available, too.

Matcha Cafe Maiko

Japantown, San Francisco

Matcha or black sesame soft serve in cones and parfaits, with layers of East Asian toppings including agar jelly, syrups, red beans, and mochi balls.

Lush Gelato

North Beach, San Francisco

Argentine-style Italian gelato featuring produce from local farms, like Banana Salted Caramel and Yerena Farms Strawberry.

CREAM

Mission, San Francisco

Specializing in ice cream sandwiches made with brownies, chocolate chip cookies or snickerdoodles. 

San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery

Inner Sunset, San Francisco

With scoops like Madagascar Vanilla and Fresh Mint Chip, Hometown lives up to its “farm-to-cone” mantra.

Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous

Dogpatch, San Francisco

A San Francisco upstart focused on out-of-the-box flavors, from Sloe Gin to Chicory Coffee.


ORDER FROM THE STORY
The restaurant highlighted in the story. Order delivery or grab pick-up from this amazing spot.
SoMa, San Francisco
Hayes Valley, San Francisco
Hayes Valley, San Francisco
Japantown, San Francisco
North Beach, San Francisco
Mission, San Francisco
Inner Sunset, San Francisco
Dogpatch, San Francisco
Read Next
No items found.