[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1998

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The Real Scoop

[whitespace] Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream Ice Cream of the Crop: For its superior flavor, texture and custom of using regular spoons instead of wasteful wooden ones for samples, Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream beats the competition cold.

Christopher Gardner

Where inner children go when they need really good ice cream

By Traci Hukill

Folks, we've been bamboozled again. First it was oleo instead of butter, then they prescribed broccoli for cancer, and now they've gone after our frozen desserts. Made them "good for us," more "healthful." The results have been disastrous. Consider the following chart of preferences in frozen desserts as they relate to stages of human development:

Childhood (both sexes): ice cream

Adolescence (female): frozen yogurt

Adolescence (male): ice cream

Middle age (female): sorbet

Middle age (male): whiskey, rocks

Old age (female): sherbet sweetened with NutraSweet®

Old age (male): refrigerated Maalox

The trend is clear. As they mature, females "prefer" increasingly ascetic frozen desserts, while males abstain from any interaction with that food group at all. Neither sex enjoys the rich, creamy, luxurious confection they knew as children. Need we mention the role of the puritanical health industry in this pernicious pleasure-robbing scheme?

In our avowed vigilance against self-denial, the staff at Metro carefully combed the area for reasons men and women might consider returning to childhood and reclaiming the delight that is rightfully theirs, irrespective of caloric content or image problems. Our goal: simply to find the best ice cream in the valley. We hope all those in need will find this little guide a valuable resource in accessing their inner children and outer bliss.

Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream
Rick's , the blue ribbon winner, took our judges back to hedonistic puppyhood on a magic carpet ride of creamy texture and inventive flavors like Computer Chip (orange and chocolate), White Chocolate Ginger and Hawaiian Rocky Road (chocolate, coconut and macadamia nut). Made in Palo Alto by a guy named Greg Haagenson with a degree in ice cream-making, Rick's also makes middle-aged womanhood rather appealing, confectionarily speaking; the pineapple sorbet, made from Maui pineapples, sugar and ice, would bring a lumberjack to his knees and into an Ann Taylor store before he could say, "Because I'm worth it."

Ben & Jerry's
Bless their lefty hearts. Not only is Ben & Jerry's a fairly politically correct ice cream company, it's a damn good tasting one, too, making it easy to play concerned grownup and happy, cone-slurping kid at the same time. Since one of the things that's important to a good ice cream is the presence of lots of stuff suspended in its luscious depths, Ben & Jerry's rates a high second place for its impossibly crowded Chubby Hubby and its five-crunches-per-bite Heath Toffee Crunch.

We caught up with San Jose's hometown brand at Five Star Ice Cream, but this locally made ambrosia shows up in half the ice cream parlors in town. Something for everyone here--while the Butterscotch Marble caters to the palate of a sophisticate, the Tin Roof Sundae is all about juvenile excess. A handful of butter-melty, chocolate-covered peanuts in every scoop studs an excellent vanilla laced with chocolate ribbon. Note the absence of hazelnuts, white chocolate or raspberries in this recipe; this is skinned-knee, tree-climbing kid's ice cream. We applaud its lack of pretense.

Yeah, yeah. It's probably run by Masons. There may be links to the CIA. But BR, as aficionados know it, knows ice cream even if it does mass-manufacture the stuff. From old standards like Pralines 'n' Cream to the month's special flavor, the little elves at BR consistently turn out superior flavored ice creams in appealing colors with a texture so satiny you could fingerpaint with it. Is there something wrong with that?

Real Ice Cream
Ah, the little store with the big attitude. We like the swaggering, little-guy punch of that adjective up front. As far as we can see, the owners have good reason to be proud. They make their own ice cream, which puts them in a distinguished minority, and they concoct rare flavors like Cardamom, Saffron Rose and Dry Fig--all traditional Indian flavors but a rare treat in California. The Kulfi, a nutty ice cream with distinctive flavor and crunchy texture, comes in delicate Mango and Pistachio flavors.

The Big Chills
Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream, 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650/493-6553

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, 115 E. San Carlos St., San Jose, 408/275-8827

Five-Star Ice Cream and Yogurt, 6950 Almaden Expressway, San Jose, 408/268-2303

Baskin-Robbins 31 Ice Cream, 24 locations in the valley

Real Ice Cream, 3077 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, 408/984-6601

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From the September 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro.

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