Artisanal ice cream is nothing new in San Francisco. Now-ubiquitous flavors like salted caramel and bourbon cereal milk were practically created in the City by the Bay. In fact, Bi-Rite Creamery is somewhat credited with making the fruit-tart strawberry balsamic flavor that is a best-seller on menus across the nation.
While this ice cream innovation went down roughly 10 years ago, San Francisco is experiencing a frozen dessert renaissance, as a younger generation of creative culinary minds is taking the city by storm.
Here’s what you need to know about the next wave of specialty scoop shops.
Smitten Ice Cream
This local favorite is the pioneer of the recent boutique ice cream trend. Robin Sue Fisher has revolutionized the industry with her patented technology — a made-to-order ice cream churner. She uses in-season, locally sourced ingredients to make the luscious base, then pours it into the specially created liquid nitrogen machine for one of the freshest, creamiest scoops you’ve ever tasted.
The Hayes Valley location was the original in San Francisco, soon followed by stores in Marina and Pacific Heights. In the past year, Smitten has opened a new shop in the Mission on the same corner where Fisher used to sell her creamy creations from a wagon.
One of the things that has made Smitten unique (technique aside) is its commitment to alternative flavors. Chefs have taken notice and Big Night Restaurant Group tapped Fisher to create its latest cult craze. Renowned pastry chef Emily Luchetti partnered with Scribe Winery and the local ice cream maker to produce Sonoma Rosé, a pretty pink ice cream flavor for the summer menu of the restaurant group’s latest venture, Petit Marlowe.
The Bay Area’s obsession with rosé sweet treats shows no signs of slowing down. Humphry Slocombe recently partnered with Domaine Carneros winery to create a Rosé All Day sherbet.
This limited-edition pint is a wildly addictive, pretty pale pink delight that’s sweet, tart and surprisingly alcoholic — in the best kind of way. It tastes like sparkling rosé in ice cream form.
But if you miss out on this special summertime flavor, don’t worry — the San Francisco creamery features boozy scoops on its regular menu. Secret Breakfast is a crowd favorite, offering a creamy blend of bourbon and cornflakes.
Salt and Straw
Portland’s beloved darling has finally opened a San Francisco outpost on Fillmore Street. So strong is the scent of freshly baked waffle cones that neighbors are worried that it’s artificial, but those in the know will tell you that it’s the real deal.
Unfortunately, with this sort of captivating aroma, there comes a line. Salt and Straw followers will wait for hours just to get a fresh scoop, but the best way to taste the sensational ice cream is to skip the queue and purchase a pint.
The peach vinegar cobbler with toasted nutmeg is a revelation. Home cooks are dying to know how Tyler Malek manages to keep the cobbler decadently gooey while the rest of the ice cream is frozen and firm. Luckily, rumor has it that the Salt and Straw team is hard at work on a cookbook, so the secrets may be revealed soon.
If you have a hankering for a velvety scoop while exploring San Francisco’s most popular foodie attraction, the Ferry Building, head straight for Gott’s Roadside’s stall to try its brand-new soft serve offerings.
The Napa Valley-based eatery only offers this frozen treat at this lone City by the Bay location, so take advantage of the opportunity to try peanut butter, blue raspberry or cherry soft serve ice cream, or indulge in classic flavors like Dutch chocolate, fior di latte (mozzarella) or salted caramel. And don’t forget the toppings.