As I have previously reported, I am not a fan of Berkeley; it is my Texas, except that Texas is my Texas, but whatever. Tonight after work I braved the long haul down College and after a trip to the Claremont library, Tart and I ate at Gordo’s and then waited in a long line for Ici.
Let me rephrase that: the line was incredibly short for Ici, which is on a nightly basis mobbed by people slavering for their brand of high-end gourmet ice cream. This time the line was about 15 minutes, more or less the limit of my patience, but is (basically) worth it.
Started by former Chez Panisse dessert chef Mary Canales, Ici (the name is, reportedly, pronounced “Eee See,” it’s like, French or something) makes small-batch ice cream with a menu that changes daily. It’s ultra-yuppie and super-fabulous. I have been there a half a dozen times and been impressed each time by the freshness and richness of the ice cream.
The flavors are artsy fartsy to the extreme, though they do always have a few standards like vanilla & chocolate. Tonight I got coffee and cinnamon-chicory, a winning combination. The coffee ice cream is one of the best I’ve tasted, though Tart’s homemade is better. The cinnamon-chicory was amazing — like the gutsy-nasty part of the best New Orleans coffee that’s so amazingly hard to duplicate, a dream of brutal sin and sublime spirituality in a god damned cup of Joe, brother, here rendered lovingly in ice cream. About the best thing ever.
Tarty opted for the strange combination of chocolate — unbelievable, milky-smooth and as good, if lighter, than Strauss’s Dutch Chocolate — and cardamon-rose, which I kinda tried to warn her off of by saying that I loved it.
Let me back up: Tarty had never previously had rose ice cream; “Rose ice cream is weird,” I told her, having enjoyed such a thing at Bombay on Valencia street. “I like it. But I am given to understand that some people find it challenging or unusual.” I added weakly, if diplomatically.
As if out of spite, she got the cardamon-rose and hated it. I ate about half of it and am now rather sick.
Despite my affection for rose ice cream, my verdict on the Ici version is a big Oh No She Di-int. The rose part of the ice cream is extra awesome, fresh and fragrant and full of spirit and better than Bombay’s pretty-good version by a longshot. But the cardamon is just… extraneous. Why add cardamon to this concoction? For fuck’s sake, people, I’m already eating rose flavored ice cream, how much fruitier do I need it to be?
Nonetheless, Ici as an institution gets a big PTL. Wait through the line if you can bear it; Ici’s worth it.