Prepare your pucker and put your licker on alert, because it’s ice cream season in Wine Country. Whether you prefer your scoops in a cup, cone or piled high in a sundae, we’ve rounded up the tastiest frozen treats around.
Bravas Bar de Tapas: Jimmies and sour worms on your soft serve are so plebeian. The Stark’s (Willi’s Wine Bar, Stark’s Steak and Seafood, etc) take a simple bowl of vanilla Straus Creamery soft serve and elevate it to dessert art with a variety of toppings including tangerine oil and sea salt, Pedro Ximenez chocolate, goat’s milk caramel, strawberry honey, almond Poppycock and jamon migas (fried breadcrumbs with ham). 420 Center St., Healdsburg, 433-7700.
Pullman Kitchen: Homemade ice creams change up regularly, but flavors like double chocolate, cookie dough, caramel, apricot honey and even trusty old vanilla taste like what I remember licking off the paddles each summer at grandma’s house. Creamy, lush and insanely decadent. Add a couple of sugar or lemon cookies and summer is served. 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 545-4300.
Shed: Small batch ice creams in exotic seasonal flavors like chai, Meyer lemon and chocolate at the coffee bar. Take a taste of each, which will make choosing even harder, but your final decision even sweeter. That, or order one of each. We don’t judge. Find them at the coffee bar near the pastries. Calories be damned. 25 North St., Healdsburg, 431-7433.
Noble Folk: Cornflake maple ice cream, passionfruit with dehydrated raspberries, Black sesame and coconut, cardamom, blackberry rosemary, Japanese purple yam and juniper honey. Ridiculously fun flavors change up frequently at this newly opened ice cream and pie shop from the owners of Moustache Baked Goods in Healdsburg. We’re a little in love. Okay, a lot in love. 116 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 529-2162
Sift: Sundae becomes Fundae with two scoops of Three Twins ice cream (salted caramel, brownie, cookies and cream, vanilla), delicious raspberry or chocolate sauce, whipped cream, a cherry and the addition of a Sift treat like a macaroon, cookie, cruffle, blondie or cupcake. Three Sonoma County locations (Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Petaluma).
Glen Ellen Star: Scoops are nice, but even better are take-out half-pints of house-churned ice cream in flavors like malted milk chocolate, maple vanilla bourbon, salted peanut butter, dulce de leche and mandarin sorbet from former French Laundry Chef Ari Weiswasser. 13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen.
Nieve: Ice cream affectionados swear by this out-of-the-way paleteria is unrivaled. There are fewer choices than some Mexican ice cream shops, but the flavors are carefully perfected. Among the scoops are cheese, Nutella (a Biteclub fave), walnut, mamey (a Central American fruit), cajeta (like dulce de leche), platano (plantain) with chocolate chips. 390 Windsor Road, Windsor, 837-5584.
Frozen Art Ice Cream: Here’s a little secret: Owner Jorge Alcazar is the secret behind many of the ice creams you eat throughout the county. And for good reason. Jorge and his father are masters of the legendary Michoacana-style frozen treats from Mexico’s ice cream-capital, Tocumbo and frequently make up to 40 flavors (from chocolate chip and rose petal to tequila, Mexican cheese, avocado and vanilla chai tea). With a state-of-the-art ice cream making process, local chefs and restaurant owners often give him their unique recipes to be spun in his Sebastopol Road shop. 500 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, 331-2899.
Zazu: “If you can’t make good vanilla, you can’t make good gelato,” says John Stewart, part of the duo behind Zazu Kitchen and Farm. With a flair for Italian, John and wife, Duskie Estes, are committed to doing gelato authentically. Starting with Clover milk, they don’t use a pre-made base like many others, but create the dense flavors with just cream, sugar, seasonal fruits, chocolate or other flavorings (including local wines like pinot noir). on their oft-changing dessert menu. What is gelato? This soft, creamy Italian version of ice cream is actually made with less butterfat than normal American ice cream, but less air — giving it a richer quality. 6770 McKinley St., Suit 150, Sebastopol, 523-4814.
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream: In Santa Rosa, two former social workers have opened a pop-up ice cream shop called NitroKarm at Dave’s Market and Deli (320 W. Third St., Santa Rosa) stirring up “happy scoops of delicious and delectably darn good delights.” Pick from various add-ins to create a stellar personal creation in seconds.
Also, SubZero Ice Cream (6760 McKinley St., Sebastopol) lets you choose your base (like yogurt, custard or non-dairy) a flavoring and a mix-ins including bubblegum, mints, gummy bears or chocolate candies.
Wanna make your own? On a hot summer day, it’s one of the most satisfying things you can do. Lindsay Clendaniel has written “Scoop Adventures: The Best Ice Cream of the 50 States” (Page Street Publishing, $19.99), with recipes for regionally inspired ice creams from around the country. Choose from Key Lime pie, Pennsylvania Dutch chocolate covered pretzel, mimosa, brown sugar sour cream, mint julep and rosemary honey (among others).
PS: Lots of folks asking about Screaming Mimi’s, which does have some of our very very favorite ice creams, but BiteClub was looking for a few newer and off-beats entrants for this shout out.