One day, we will all find ourselves in the blue light of the television, shamefully surprised when our spoon hits the bottom of the Haagen-Dazs container. “How did that happen?” we will wonder. The answer: a weakness for sweet, creamy, cold desserts is part of the human condition.
It's the No. 1 temptation dieters will give in to behind their trainers' backs. It's also one of the most effective bribes for well-behaved children, and a foolproof remedy for heartbreak, with its earliest-traced origins in the 4th century BC. If you do not find yourself seduced by the slowly melting scoop, you are a rare anomaly, and you probably won't be interested in reading on.
To all other readers, whether you are a rebellious double-scoop regular, a frozen yogurt fiend or a special-occasions-only partaker, choosing your supplier of frozen bliss is an important decision. As always, supporting local and independent shops is not only the right thing to do, it’s where you’ll find the highest quality ingredients to feed your craving.
1. Cafe Violette outdoes Baskin-Robbin's 31 Flavors and Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors” with 48 flavors of ice cream, locally made by two companies: Marriannes, and Polar Bear Ice Cream. It also serves old-school malts and milkshakes, hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, smoothies and the best deal of the county: the $1 mini-cone, for those who want a taste but just can’t commit to a whole scoop.
Flavors to try: Mexican Chocolate, Cinnamon Coconut and Butter Pecan.
Cafe Violette is at 104 Stockton Ave, Capitola. 831-479-8888.
“Let’s go to Marrianne’s” is a suggestion commonly overheard at local gatherings. If you are new to town, you will learn fast that Marrianne’s is not the name of a popular neighbor but the name of one of the best ice cream shops in Santa Cruz. Since 1958, Marrianne’s has been the Ocean Street landmark welcoming travelers to Santa Cruz with its colorful yellow sign.
An overwhelming 70 flavors and dancing cow wallpaper are reasons enough to stand in line, even when it extends into the parking lot (which happens often during the summer). Marrianne’s is there for you should your craving hit late at night, open until 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. I will let you in on one secret though: Marianne’s uses a higher butterfat content than most ice cream makers, which makes it delicious but deadly, literally.
Flavors to try: 1020—named after the store’s address, this is a heavenly mix of caramel ice cream with fudge swirls and Oreos. Macapuno—creamy, baby coconut ice cream, and oatmeal-raisin cookie dough.
Marianne’s is at 1020 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. 831-458-1447.
3. Mission Hill Creamery
Celebrating its one-year anniversary this week, Mission Hill Creamery is the successful brainchild of owner, David Kumec. It was the first organic artisinal ice cream shop to open in Santa Cruz, and although it no longer sells from its retail location on Front Street, (a shame because sampling flavors was a mind-altering experience), you can find pints of Mission Hill Creamery at retail locations all over town, including Coffeetopia and the Westside Farmers Market.
Does spending $8 on a pint of ice cream mean you will ration out the sweet stuff all week? That depends on your self control, because yes, I will say it: This is hands down the best-tasting ice cream around. Made from milk from the Straus Family Creamery and fruit from local organic farms, this ice cream is worth every penny and is probably the best fit for the "special occasions only" ice cream consumer. The flavors change depending on what's available and in season, so check out the website for the week’s flavors as well as retail locations.
Flavors to try: Salted Caramel, and every single other flavor.
4. Penny Ice Creamery
Opening just a few months after Mission Hill Creamery, the Penny Ice Creamery is as trendy as it is pricey. But there are reasons why you should give it a try. Located in what used to be a dentist's office in the early 1900s, it is the only shop in town to pasteurize and make its own ice cream in house.
If you don’t want to wait in line, you can also find the creative flavors at the Live Oak and Downtown Farmers Markets. Known for its creative and constantly changing flavors like Wild Fennel, Black Tea Peach, Chili Chocolate Smoke and Celery Mint, the Penny Ice Creamery uses ingredients from local organic farms, so you know you are paying for quality.
Penny Ice Creamery is at 913 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831-204-2523.
5. Just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, this mom-and-pop shop is one of a kind. Aside from a modest selection of handcrafted ice cream in all of the traditional flavors, the shop also carries candies and shaved ice, which is hard to find. The best part about this place is that you can take your cone and walk right onto the beach with it. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a distinct line between Souza and Cafe Violette loyalists. Try both before you take any sides.
Flavors to try: Pineapple Coconut, Rocky Road, Vanilla Bean.
Souza Cones Ice Cream & Candy is at 200 Monterey Ave., Capitola. 831-475-9339.