Sunday, January 23, 2011

Plain Old Wednesday Turns Into Ice Cream Shangri-La

[Reader note: One of my classes this semester is a Social Media Lab. We blog for class, and this is my first class post. It's still about the best topic ever (um, food) so belongs here too! More to come through the spring...]

It was a plain old, regular Wednesday when a very special Tasting Table: LA email arrived about Carmela Ice Cream, a company known for selling organic ice cream only at local farmer’s markets. The news? They opened a store! I’d heard of this elusive ice cream, but I’m the type that goes to IKEA over a garage sale because I don’t want to hunt for the things on my list, I just want to buy them! The company website listed retail locations for a quick pint pick-up, though why do that when you can simply visit their week-old “artisan creamery” in Pasadena?? Life on Wednesday suddenly brightened, so I sent a friend the news and she replied, “Wanna go tonight?” We calculated the timing—it was more Sierra Madre than Pasadena—and as they were only open until 8:00 p.m., any thoughts of dinner would have to wait until after our ice cream appetizer.

With a clear mission and instincts on high alert, we arrived at Carmela’s around 7:00 p.m. with an hour to spare. There was no line, just a couple and their small son eating the ice cream I wanted immediately. The mother and son were wearing USC jerseys. I said a discreet “Fight on!” to them and the kid almost looked peeved that I distracted him from his tasty bounty, however once he realized I was a friendly he flashed me a Trojan smile.

There are many things that inspired me to visit Carmela’s. One is their use of farmer's market produce and Clover Organic Farms dairy. But the real draw was their flavor list, which I have recreated here from my food-obsessed memory: salted caramel, strawberry buttermilk, Meyer lemon olive oil, lemon verbena vanilla, fresh mint & cacao nib, cucumber sorbet, lavender honey, cardamom, brown sugar vanilla, dark chocolate cacao nib, and more! Of course they had me at salted caramel. That was the true draw for this mission, since my introductory taste of salted caramel ice cream was at Izzy’s last summer in St. Paul, and I really had to have it again. One cup of Carmela’s, which you can split between two flavors that you’ve tasted pre-commitment, is only $3.50. And that is an extremely small price to pay for such an outstanding ice cream experience.

Until we eat again,

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