The Great SF Ice Cream Debate

The past Sunday was our second ladies day! Our first ladies day was Kara, Tori, and I enjoying brunch at Chow in the Castro. Yesterday was a total success with triple the ladies and quadruple the deliciousness. It started with a viewing of Bridesmaids at the Kabuki. The overall review of the movie was that it was really funny, totally a chick flick – but we really enjoyed it’s moments of gross out humor and celebrity cameos (Tim from Tim & Eric Show Great Job).

The main part of our ladies day was ice cream tasting. San Francisco has some ice cream fanatics and rightfully so because the ice cream here is the bomb, but which shop is the best? Our rag-tag collection of ice cream loving ladies set out to discover just that. Being the collector of statics that I am, though nowhere near our beloved Allison, I created a spreadsheet for the event. Through many taste tests, careful considerations, and way too much dairy for one day – this was our conclusion:

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Fourth place: Humphry Slocombe

Humphry Slocombe's Thai Chili Lime

Kid Price: $2.75
Number of people in line before us: 8
Flavors Sampled: Thai Chili Lime, Secret Breakfast, Jesus Juice, Peanut Butter Curry, Salt & Pepper
Cup: Compostable white cup with cross-hatching.
Spoon: Standard
Seating: Inside and outside. All inside seating was taken, so we had to sit outside.
Known for: Secret Breakfast
Atmosphere: Slightly Hipster / Foodie

Overall Rating: They definitely had the most interesting flavors, but some of them seemed interesting for interesting’s sake vs. great tasting ice cream. It tasted fattier and left a film on your palate, but it wasn’t as fatty as Smitten.

My Rating: I agree with the ladies here. I was pretty disappointed in the Peanut Butter Curry seeing as that is one of my most favorite things to eat in non-ice-cream form, but it just tasted like milked down peanut butter with some curry flakes in it. I guess I was looking for more of that vinegar kick? As for the Thai Chili Lime it just tasted like cucumber and it didn’t get the chili or lime at all. Bummer. That isn’t to say that I don’t like any of the Humphry Slocombe flavors. Chris and I love Secret Breakfast and I really like their Maple Walnut, but we just get it at Faletti instead of traveling down to the HS store.

The Judges at Humphry Slocombe. Left to right: Tori, Kim, Kara, Jasmine, Lisa, Elise, and myself (not pictured).

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Third place: Smitten

Smitten's Rhubarb Crisp

Kid Price: $3.00
Number of people in line before us: 1
Flavors Sampled: Brown Sugar with Cinnamon Cookie, Rhubarb Crisp, TCHO Chocolate
Cup: Compostable cardboard-looking cup.
Spoon: Small, appropriately sized for a kiddie cup.
Seating: None
Known for: Using liquid nitrogen to make individual cups of ice cream.
Atmosphere: People hanging out in the park… everyone.

Overall Rating: Delicious! The ice cream texture was smooth, soft, and most of the flavors tasted also had crunchy elements. The fresh ingredients definitely shined through, especially in the Rhubarb Crisp. The Brown Sugar with Cinnamon Cookie was missing the cinnamon flavor (but did have the cookie crunch).

My Rating: The scoop of Rhubarb Crisp I got at Smitten was my favorite flavor of the day. It was light and fresh with a wonderful crisp crunch. I’m a huge fan of strawberry rhubarb pie, which is probably why I loved it so much… and the fact that I love crunchy bits in my ice cream. Ladies who had the brown sugar also said that after taste was full of milk-fat, but I didn’t find that as much with the Rhubarb Crisp.

The Judges at Smitten

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Second place: Three Twins

Three Twins' Dad's Cardamom

Kid Price: $2.25
Number of people in line before us: 1
Flavors Sampled: Dad’s Cardamom, Strawberry, Orange, Chai Tea
Cup: Compostable white cup with cross-hatching.
Spoon: Standard
Seating: None
Known for: Being able to buy their ice cream in grocery stores.
Atmosphere: Vibrant. Full of your friends, because it’s close quarters.

Overall Rating: When asked, before any of the tastings, what their favorite ice cream was two of the ladies answered Three Twins (Dad’s Cardamom and Vanilla). Their ice cream is smooth and thick with great flavor. Unlike Humphry Slocombe, Three Twins unusual flavors make for really great tasting ice cream. The taste is really refreshing and light – doesn’t leave a film on your tongue.

My Rating: Recommended by Allison, I love love loved Dad’s Cardamom. I don’t even know how to describe the flavor besides awesome. I also really like that I can buy Three Twins at all of my local grocery stores. I have a pint of their chocolate peanut butter at home and it totally hits the spot. I think overall, after yesterday, that Three Twins is my favorite ice cream spot in SF (along with Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous – that we unfortunately did not make it to).

The Judges at Three Twins

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First place: Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite's Malted Vanilla with Peanut Brittle

Kid Price: $2.25
Number of people in line before us: 28
Flavors Sampled: Malted Vanilla with Peanut Brittle, Mint Chip, Coffee, Balsamic Strawberry, Raspberry, Roasted Banana, Cookies and Cream, and Salted Caramel
Cup: Compostable white cup with cross-hatching.
Spoon: Wooden Stick
Seating: Inside and outside. Always packed. Usually you can find a spot outside.
Known for: Salted Caramel
Atmosphere: Full-blown Hipster

Overall Rating: The ladies favorite! It was said to be “really, really good”. Dense, smooth, crunchy, less milk fat, and ends with a cleaner finish. Even the sorbet had a great smooth texture when usually it’s icy. Delicious!

My Rating: I love Bi-Rite. They introduced me to Salted Caramel and my life was changed forever. Unfortunately for me, when I go there and taste anything besides the Salted Caramel it just tastes like regular good old ice cream. Which, believe me, is not a bad thing – I just prefer somewhere where I can taste unexpected flavors and be pleasantly surprised. It also doesn’t help that out of everywhere we went on our overcast, 60 degree high humidity day that Bi-Rite was the only one with a huge line. But I guess that shows how much San Franciscans love their Bi-Rite – and the ladies agree!

The Judges (waiting in line) at Bi-Rite

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BONUS: Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous

Mr. and Mrs. Misc's Almond Praline

Kid Price: $2.75
Number of people in line before us: 6
Flavors Sampled: Almond Praline, Fernet Branca, and Vanilla Bean
Cup: Compostable white cup with cross-hatching.
Spoon: Small, with weird triangle on top.
Seating: Inside. Always has open spots.
Known for: Making their own cones.
Atmosphere: Totally laid back. The look is very stark and designer-y.

My Rating: I ventured down to Mr. and Mrs. without the ladies so that I could get all the places we really wanted into this review. It also helps that I really love their ice cream and Chris and I happened to be in the area. Their ice cream is super smooth and melts in your mouth with a really light finish. They have a good variety of usual and unique flavors and they’re all delicious. [As a side note, Chris would like everyone to know they have an amazing root beer float and various options for root beer floats. He’d also like everyone to know that their paper, compostable, straw tastes like paper and he didn’t like that very much. BUT all of this is unrelated and maybe next time we’ll do a root beer float tasting.] Overall, Three Twins and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous are tied as my favorite ice cream shops in San Francisco.

Mr. and Mrs. Misc

To see all of our ice cream adventures, check out my flickr. Got a different opinion or a different ice cream flavor or shop we should check out? Please let us know!