Salted Caramel is the new Vanilla. Ice cream trucks have gone gourmet. It’s all organic, ultra-local, and handmade. Eat up!
Trend 1: Upscale trucks
No freezer-burned Push-Up pops here. Ice cream trucks go upscale.
- The scoop: Everything served from Adria Shimada’s tiny, elegant ice cream truck is made from scratch: the hand-rolled krumkake cones, the candy she mixes into her Butter Toffee Crunch. And procured from local farmers: like the nectarines and blueberries in her ice cream base.
- Lick we love: Coffee, made with beans from local Caffè Fiorè (a regular stop on the Parfait truck route). –Rebekah Denn
- The scoop: Seattle’s ice cream queen expands her mini empire from two shops to include a roving truck stocked with favorites like Balsamic Strawberry.
- Lick we love: New ice cream sandwiches like Vanilla Bean, squished between praline-style cookies made with walnuts and chunks of Theo Chocolate. –R.D.
- The scoop: If Ben & Jerry got stranded on an island with Alice Waters, Frank Gehry, and L.A.’s Kogi taco-truck guy, they might come up with something like this: homemade ice cream sandwiches—say, Peanut Butter ice cream with chocolate cookies—in zero-waste edible wrappers, sold out of a pink-and-silver mini truck (painted with faces of famous architects) and a new one converted from an old mail van.
- Lick we love: Any from the new “luxury” line, like Pistachio with Black Truffles. –Jenny Price
- The scoop: You can’t miss Sweet Republic’s 1959 Chevy truck. (And that’s the point.) Inside the orange-and-white milk truck are eight of the same funky flavors you’ll find at the shop—like I Love Bacon and Salted Butter Caramel Swirl.
- Lick we love: Zingy Basil Lime Sorbet. –Elizabeth Exline
- The scoop: Not only has Missoula’s beloved little ice cream parlor just opened a second location in Helena, they’re now tooling around Missoula in cute new yellow wheels.
- Lick we love: Creamy Cold Smoke, made with beer from local Kettlehouse Brewing Co. –Miranda Jones
NEXT: Crazy flavors and seriously good soft-serve
Trend 2: Crazy flavors
The wackier the flavors, the better.
- The scoop: Swarmed with hipsters on any given day (rainy ones included), this simple-looking parlor hand-churns its daily-changing flavors that are anything but. Foie Gras, Peanut Butter Curry, Secret Breakfast (bourbon with corn flakes) are some of ice cream guru Jake Godby’s now-famous concoctions, but to overlook his creamy Chocolate, laced with smoked sea salt, would be a serious mistake.
- Lick we love: White Miso Peach, new this summer. –Rachel Levin
- The scoop: Handmade cones are stuffed with madcap flavors like Chocolate-Malt Whoppers, Tequila Sunrise, and Baklava. Bonus: Sweet Action is 100 percent wind-powered and sources milk and cream from local dairies, spices from Denver’s Savory Spice Shop, and sweets like brownie bits from the city’s Sugar Bakeshop.
- Lick we love: Banana Reese’s Pieces—creamy Banana ice cream studded with E.T.’s candy-coated peanut butter nuggets. –Amanda M. Faison
Trend 3: Soft-serve
Soft-serve is back—and tastier than ever.
The line for Bi-Rite Creamery’s small-batch scoops literally snakes around the block. But take our advice and keep walking past it—where (at least until word spreads) you can step right up to the San Francisco parlor’s new soft-serve window.
That’s right, the classic summer twist is back—and, made with dairy from local Straus Family Creamery, it’s way better than you remember it. Two flavors change daily (Balsamic Strawberry and Malted Vanilla among them), but cross your fingers for Salted Caramel: As the sole guy ahead of me said to the sidewalk, “It’s damn good, people!” –R.L.
NEXT: Farm-fresh treats and retro classics
Trend 4: Market stands
Frozen treats pop up between the produce at farmers’ markets.
The scoop: Inspired by juicy Mexican paletas, these zingy blends of fresh fruit juices, herbs, agave, and cane juice kick those mass-produced orange/grape/cherry popsicles to the curb. The ’70s-era tricycle cart sets up at five seasonal farmers’ markets, but a new brick-and-mortar shop opened in May—which means these ice-cold popsicles will be available year-round.
Lick we love: Cucumber Lime Jalapeño. –Lucy Burningham
The scoop: Four-star chef Holly Smith devotes the same attention to gelato and sorbet as she does to her handmade pastas. At her renowned Cafe Juanita, a $30,000 imported machine helps produce fancy desserts for the restaurant like bittersweet torta with Maple Blossom gelato and cherry vinegar sauce—as well as the scoops she sells at farmers’ markets from her portable Poco Carretto cart: Cinnamon, Gingered Apricot, Fennel, and a crème brûlée-like combo of Egg Crema and Burnt Sugar.
Lick we love: The subtly nutty Toasted Rice. –R.D.
Trend 5: Retro treats
Nostalgia-inducing sweets get a makeover
Fudgsicle: Owners of the new Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (aka Ian Flores and wife Annabelle Topacio) spent a year perfecting their fudgsicle recipe: a silky slab made with Valrhona chocolate and Straus dairy, served stick-less on a biodegradable plate. 699 22nd St., 415/970-0750. –R.L.
Root beer float: It’s bubbly and creamy. And the longer you sip, the more the two become one. Ici’s float is a serious cut above A&W, with scoops of housemade vanilla dunked in a Louisiana root beer sweetened with cane sugar. 510/665-6054. –Lisa Trottier
Ice cream sandwich: Try this: malted chocolate ice cream smushed between two just-baked vanilla cookies, from the just-opened Sweet Rose Creamery. 310/260-2663. –Elizabeth Jenkins
Snow cone: Locali uses reverse osmosis–filtered water and organic brown-rice syrups in flavors like BubbleGum, Cola, and Mango. Chocolate-covered frozen bananas and vegan popsicles too, from Icycle, the shop’s roaming tricycle. 323/466-1360. –E.J.
Balboa bar: The 1940s favorite gets an upgrade at the new BoardWalk Ice Cream Co. Choose milk or dark chocolate and as many of the 15 toppings as you want, rolled on the spot. Irvine Spectrum Center; 949/453-0414. –Chantal Lamers