Real ice cream is in season at Rockridge’s Smitten

Jessica Rogness/Staff

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Today’s delicious ice cream contains a plethora of emulsifiers, preservatives and who knows what else. Most food is processed, and this is done far away from the origin of the ingredients. Smitten Ice Cream wants to make customers fall in love with the idea of what true ice cream should taste like.

Founder Robyn Sue Fisher loves ice cream and wants to reintroduce the real thing — how it should be. “I was grossed out by ice cream in the modern world with its preservatives and emulsifiers, and I wanted to take that away,” said Fisher. “I wanted to make ice cream just for taste with every batch to order with cool nerdy liquid nitrogen.”

Smitten Ice Cream started out on a wagon in a San Francisco street in 2009. Naturally, a dear relationship between the community and Smitten developed, and the memories from those beginning days stuck with the customers. Clearly, loyal customers followed the expansion of Smitten. Since then, Smitten has grown and expanded to four different locations, the latest opening in Rockridge this month.

As Fisher says about the fresh, new location, “the neighborhood is super awesome and has a hipster feel.”

Smitten’s original popularity stems from its process, by which it makes the freshest and purest ice cream right in front of you, made to order. Going along with the idea of fresher and more natural ice cream, a triple-patented liquid nitrogen machine, known as “Brrr,” makes smoother ice cream by using smaller ice crystals.

Annie Chang/Staff

Annie Chang/Staff

In addition to the Brrr machine, Smitten Ice Cream uses gourmet local ingredients. For example, the rhubarb in its rhubarb crisp flavor is brought into the store in the morning, where it is pureed and prepared fresh for the ice cream. According to Fisher, Smitten’s produce is from an organic local farm, the dairy is from an organic farm in Sonoma, the chocolate is from TCHO, now based in Berkeley, and all ingredients are local.

Along with the best ingredients, Smitten loves fun flavors such as strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, earl grey with milk chocolate and brown sugar with cinnamon shortbread. Fisher says the goal is to take high-end restaurant desserts and turn them into ice cream flavors that are a spin on traditional flavors.

The season also influences available flavors because Smitten only uses ingredients that are locally available and in season at the designated time; it is why the flavors change every month. Fisher loves the seasonal flavors, especially the rhubarb crisp and olive oil and lavender shortbread. Using in-season ingredients, the flavors must taste superb.

The rhubarb crisp with oatmeal cookie crumbles also produced a fresh flavor. It had a natural tart sweetness, resembling that of tart yogurt with raspberries, and the cookie crumbles added a nice texture to the otherwise smooth and creamy scoop of ice cream. This seasonal flavor was very unique, as rhubarb ice cream is not very common. The light delicious flavor is definitely worth trying, even if it comes at a little more than $4 per scoop.

The regular flavors are also excellent. The Choc Full ‘O Mint sundae made with fresh mint chip ice cream mixed with TCHO crispies, TCHO chocolate sauce and homemade whipped cream was a twist on a classic flavor. Most mint-flavored ice cream tastes overly sugary and artificial rather than fresh, but this mint ice cream tasted exactly like a mint leaf, closely resembling the smell and taste of mint leaves. The flavor was slightly bitter, emulating a real mint leaf also. The chocolate helped sweeten the leafy taste, and together with the other ingredients, this is one of the best mint chip sundaes.

Annie Chang/Staff

Annie Chang/Staff

On that note, Smitten also serves sundaes called “Truly Smitten Sundaes” and ice cream sandwiches known as “Smitten Brrrgers” with flavors such as vanilla honey fig and brown sugar peanut butter caramel. For vegan customers, Valrhona fudge and salted caramel are also available pairings with the ice cream flavors.

With top-notch ingredients and a modern take on ice cream making, Smitten is set to compete with other gourmet ice cream shops on College Avenue, such as Ici and Tara’s. At Smitten, the novel and original ice cream in the so-called hipster neighborhood already attracts long lines on Friday nights, which is not surprising given its Bay Area following. According to Fisher, “the product speaks for itself. It is better than any ice cream.”

Contact Annie Chang at [email protected].