The Scoop: Tin Pot Creamery
Fellow Scooper Dawn Maxey and I were feeling adventurous over the holiday break, and decided to make a trip to the burgeoning metropolis of Palo Alto for some ice cream at a local creamery named Tin Pot.
Given the distance, Tin Pot Creamery hadn’t been on my radar until Dawn, whose hometown is nearby Mountain View, mentioned it. Because it is a bit far away, I was not anticipating writing it up for The Scoop; but when a scoop of ice cream lingers on your mind and tempts you to drive 45 minutes again the next day just for a second indulgence, it most definitely merits a five-star review.
Tin Pot sits in an unassuming strip mall in Palo Alto, just across the street from the Stanford campus. Its owner, Becky Sunseri, is a Midwest native and graduate of the pastry school at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. She worked in a number of professional kitchens before opening up her own craft ice cream shop in Palo Alto in 2013, and boy, did she nail it.
If it weren’t so far away, I’d be enormous.
We found the modest storefront in the Town and Country Village, and stepped into a homey yet efficiently designed ice cream shop.
A welcoming chalkboard sign explained that the ice cream is handcrafted in small batches, using natural and wholesome ingredients, including Straus Family Creamery organic dairy products.
It also noted that kids’ ice cream scoops can come decorated with candy eyeballs, an accessory inspired by a scoop shop in Sunseri’s hometown of Bloomington, Illinois.
As for the ice cream itself, most flavors tend toward the traditional, with an elegant twist. Although the sign said that we were limited to three samples each, Dawn and I were able to squeak a fourth out of our friendly scooper.
The moment my tongue made contact with that miniature spoonful of the Four Barrel Coffee with Cocoa Nib Toffee, I was in pure, unadulterated ice cream love.
It captured everything that is perfect about the taste of a fine coffee, with a strong but not overpowering presence. The toffee nibs were sweet and crunchy, a divine complement to the ice cream itself. You can bet that I ordered a full scoop of that flavor.
I also tried the Egg Nog with Boozy Caramel Swirl and Pumpkin Spice with Graham Cracker Crumble — both were seasonal specials and absolutely excellent, again with perfectly pure flavors that were strong in the most soft-spoken of ways.
The scooper also insisted I try the Earl Gray Tea, which, if I were more of a tea fan, would have been just the cup I’d be looking for. I ended up going with the Brown Butter Pecan as my second scoop, trusting that it would be as delicious as the rest of my samplings. It was.
When the cashier handed me my scoops with two candy eyeballs sitting on top — they are usually reserved for kids, but Dawn and I must have exuded a childlike excitement — the joy of meeting this delicious ice cream monster was akin to the feeling of walking into a toy store filled with adorable stuffed animals that you just want to hug and love to pieces. And then gobble up.
Dawn ordered scoops of the Vanilla Bean and Peppermint, drizzled with the most perfect chocolate fudge imaginable. Both the Vanilla and Peppermint were notable for their purity of flavor and thick creaminess.
The chocolate fudge was light in texture, with a dark chocolate taste that does wonderful justice to the TCHO chocolate it is made from. Dawn’s scoops also came with candy eyeballs, and her fudge-covered monster reminded me of Gloppy, that friendly character from Candyland’s Chocolate Swamp.
As we sat outside enjoying our ice cream in the Palo Alto sunshine, I found myself lost in one of the most memorable gustatory experiences of my 29 years on this planet. Dawn even caught me mumbling, “Wow, I hope this never ends.”
She felt the same way about her choices, and when I snuck a few bites, I was simply blown away by the peppermint. It was like a candy cane, but better, because it was an ice cream candy cane.
I chose to have my two scoops in one of Tin Pot’s homemade cones, which have a dollop of dark chocolate in the bottom (to avoid drippy cone syndrome).
I was a bit weary, given the unpleasant Scoop experience I’d recently had with a similarly designed cone at Ici, but decided it would make for a good comparison.
Around the time I reached the level of the cone, we ran into one of Dawn’s old diving coaches. As I was attempting to have a normal conversation with him, I became lost again in tastebud Wonderland, and found myself saying, “Oh my, oh my! This is amazing! The surprise chocolate — I almost forgot — it’s so good!”
Dawn’s diving coach gave me a great big smile, with a nod of understanding, and said, “Oh, is this your first? It’s a big moment!” Clearly, he knew what I was talking about.
From start to finish, Tin Pot simply blew me away. So much so, that as soon as I got home, I started looking for potential OkCupid dates in the Palo Alto area, so that I’d have an excuse to go back for more Tin Pot.
If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Stanford, or are looking for a most delightfully delicious road trip, Tin Pot is a Bay Area must for any ice cream fan.