THE SCOOP: Ici? More Like Icy

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On a recent delightful fall evening after clinic, The Scoop crew found itself across the Bay looking for a way to pass the time before heading back to The City. Not surprisingly, the first thing to pop into our collective mind was ice cream. And so we headed to Ici (pronounced “Eee-see”), an ice cream shop on College Avenue in Berkeley and one of the East Bay’s famed ice cream destinations.

Run by a former Chez Panisse pastry chef, Ici makes all of its sweet treats entirely in house, from scratch, using only organic dairy, eggs and local sustainable ingredients.

Each day it offers up 11 flavors of ice cream, sorbets and sherbets, which range from favorite standbys to more creative batches such as Darjeeling-Sour Cherry and Cardamom-Orange.

The flavors change daily and are often based on seasonal availability, but they promise that you can always find a classic chocolate and vanilla on the menu. Ici also offers bombes (ice cream cakes) available in different sizes, ice cream bonbons and sandwiches and affogato (espresso and ice cream).

When we arrived at Ici, we were greeted by a long line that neatly extended out the door and down the block. The line was miraculously well behaved: No one blocked the sidewalk, even though there was no sign policing it to be so polite.

Since it was October, I was thrilled to find Pumpkin ice cream on the menu. In fact, all three of us on the Scoop crew (Ian Buchanan[VE1] , Dawn Maxey and myself) sampled the Pumpkin. My little spoonful was reminiscent of pumpkin pie, and I decided on it for my order.

However, when faced with an entire scoop to devour ($3 for one scoop in a cup), I found myself horrified by the texture, which was more akin to shaved ice than the creamy goodness I expected atop my cone.

In fact, the texture was so intolerable that after a few licks, I went to the trash and — for the first time in my Scoop-writing career — scraped the ice cream into the garbage. Gasps filled the air from all of the yuppie onlookers.

Was this ice cream sacrilege? No. It was simply The Right Thing to Do.

Similarly unpleasant was my taste of the Ginger-Candied Pecan. I’m a huge fan of ginger, but even I found the flavor overpowering; the strange, crunchy texture could not be explained by the pecans alone.

I did find myself tempted by the Cranberry-Raspberry sorbet, which had a smooth texture and a pleasant mix of tang and sweetness, but unfortunately, I did not decide on it for my final order.

Luckily, Dawn and Ian each made a fine selection of simple Chocolate. Although the scoop was quite small for the price, I managed to steal a lick and found it to be creamy, smooth and boasting a rich, chocolate flavor.

Ian also opted for a scoop of Vanilla Crème Brûlée, another favorite in terms of taste and texture. The caramelized sugar swirls blended perfectly with the rich vanilla base.

All three of us got our ice cream in handmade cones for an additional 90 cents each. Although we were pleasantly surprised to find a ribbon of chocolate melding together the sides of the cone, the chocolate glue was not enough to make up for the tasteless wafer of a cone.

In fact, a fortune cookie I recently had from Panda Express was more flavorful than my Ici cone. We all found ourselves wishing for boxed sugar cones instead.

Much to the horror of the surrounding patrons, my handmade Ici cone found its way to the same destination as my scoop of ice cream — straight into the garbage.

Although it seems that Ici does standard flavors well, their creative flavors are hit or miss, and much more miss than hit. Given the hefty price tag, long line and paltry portion size, it would take some real tough convincing to get me back across the Bay for another visit.

Ici Ice Cream

2948 College Ave., Berkeley

Open Monday thru Thursday

Noon–9:30 p.m., Friday noon–10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

Moderate prices.