I’m spending the month of January in Los Angeles, so for now, it’s goodbye to the grey days and freezing nights of New York, and hello to sunshine and outdoor workouts. Since arriving, I’ve gone out of my way to sample ice cream, because it’s the last thing I would be eating back at home. Here are my top three frozen picks for L.A.:
1) Soft-Serve Ice Kreme at Leaf Organics, Culver City (Leaf website: http://leaforganics.com/index.html)
This is raw, vegan ice cream made from chia seeds and cashews, and sweetened with coconut sugar — but you would never know it. It’s decadent and rich, with a well-rounded taste, and it doesn’t have any of the slightly “off” flavors of store-bought dairy-free ice cream. It comes in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. My favorite flavor is the vanilla, because of its toasted nutty aroma. Full disclosure: Leaf chef/owner Rod Rotondi is my brother-in-law, but Leaf has been one of the city’s best-loved raw food joints since it opened in 2004. Rotondi says he will be opening a Sundae bar with all kinds of healthy nut and fruit toppings this summer, so stay tuned.
2) Majoon Persian Ice Cream Shake at Café Glacé, Westwood (website: http://cafe-glace.com/)
I stumbled upon this casual café one day after eating lunch in Westwood, the neighborhood with the city’s highest concentration of Persians. They specialize in Persian-style pizza (http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/04/food/la-fo-find-cafe-glace-20110804), but I was drawn in by a sign in the window advertising the majoon shake, a popular snack food in Iran. The shake is a majestic, brimming glass of mocha-colored ice cream topped with coconut shavings, sesame seeds, and crushed pistachios. The friendly server said that it has nine different ingredients, including dates, bananas, and vanilla ice cream. It has a distinctly exotic taste, maybe from the dates and sesame seeds. We slurped the shake down in minutes, each creamy sip made more interesting by crunchy bites of topping.
3) Persian Ice Cream at Mashti Malone’s, Hollywood (website: http://www.mashtimalone.com/)
Mashti Malone’s, an L.A. institution for twenty years, specializes in rosewater ice cream, and uses other exotic ingredients like sahlab (a thickener made from ground orchid root), saffron, orange blossom water, and cardamom. The flavors can be intense for the American palate. Rosewater and orange blossom water taste like perfume if you’re not used to them, but in Central Asia and the Middle East they are standard dessert ingredients. I tried the Rosewater Saffron with Pistachios (pictured), and the rich, creamy Turkish Coffee. They sell their ice cream in stores all over the city, but it’s fun to go to their shop in person and get a cone right where the ice cream is manufactured.