Three Scoops of Local Flavor
Ugh. It’s too damn hot lately, and dry heat or not, the upward creeping of the mercury is doing a number on me. As I stood in front of the air conditioner with the vents directed up my shirt, I realized it was time to take action. What I needed was cooling from the inside-out. You know what I’m talking about: ice cream.
Three local shops vied to comfort my overheated bod. One was a vintage ice cream parlor with its own unique taste, and the other two, gelaterias with two very different styles. All had the desired effect. I was refreshed and chilled, while also amazed at the frozen dairy offerings of our fair Burque.
I Scream Ice Cream has got to be the coolest place I've ever been asked “cup or cone?” No plain-Jane, vanilla parlor here.
From top to bottom, ISIC is packed to overflowing with toys. Vintage toys, talking toys, toys with blinking lights and toys you can wear. There are video games and hats, stuffed animals and board games. There’s everything. Forget day care; just drop your rug rats off here. But make sure they behave. The shop and toy owner simply won’t abide brats trashing the toys.
Though the ice cream isn’t made in-house, several flavors are mixed just for ISIC’s very happy customers. Beyond the typical chocolate and vanilla, kids will eat up choices like bubblegum and other candy-based concoctions. Mom, dad and the lucky childless aren’t overlooked. Try a two-flavor combo like black walnut and cinnamon. Definitely not child’s play.
Cinnamon is spicy and warm while black walnut is woody and rich. Other flavors like rocky road and strawberry reflect the classic nature of ISIC. The quality is spot-on, everything tastes like its name and the service is tops. Speaking of toppings, ISIC will do the work for you, or you can use candy dispensers to don your cream with whatever your inner child desires.
Gelato is a slight departure from the cream-based goodies most were raised on. Made from milk (not cream) and with less air than its cousin, the result is a smooth, slightly lighter-tasting delicacy. Ecco’s gelato is all this and more. In rectangular pans, alongside expected chocolate and vanilla, you’ll find loads of improbable combinations.
Ecco can do no wrong when it comes to thinking outside the cone. Honey-lavender is intoxicatingly floral with such a delicate sweetness that it’s hard to imagine ever eating Ben and Jerry’s again. Likewise, sesame-cinnamon is so toasty and exotic that Häagen-Dazs’ attempts at gourmet seem pathetic by comparison.
But my absolute favorite is the strawberry-habanero. Sweet, tart and brilliantly fired on the finish, it's a scoop of contrast that defies the common nature of ice cream and its relatives.
The café is sleek and hip without any suggestion that its frozen fare is intended for children. A hair on the yuppie side, but who doesn’t love a little polish now and then?
Serving gelato as well, Berry Ocean definitely had the wee ones in mind when it was conceived. When the owners became frustrated by too many super-sugary and chemical-laden desserts on the market, they decided to create an option that would appeal to both parents and kiddos. I guess if you want something done right, do it yourself.
Berry Ocean’s interior is like a future café, with geometric patterns and low-slung couches. Spherical chairs with conveniently molded ass-shaped seats can handle a grown-up bottom but really tickle the hell out of the tots.
The gelato’s colorful and just as quality as one would expect. When it comes to flavors, Berry Ocean excels at fruit-based scoops. Pomegranate is especially nice. With no seeds to contend with, the less-patient among us can finally experience this frustrating fruit.
The lime gelato is a well-executed tribute to the green-rinded citrus. Crisp and playful, it perfectly balances sweet and sour. Snowy white in color and velvety in consistency, it's nearly superior to the fruit it takes its flavor from.
When the temp starts edging toward triple-digits and swamp coolers inevitably fail to deliver mercy, don’t bitch. Just drop in on any of the above for a chilly reception—in a good way.
Cinnamon and black walnut from I Scream Ice Cream
Strawberry-habanero from Ecco Gelato
Lime from Berry Ocean
I Scream Ice Cream, 2000 Carlisle NE, 268-0139. Hours: Every day 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Price range: $2.19 (small) to $3.79 (large). Ambience: An episode of the “Twilight Zone,” right before the characters realize something’s wrong. Credit cards accepted.
Ecco Gelato, 3409 Central NE, 268-0070. Hours: Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sat 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Price range: $3.50 (small) to $5 (large). Ambience: A little uppity, but justifiably so. Credit cards accepted.
Berry Ocean, 4410 Wyoming NE, 294-5506. Hours: Mon-Thur 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Price range: $2.85 (small) to $4.40 (large). Ambience: Futuristic and stain-resistant. Credit cards accepted.