In an attempt to be considerate, I refrained from enticing my friends into a night of debauchery and adult beverages in the middle of the week, and instead pondered a fun, tame, civilized event for my first anniversary of turning 23.
Growing older in body but not in spirit, I wanted to turn the clock back and forget that I was a mere 365 days from reaching the quarter-century mark. I wanted to bring back a childhood memory to offset my first full year of being a real adult.
And then it hit me.
A welcome addition to Cole Valley, a quaint, 1920s-era soda fountain recalls the days of yore when a frankfurter cost a nickel and your grandfather had to walk to school uphill. Both ways. In the snow.
Ice Cream Bar takes you back in time, and makes even those who weren’t around in the proverbial “day” feel like kids in a candy store. This was precisely what I needed.
So, as a few of my closest friends and I descended upon the shop, we were warmly greeted with cool samples of anything (and everything) our hearts desired.
The space is split up into two main areas: the standard ice cream case upon entry, and the more luring, neon lit bar toward the back, complete with stools, tinctures, and your very own jerk.
Two such concoctions were “The Valentina” with strawberries, rosewood, rosemary and pineapple, and the “Stalk in the Park” with celery seed and mint. Both fascinating in their own way – The Valentina with a bright strawberry soda flavor that was elevated with the herbaceous rosemary, and the Stalk in the Park with a pungent, unmistakably celery essence that almost made me feel healthy for having tasted it – they were both evened out by the cream and syrups as to not be overwhelming.
Their milkshakes, for example, are made without ice cream as has become custom over the years. Instead, these hold true to their name: milk (and/or cream), shaken with raw egg, house made tinctures, malts, flavors and syrups combine for a surprisingly lighter take on the creamy treats as we know them today.
I know, I know – cream, eggs and sugar hardly sounds like a “light” take on anything. Comparatively, however, these creations are thinner and more easily consumed than the thick, dense, heavy milkshakes we’re used to, but not in the watered down kind of way. Full flavor, and rich to be sure, but silky smooth and easy doing down. By far, the crowd favorite was the "Too Good to be True." Living up to its name, butterscotch and blackstrap molasses infused with the raw egg and milk to create a sweet, rich, caramel-laden drink that knocked my socks off.
But all of that "light" business went out the window come to the “The World’s Best Pistachio Milkshake.” Claimed to be “made for two,” it was more accurately made for twelve. Which was great, because there just so happened to be about a dozen of us. Pistachio ice cream buzzed with raw Sicilian pistachio syrup and cream to form a viscous, meaty behemoth of a drink which was deliciously pure in its own right. The kicker here, however, was the hand whipped cherry whipped cream that topped the goblet, and dripped ever so elegantly down the sides.
If these oddities are too much, the traditionalists still have their say here at Ice Cream Bar. Decadent ice cream sundaes and banana splits are piled high with all the typical fix-ins, though they will do you one better. The bananas are lightly coated in sugar and torched for a crispy, caramelized shell atop the soft, warm fruit.
Yet as we closed down the bar, what struck me most was how much everyone was smiling.
More accurately - I think - was that we too often fail to recognize the simple pleasures in life, like an old fashioned milkshake or a simple scoop of ice cream with friends in a time much less complicated than the present. We always strive to arrive at the next stages in our lives so quickly – getting our drivers licenses, going to college, getting a job, marriage – that we forget to live in the present, or never realize how carefree it was to be a child.
And maybe a dose of the past is just what we need.