By Hollyanna McCollom
Like a bell causes a Pavlovian dog to drool, the tinkling sound of a truck playing “The Entertainer” makes me want a Rocket Pop. The smell of waffles makes me want a big, drippy cone full of chocolate ice cream. The sound of a blender makes me long for a frosty espresso milkshake. I blame the sun. Well, that and my voracious sweet tooth. Can you blame me? Be it a milkshake, sundae or ice-cold snack, there is no better way to beat the summertime heat than an oh-so-sweet, cool concoction.
High on the tasty treats list is Pix Patisserie (multiple locations, pixpatisserie.com) for their delicious floats. Belly up to the Rogue Chocolate Stout topped with mocha ice cream and you’ll wonder why you ever liked plain old root beer floats. Or, try the rosy-hued Lindeman’s Framboise (raspberry beer) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Très magnifique!
The good old days of the made-to-order indulgence at the soda fountain are not forgotten at BluePlate Lunch Counter (308 SW Washington Street, 295-2583, eatatblueplate.com). Sodas (like the surprisingly complex Purple Haze, with hibiscus, allspice and star anise) are made from scratch with pure cane sugar and natural ingredients and can be topped with Cascade Glacier ice cream for only $1.50 more. Personally, I love their ginormous milkshakes. A blenderful of the aforementioned Purple Haze with huckleberry ice cream tastes like a summer picnic. Of course, while house blends like chocolate and filbert butter or the Cowboy Coffee shake (made with Stumptown beans) are fun, you can always gauge a good joint by their presentation of the basic vanilla shake and BluePlate’s is creamy, rich and darn near perfect.
Another throwback to the days of old is Sellwood’s Mike’s Drive-in (1707 SE Tenino St, 236-4537) where the shakes are often made with fresh, local ingredients like strawberries and marionberries. But the list of options at Mike’s does not end there. Besides offering seasonal favorites, they have a bevy of choices like marshmallow, orange creamsicle, peanut butter and—what I like to call the Funky Monkey—chocolate and banana.
Portland’s newest gastronomic darling, The Original, opened in May and immediately brought a flush of melancholy to PDX foodies everywhere over the guilty pleasures that were Quality Pie (a 24/7 diner that closed in 1992) and Farrell’s ice cream parlor (which closed in 2001). Fortunately, much like the sorely missed QP and Farrell’s, The Original taps into that 1950s charm that makes me nostalgic for the days when it was sexy to hold hands while you sipped a malted with your sweetheart. Build your own sundae with their house-made ice cream or sorbet and a plethora of toppings and sauces. If you are really feeling like a tart (the trollop, not the treat) order your sundae with sour cherry sauce and pop rocks. Dirty and delicious!
If you are feeling adventurous (or are tired of the old chocolate-vanilla-strawberry trifecta) head over to Cool Moon Ice Cream (1105 NW Johnson, 224-2021, coolmoonicecream.com) near The Pearl District's Jameson Park. The locally-owned shop concocts their own flavors and the list goes all the way from traditional to downright crazy. I am absolutely in love with their Cardinal Zin, a mix of bittersweet chocolate, Zinfandel wine, dark sweet cherries and Balsamic vinegar, but on my last visit I sampled Kulfi (pistachio and cardamom with a touch of rosewater) and found myself torn between two lovers. Cool Moon offers happy hour pints every day from 4pm to 6pm, when you can get pre-packed pints for just $4 each (perfect for an impromptu bench picnic in the neighboring park).
Portland may not have a lot of local ice cream parlors like Cool Moon left, but if there’s one thing we’ve got in spades, it’s gelato joints. If you’ve never had it (where have you been?) you’re missing out. Slightly less fattening than ice cream and blended with less air, this Italian original is smoother and more full-flavored than its American counterpart. There are many hot spots in P-Town to catch on to the gelato craze, but one of my go-to spots is Staccato Gelato (2 locations, including 232 NE 28th, staccatogelato.com) which carries 18 different flavors a day including PDX uber-faves, Honey Lavender and Rose Petal. Another Portland gelato giant is Mio Gelato, which boasts three locations including one in the Pearl (25 NW 11th Ave, 226-8002). Mio serves an array of flavors, but they excel at the Italian classics like pistachio, amaretto and chocolate. They also serve Illy espresso, so stop by and ask them to make you an affogato di gelato (drowned gelato) with fresh-brewed espresso and a rich chocolate scoop.
Up on Trendy-third, Alotto Gelato (931 NW 23rd Ave, 228-1709, alottogelato.biz) is a favorite neighborhood stop. It’s no wonder when they stock fresh-daily flavors like hazelnut, mint chocolate chip, limoncello and papaya, as well as some crazy (but good) concoctions like strawberry black pepper, yellow cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chipotle.
Remember those squishy ice cream sandwiches you used to love? Well, they’re all grown up at Ruby Jewel (rubyjewel.net). Creator and former chef Lisa Herlinger is a food connoisseur and her handmade ice cream sandwiches are a perfect testament to her expertise. When they debuted at a local farmers market a few years back, they were a runaway hit. Soon the demand for her fresh-made portable treats began to outweigh the supply. These days, Ruby Jewel produces tens of thousands of the tasty treats, but they are still committed to using locally grown ingredients such as mint and lavender as well as fresh, locally roasted coffee (for the oh-so-delectable cinnamon chocolate cookie and espresso ice cream sandwich). Plus, they manage to do this all while maintaining a highly sustainable and eco-friendly "nearly 100% waste-free" business. So, I'm not afraid to admit that I love the refreshing and summery honey lavender ice cream and lemon cookie concoction and often find myself gravitating towards the freezer section at Zupans when I should be buying lunch. You can purchase Ruby Jewel sandwiches online by the case or find them in a number of local stores and restaurants like Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, Elephant's Deli and Pastaworks.
If you are old enough to remember the frozen yogurt craze of the late 1980s, the idea of grabbing a “fro-yo” may not appeal to you. Sure, it was cold and if you topped it with enough bits of crumbled candy bars and chocolate sauce, it kind of resembled ice cream. Well, set aside all your preconceived notions about yogurt because today’s version is tangier, smoother and considerably more healthy thanks to the millions of live active cultures swimming around in the creamy swirls. Each serving is about 110 calories (compared to about 200 for regular ice cream) and is completely fat free. One of my favorite haunts is Active Culture (820 SE 8th Ave, 608-7742, activeculturepdx.com), where they have 10 flavors that rotate daily, some tart and some that edge on the creamier side. Try the key lime flavor with fresh berries, or the original tart flavor swirled with raspberry. It’s a cool treat that you can actually chalk up to a good deed because the cultures aid with digestion and boost the body's immune system.
With the economy in a downward spiral, I'm all about small indulgences. Last year, we were all concerned about our waistlines; this year we're a bit more concerned about our wallets and while we can't afford that gym membership or that cruise to Hawaii, we can afford a cool and tasty gastronomic getaway. So, bring on the stretchy pants, we're having ice cream!