Have you been doing your part, citizens? Have you voted in your local primaries? Have you donated your used clothes to Goodwill? Have you eaten your portion of the 21.5 quarts of ice cream the American dairy industry produced for each of you this year?
Considering there are about 1,200 calories per quart, that means you’ve got to work off just 25,800 calories. You could binge on the whole thing and then rollerskate for 52.3 hours straight. Or you could pace yourself: 71 calories a day — almost a quarter cup — or one and one-half cups every Sunday, a reasonable show of support for our proud American cows. And our local independent ice-cream makers, of course, a few of which I tested this past week. No chains, no soft-serve, and most of all, no fro-yo. Fat is back, baby. Haven’t you heard?
Tucker’s Supercreamed Ice Cream
1349 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-4960
Noon-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Mon; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
The scoop: Instant nostalgia for anyone old enough to remember the time they first tried Perrier, Tucker’s — founded in 1941, at its current location since 2000 — brings back the muggy July nights and chaotic birthday parties of your childhood. Kate Pryor, husband David Lee, and their crew are determined to make the same lasting impression on every pie-eyed kid who slobbers over the glass on the ice cream case. Some of Tucker’s flavors come straight from the bottle (hello, Burgundy cherry). But as my friend Joe says of the dense, traditional ice cream, you can taste the real milk in it. Tucker’s banana splits are a work of art, the homemade fudge is thick and creamy, and there are those magical “cho chos.” What are cho chos? Wouldn’t you like to know?
Gelato or ice cream? Jello-what? This is ice cream, you pantywaist.
Fave flavors: Chocolate peanut butter, butterscotch marble. Yes, they have bubblegum, too (and yes, it is blue).
Percentage of flavors in plain English: 95, with a little Tagalog thrown in.
If the vanilla were a pop star: Chris Isaak — solid, all-American, and universally liked.
Sin factor: Kind of mortal. The Pryors call their ice cream “superpremium” because “16 percent fat” scares some people. But as momma always said, the richer, the better. Of course, she was talking about men.
2106 Shattuck Ave. (at Center St.), Berkeley, 510-883-1568;
also 1245 North Broadway (at Mt. Diablo), Walnut Creek, 925-943-1905.
Berkeley: Noon-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu.;
Walnut Creek: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.;
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
The scoop: The fluorescent-green Berkeley shop, which started life as Mondo Gelato, is abuzz with Cal students, with lines spilling out the door even on drizzly nights. They swarm the long cases, tasting as many of the three to four dozen flavors as they can before being forced to commit. Yet they never seem to disturb the boddhisatva-like serenity of the scoopers. Naia is quickly morphing into a chain, with five locations on each side of the bay.
Gelato or ice cream? Technically gelato, but Naia’s lower-fat product has become so grainy in recent months that it’s more like ice milk.
Fave flavors: The texture may disappoint, but the flavors, from the familiar to the exotic, are high-intensity. Standouts include an incandescently tart lemon sorbet and nutty black-sesame gelato. And who doesn’t love Nutella?
Percentage of flavors in plain English: 80 — a few remain from the Mondo love for all things Italian, but most have been translated.
If the vanilla were a pop star: Neil Young, sweet yet grating, with a slightly medicinal edge.
Sin factor: Quite venial, especially if you get the soymilk gelato. Virtue never pays.
2170 Shattuck Ave. (at Center St.),
Noon-11 p.m. Mon-Thu., Sun;
The scoop: Owner and gelartiste Curtis Chin cofounded Berkeley’s Mondo Gelato back when it was a franchise of a Rome-based chain, then had a falling-out with the other founders. They went indie (becoming Gelateria Naia), and so did he, successfully fighting to open Gelato Milano within spitting distance of his old partners’ store. There are lots of similarities in the way the two flavor and display their wares. But Chin, a purist to the point of minimalism, imports flavorings from Italy and painstakingly renders them into some of the most velvety stuff around.
Gelato or ice cream? A no-brainer.
Fave flavors: Bacio (hazelnut-chocolate mix), caffè, crem caramel, and any of the spectacular fruit sorbetti, which have the texture of whipped butter.
Percentage of flavors in plain English: 5, and that’s only because mango is an Italian word, too.
If the vanilla were a pop star: Sade — not thrillingly distinctive but buttery and golden, with a caramel finish.
Sin factor: Venial. Chin claims the gelato contains only 8 percent fat. When it melts you can taste the healthfulness, but when it’s fresh, the texture is mortally creamy.
Sketch Ice Cream
1809 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-665-5650
Hours: Noon-6 p.m. Sun.-Thu., noon-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
The scoop: Eric and Ruthie Planas-Shelton’s ice-cream stand is the eco-foodie’s Fosters Freeze. The couple, former pastry chefs at Aqua, make what they call “gelato-style ice cream” from milk, not cream, and serve it at a slightly higher temperature so it stays soft. Many of the ingredients come from organic and local sources, and the fruit is always seasonal. Before you start whining about how those gourmet types spoil everything, give it a taste. Damn fine stuff. It is ice cream, after all.
Gelato or ice cream? Not quite one, not quite the other.
Fave flavors: Dark, dark chocolate, any of the tea-flavored granitas and ice creams, toasted almond, and that famous burnt caramel.
Percentage of flavors in plain English: 100 percent Gourmet Ghetto English.
If the vanilla were a pop star: Dolly Parton, with a high, clean voice that promises purity while her body promises sex.
Sin factor: If this ice cream has one fault, it’s that it’s entirely guilt-free.
Fentons Creamery and Restaurant
4226 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-658-7000.
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu;
11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat
The scoop: Fentons is always packed, the average age of the clientele rising to eighteen after dark. The recently renovated store features old-timey furnishings and ice-cream flavors. They’re all served in scoops the size of your head, so don’t even think of ordering a sundae if your waist size is upward of 28 inches. Thanks to a little cover story the Express ran a couple of years back questioning the origins of the Fentons fire, we’re not particularly welcome here. But sometimes we don our Lone Ranger masks and sneak back in for a malt or a scoop of proper butter-pecan.
Gelato or ice cream? Ice cream, with a firm yet whipped texture.
Fave flavors: Blueberry cheesecake, real coffee-flavored coffee, caramel cream almond crunch.
Percentage of flavors in plain English: 100 — not a freakishly foreign word in the lot.
If the vanilla were a pop star: Kelly Clarkson, fluffy and bland but oh-so-adorable.
Sin factor: Mortal. Have you seen the size of those scoops?