The food purveyors ringing the plaza in downtown Healdsburg have been cooling down with take-away ice cream this summer. Just a stone's throw from each other, Dry Creek Kitchen, Bovolo, and Downtown Bakery & Creamery are churning out housemade artisanal frozen treats. Then Center Street Deli weighed in for the battle importing Fiorello's gelato from San Rafael to scoop side-by-side with its fountain ice creams.
On the westside, Dry Creek's wares are sold at Cafe Newstand. The serving size here is the most generous for the money. The apricot ice cream captured the jamminess of that fruit so well, yet it tasted flat and needed a touch of acid to bring it to life. The fromage blanc ice cream was interesting, reminding me of the tiny bits that brush off of frozen cream cheese. However, while the server managed to avoid the gummy layer in the sample I tasted, he scooped the stale, scummy part into my cup.
To the south, Bovolo opened not long ago with Ciao Bella's products but is now producing its own gelati and sorbetti. The freezer is stocked with ice cream sandwiches as well, and Sundays are sundae days. The texture of the gelato is a bit denser than La Copa Loca but still lighter than the Naia or Ciao Bella, for example. A taste of the burnt sugar flavor was so subtle that it left a near blank on my tastebuds. However, the vin santo flavor was gorgeous showing off the delicate and complex personality of the sweet rancio wine. I paired it with a fluffy and icy peach sorbet which was suprisingly subdued and light on sugar. A bit more sugar might have popped out more fruitiness. Yet, I appreciated the light hand with the sweetness. These are served in small scoops, the lightest serving size on the plaza. (The picture below is the canvas hanging on the back wall of Bovolo's seating area.)
Turning east, Center Street Deli has eight flavors of Fiorello in the case and the staff aren't shy about asking passers-by to have a taste. The flavor selection leans more toward American classics such as mint chip and peanut butter. Pressed into three sizes of cups and served with a wafer stick, this is a dense and heavy style. The gelati has that near-melted look on the surface and elastic texture I like so much. The dark chocolate has a nicely rounded flavor, mostly of cocoa, but not much depth. The white chocolate and raspberry swirl was lovely with tart/sweet preserves in a not-too-sweet white chocolate base. A full lineup of cones, shakes, smoothies, and sodas are also available from another ice cream producer.
Two doors north, Downtown Bakery & Creamery defends its reign with the perfectly ripened seasonal fruit flavors it does so well. Both the blackberry and the peach ice creams have a refreshing and profoundly fruity quality that blends the best of ice cream and sorbet in texture and flavor expression.
Two more doors north, Johnny Java's dips oversized double scoop cones of many fluorescent colors. When asked, the staffers said the brand was "Foster's". I don't know if that's Foster Farms, Foster Freeze . . . ?
On the north rim of the plaza, I couldn't find any other dipping stations. But just around the corner, Sweet Memory Chocolate on Center Street has an ice cream sign up. Inside, there's no ice cream in sight, just a list of a handful of flavors. I asked the brand, and the woman behind the counter said, "oh, just regular ice cream from the supermarket".
I think I've tracked down the sources of the cups and cones grateful customers are enjoying on the shady benches in the plaza. If there are others, please let us know.