On Thursday I had an unusal experience. On the recommendation of someone from this board, I walked into an ice cream joint which looked like a local mom n' pop place in a strip mall (in fact, mom was at the register while pop was in the back, actively scooping and tending machinery). It was noisy, because of said machinery-- four giant commercial ice cream (frozen custard) machines, which were actively running, dropping small amounts of ice cream every 10 seconds or so. There were signs which advertised "we do not freeze our ice cream overnight. We don't make giant batches. If we run out, we make more." I was impressed-- even the wonderful homemade ice cream places in LA like Fosselman's and Bennet's do not go directly from the machine into your cone, which is more or less what was happening here. I ordered a medium vanilla waffle cone as a litmus test (other flavors- chocolate, strawberry cheesecake, and one other which I don't remember.) The waffle cone was narrow, so I was expecting a small cone, but this was the most unusual presentation I've ever seen... it was stacked 8 inches high, to a narrow point like a skinny cypress tree. And the flavor-- truly the essence of milk, cream and vanilla. Just wonderful.
There is a downside and a question to all of this ice creamed glory. The place is called Strickland's (est. 1934) in Irvine. What I originally thought was a mom-n-pop shop is actually a small franchise based out of Ohio-- albeit a franchise whose concept is fresh. Apparently when strawberry ice cream is made, you can see them feeding real strawberries into the hopper. However this piqued my curiosity, as I am inherently suspicious of chains which espouse "freshness" (the franchise concepts of uniformity and consistency are the antithesis of "freshness" whose flavors vary) So I wrote to the Strickland's company and was informed that local dairies prepare the "proprietary blend" which is the basis of Strickland's frozen custard. I pressed further and found out that in fact there are artificial flavors included in this "proprietary formula". My ice cream nirvana bubble burst.
However having said this, it is worth a try-- I do believe that their "freshness" concept places their quality far above other franchise operations (whose names I will not mention here). Next time you're in Irvine, give it a shot... I'd love to hear what other hounds think of this place.
Strickland's of Irvine, California
4523 Campus Drive
Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7 Days a Week