Saturday, July 15, 2006
Zen and the Art of Ice Cream Making
How can I even begin to talk about Scoops? I really think it's the best find of the summer, nay, of the year. Perhaps of ever. This purveyor of high-concept frozen treats and unbridled goodwill has been around 14 months, but I've only recently learned about it. Therefore, I feel like the last 14 months have been a waste. I first heard about Scoops from my friend Alon, who read about it on his friend Josh's blog. Since I met up with Alon there, I've been wishing I could go back pretty much every day. It's really that good. It's taken my heart.
Scoops is a bright cheery gelateria in a pretty unassuming, borderline shady bit of East Hollywood. It's the one-man operation of a former art student, and he makes fresh new flavors of gelato, sorbet and vegan gelato (made with organic soy milk) every day. The flavors are incredibly creative, and he is extremely generous with samples. On a given visit, you might try chai/zabaglione, vegan lavendar/pear, buttermilk/lemongrass/ginger, coffee/guinness, or ube (purple yam). The brown bread gelato, one of the few flavors available every day, is a warm cozy cinnamony comfort-food dessert, rendered in ice cream form. Highlights this time were cheesecake/dill, where the surprising dill flavor comes through so clearly that it brought back many taste memories from my mom's kitchen, and lemon/peach: not unorthodox, but refreshing and fruity and good. For my 2-bucks 2 scoops, I ended up ordering yerba mate/banana, where the creamy sweetness of banana ice cream offset the slightly bitter earthy mate in an unexpectedly perfect combination; and chocolate habanero gelato. I was a little scared of of the spiciness, but the chocolate flavor was so deep and strong that I had to have it anyway. He thoughtfully placed the mate/banana scoop on the bottom of the container, so that I would have it to salve my burning mouth after I had finished the habanero. It's a strange but not unpleasant sensation, to have your mouth feel warm and cold at the same time.
As important as the flavors are the man who creates them. I have only been here twice but already have quite a few stories of the goodness that emanates from Tai. First of all the samples. Placing your order here is a highly interactive process. It's a conversation between vendor and consumer, generously punctuated with sample after sample of his exotic flavors. He basically pushes them on you, not that you'd protest. Alon was amazed that he appeared so "Zen" -- when he suggested Tai branch out to other shops, or sell his wares to grocery stores, Tai brushed off Alon's push for more and more. He pointed out that this would not allow him to have as much interaction with the customers. He really likes us! He encourages suggestions for new flavors, even offering an "Flavor to Suggest" board to get customer input.
He also encourages customers to sit for a while. There's a couch against one wall of the shop, and one corner has been turned into a movie watching nook -- with videos and dvds and cozy armchairs. As a throwback to his art-school history (in case the the flavors didn't make that clear), the back wall of the shop is devoted to exhibiting the wares of local artists. I also heard that last week he had a barbecue at the shop -- as if the ice cream weren't enough, yet another way to give back to the community.
If utopia were a real city, Tai would be its ice cream man, and all the little kiddies would go to Scoops. Instead, East Hollywood gets this prize. Which works out quite well for the gasoline industry, because I might just drive there every night.
Scoops is at 712 N. Heliotrope (just north of Melrose, between the 101 and Vermont) . Last I heard, they were open until 10 Monday-Saturday, but you might want to call to confirm: 323 906 2649