Summer Days: Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles
Rainbow of Paletas at Mateo's Ice Cream and Fruit Bars

Rainbow of Paletas at Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars

HAPPY JUNE from us here in sunny southern California!

The days are longer, the sun is shining brighter, and the weather is just screaming for (what else?) ICE CREAM! I had had Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars bookmarked on my list of places to check out for years, all the way back when we still lived in Palms. Now we live in Del Rey, which is right around the corner from this unassuming strip mall off Sepulveda Boulevard near Lucerne. A flourescent orange length of retail with a giant laundromat anchor, you just can’t miss this spot. Mateo’s is squeezed in all the way in the corner.

The storefront is tiny but boasts brightly colored signs depicting fruits both familiar and exotic. It looks and smells like walking into a giant cornucopia, in a good way. The case of ice cream features flavors I’d never seen elsewhere like mamey, smoked milk, and horchata with walnuts. Making our way further into the store, we find the paletas — Latin American fruit-based ice pops (or popsicles). The paletas are arranged in a rainbow, with pink and red strawberry (including a halved strawberry embedded in the middle of the popsicle), golden-colored mango con chile, bright orange-hued cantaloupe, green cucumber con chile, bright alabaster coconut, copper-colored tamarind, and some more sweet-tooth-appeasing creations like chocolate dipped and shaved coconut dusted paletas to finish. It’s an amazing sight, and certainly appetizing on a warm summer day.

Best of all? Each paleta is just $2. TWO DOLLARS. An amazing deal especially for the sheer quantity and quality of fresh fruit that goes into making each paleta. They taste like the ripened fresh fruit is pureed, strained, poured into the molds, and frozen. No frills, no additives. On our first visit, I had the cucumber on chile. I love cucumber desserts, and this one was icy and refreshing with just a slightly salty kick from the chile powder. The main part of the paleta was almost too icy, with the high water content of the cucumber itself, but I definitely enjoyed the bits of diced fresh cucumber embedded throughout. Martin had a creamy, coffee-flavored bar that reminded me of a Fudgesicle in texture. Ahh nostalgia… we knew we were going to come back.

Sure enough, on our next visit I opted for the mango con chile which I enjoyed even more because of its natural sweetness, the soft chunks of ripe golden mango, and the toothsome texture, much less icy than the cucumber one. The chile powder, reminiscent of the packets sold alongside fresh cut fruit by the street vendors, was just spicy enough to feel a subtle kick. Definitely a summer favorite, I know I’ll be coming back specifically for this paleta over the next few months (and beyond — we all know how beautiful the weather is here year-round).

Martin saw the cantaloupe paleta in the display case, one of his all-time favorite fruits and a new addition for the summer season, and just had to have it. He shared only a small nibble, but I could taste how sweet yet refreshing it was. Like a frozen agua fresca, that paleta embodied the purest essence of cantaloupe. It was so freaking good.

Our only regret is not giving this place a try sooner, but now that we’re in the know, you can bet we’ll be coming back and telling all of our friends (starting with you dear readers!). Happy summer indeed.

Plenty of Paleta Love from NomNomCat!

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Check out Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars: mateosicecream.com

4929 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

See their Yelp reviews here!

Saffron & Rose Ice Cream – Westwood, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Bits of fresh green cucumbers. Pale eggshell-white ginger. Magenta-hued pomegranate. And of course, golo bol bol – the namesake saffron and rose ice cream. A mom & pop ice cream shop that serves up homemade Persian ice cream made with whole organic milk, Saffron & Rose attracts crowds of locals and Westwood visitors alike. And as UCLA alumni who never left the Westside, we find ourselves visiting quite often, sometimes once a week during the summer months.

Saffron & Rose Ice Cream on Westwood Boulevard

Saffron & Rose Ice Cream on Westwood Boulevard

The very first time we went, there was a lovely woman (the owner’s wife, I believe) who offered us samples of just about every flavor – an impressive feat, considering that there are over 20 flavors at any given time, ranging from “American” flavors like chocolate to more traditional Persian flavors. It was then, over three years ago, that I first fell madly in love with cucumber ice cream. That’s right folks – bits of bright green, fresh and crispy cucumber folded into a sweet, rosewater scented Persian ice cream. If you haven’t tried it yet, you must. It will complete you.

Cucumber Ice Cream at Saffron & Rose

Cucumber and Guava Ice Cream at Saffron & Rose

A small cup allows you to choose up to two flavors. Though I will often go with cucumber-only, I have been convinced from time to time to try something new alongside my mainstay. There is an older man (the owner) who is also generous with the samples; we had a conversation once about his inspiration for new flavors. It turns out, he follows the local farmer’s market trends and new seasonal produce at the Co-Opportunity in Santa Monica for ideas. That particular time, I was asking about their relatively new flavor – ginger. Sweet and spicy, the ginger flavor packs a punch and is the perfect foil for the cool, mellow cucumber.

Just a small section of the ice cream case

Just a small section of the ice cream case

The ginger & cucumber was my favorite combination until we met this younger guy Fred who’s been manning the ice cream counter as of late. He always seems to have a new fruit + cucumber combination for me. First it was cantaloupe with cucumber (delicious) but then… then there was the guava and cucumber. Amazing. Sweet tropical fruitiness and light, refreshing veg – oh, summer. Also noteworthy are the lavender and white rose flavors, both of which are unique in their delicate floral notes. So good.

Cappuccino Ice Cream with Chocolate Nibs

Cappuccino Ice Cream with Chocolate Nibs

Despite the many tempting options, Martin is a guy who knows what he likes. Every single time (except on the sad, sad days when they are sold out), his flavor of choice is the cappuccino – rich, creamy, and most importantly, packed with crunchy chocolate nibs. Not to be confused with the coffee ice cream, which is smooth and otherwise ordinary, the cappuccino is so good that Martin will bring home an XL-sized tub of it for later.

Hand-packed Ice Cream To Go

Hand-packed Ice Cream To Go

Immediately behind the counter is a freezer filled with prepacked ice cream. If they don’t have your desired flavor, however, have no fear – they will hand pack containers of ice cream for to-go purchases as well. Since they have a preset production schedule, we try to plan our visits on days when we know they will have plenty of our favorite flavors in stock. If we’re extra lucky, we like to grab some to bring home for later, although personally, I think the texture hardens up a bit too much in our freezer at home.

Ice Cream and Wafers

Ice Cream and Wafers

When you’re at the store, don’t forget to look for the wafers, sour cherry syrup, and lemon juice – all traditional toppings for faloudeh. Bring cash ($10 minimum for credit cards) and an open mind (the texture of Persian ice cream is creamier and more interesting than regular sabayon-based ice cream). And trust the friendly faces behind the counter – they are so pleasant and always seem willing to help first-timers find their new favorite ice cream obsession. Be salâmati~!

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Check out Saffron & Rose Ice Cream: golobolbol.org

1387 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024

See their Yelp reviews here!

North End Sweet Treats – Boston, MA

Boston, Food Adventures

So everyone knows that there is no shortage of cannoli in Boston’s North End, but since Martin has a sweet tooth, we decided to dedicate our limited stomach space to checking out other Italian dessert places. Our adventures led us to Caffe Vittoria, right in the heart of Hanover Street, and Parziale’s Bakery, a hole-in-the-wall situated off the beaten path among neighboring beautiful old brick buildings.

Gelati

Gelati at Caffe Vittoria

IMG_6253Martin had had a craving for gelato since before we even left LA,  so we definitely had to track it down while planning our North End visit. A quick Yelp! search led us to Caffe Vittoria. When we first walked in, we could not help but admire the shimmering stainless steel espresso machines, taking a seat next to this particularly crazy-looking contraption.

There were plenty of tables open on that Thursday afternoon, but I would imagine that Caffe Vittoria is a bustling hotspot for after-dinner (for no-frills places like Giacomo’s which does not feature its own dessert menu) and weekend patrons.

Coffee and Cappuccino Gelato

Coffee and Cappuccino Gelato

Martin loves coffee-flavored ice cream, so when he spotted the availability of both coffee and cappuccino flavors on the Gelati list, he seemed pretty excited. The gelato is homemade and bore an interesting texture – fluffy and creamy like ice cream but also a bit dense the way gelato should be.

Spumoni

Spumoni

Meanwhile, I spotted spumoni on the desserts list and knew I had to have it. Just seeing the word harkened good memories of my first spumoni experience – a little fancy scoop of tricolor ice cream topped with a maraschino cherry, lighting up my 4th-grader eyes during a field trip meal at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Caffe Vittoria’s spumoni is a wedge of hard-frozen gelati dotted with pistachios and cherry bits and served drizzled with some of the maraschino syrup straight from the jar! The ribbons of color were beautiful (that red really pops!) and the flavors were great.

Parziale's

Parziale’s

After devouring our frozen treats and feeling officially chilled to the bone, we continued our adventure, cutting through smaller streets and navigating away from the main throngs off Hanover.

Parziale's Store Front

Parziale’s

After we found the quaint little storefront, Martin took a moment to glance through the beautiful display of the window. The pastries beckoned to us and we quickly answered their call.

Pizzelle

Pizzelle

Pizzelle, an Italian crunchy waffle cookie. We picked up a package to bring home. The ones here are flavored with aromatic anise and taste delicious with ice cream. Hint: if their round shape seems familiar, it is because pizzelle cookies, freshly baked, can be rolled up to form cannoli shells!

Florentines

Florentines

The friendly woman behind the counter also convinced us to try the florentine cookies and boy are we glad we did. The crispy, lacy texture carried the essence of toasty caramelized sugar. Dipped in white or dark chocolate, these were amazing!

If you’re hanging out in the North End, grab some gelati or relax with a latte from Caffe Vittoria. Or pay a visit to a century-old bakery (seriously – they opened in 1907!) and bring home some cookies that are sure to please.

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Check out Caffe Vittoria: vittoriacaffe.com

296 Hanover St
Boston, MA 02113

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Check out Parziale’s Bakery: parzialebakery.com

80 Prince St
Boston, MA 02113

See their Yelp reviews here!

Pizza and Ice Cream – Tilton, NH

Food Adventures, New Hampshire

Ahh pizza and ice cream – a classic combination. The stuff of childhood pool parties, sleepovers, classroom celebrations, even birthdays. We drove down the hill from the resort to the neighboring city of Tilton, NH. A quick search on my phone’s Yelp app led us to the Tilton House of Pizza (THOP). Yes, I initially thought of pancakes. We then trekked on to Laconia, NH to visit Kellerhaus, a quaint shop (dare I say, shoppe?) renowned for their candy and ice cream… but first, our pizza lunch.

THOP with Pepperoni

THOP with Pepperoni

Downtown Tilton is a really adorable little strip of Main Street, lined with old brick buildings and mom & pop shops. One of those buildings housed the Tilton House of Pizza. Friendly guys behind the counter fixed our pizza to order and offered free refills of our soda. I was initially skeptical when I read reviews touting THOP as the best pizza they’d ever had, but honestly – I was really impressed by the crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside “pan-style” crust, topped generously with herby tomato sauce, hot and stringy mozzarella cheese, and spicy pepperoni. It tasted like what every Pizza Hut pizza strives to achieve but falls short. SO GOOD.

Kellerhaus

Kellerhaus

After we polished off our lunch, we hopped back into the car and zoom-zoomed to Laconia to visit Kellerhaus. This charming ice cream shop and candy store resembles one of the buildings in Solvang; it was only missing a windmill out back, but that’s okay – the little pinwheels spinning swiftly in the chilly breeze made up for it.

The Gifts

The Gifts

Kellerhaus manages to display countless knick-knacks, souvenirs, home decor goodies, and edible treats throughout the maze-like storefront with multiple rooms. All the colors! So many cute little products tempting me to bring them home to California.

The Menu

The Menu

But Martin directed my attention to the ice cream bar in the center of the store, and the colorful menu touting the day’s flavors. We knew we wanted to partake… but what size to order? I know Martin’s eyes locked on the Colossal, a 10-scoop sundae worthy of the name, but we decided to share a 3-scooper. The process is pretty well-streamlined: pay for your bowl (or cone or waffle bowl!) at the cash register, bring your bowl over to the ice cream case to pick out your scoops, and then proceed to the DIY sundae bar to pile on the toppings.

Ice Cream Sundae~!

Ice Cream Sundae~!

Martin picked coffee (of course), I went with mint chocolate chip, and we selected Cookie Monster to share. He prefers his ice cream unadulterated, but I could not resist drizzling on a bit of hot fudge on my side of the boat-shaped dish. Not gonna lie – the color of Cookie Monster caught me off-guard a bit, but it’s essentially a cookies & cream flavor with lots of Oreo bits. The ice cream was creamy and fluffy — a wonderful treat despite the cool weather. Yum!

Truffles

Trufflemania!

After chowing down and narrowly avoiding brain freeze, we browsed the store’s many, many wares. Adorable French patisserie painted plates, Easter items on clearance, New Hampshire / Weirs Beach souvenirs, cute themed salt & pepper shakers, Keep Calm and Carry On paraphernalia… and of course – the sweets room. The center of the room showcased a glass display case of chocolate dipped deliciousness while a whole wall of shelves was dedicated to maple syrup and other maple goods. We selected an assortment of truffles to enjoy later.

The bright colors, cute products, variety of candy, and sundae bar are all excellent reasons to pay Kellerhaus a visit, but allow me to offer one last reason — the service! The staff here were so friendly to us, especially since we hail from LA where one woman’s (the owner’s?) son also lives. If you’re ever in the Laconia / Weirs Beach region of New Hampshire, definitely swing by Kellerhaus. It’s situated just off Route 3 and if you blink, you just might miss it, but it’s well worth the journey!

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Check out Tilton House of Pizza (THOP):

298 Main St
Tilton, NH 03276

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Check out Kellerhaus: kellerhaus.com

259 Endicott St N
Laconia, NH 03246

See their Yelp reviews here!