Ice cream made from scratch to order; how's that possible? Robyn Sue Goldman spent a couple of years with her engineering friends creating a machine that would allow for the creation ice cream on the spot. She then sold it off her Smitten Ice Cream food cart before opening up a pop-up store in the heart of Hayes Valley. Running on liquid nitrogen, the "kelvin" as it's nicknamed, makes unusual flavor combinations in 60 seconds! Sheila and I have come to appreciate the distinct SF food culture that is personified by the few words - fresh, organic, locally sourced, made to order, underground hipster, inventive, and anti-culture! Smitten fits that notion very well.
On a surprisingly sunny Sunday afternoon in SF, Sheila and I decided to give Smitten a try. On this day, the line was about 10 deep, not too bad. Whilst waiting, we perused the exterior chalkboard menu for the flavors on tap that day - Vanilla w/ Almond Toffee, TCHO Dark Chocolate, Chai, and Plum Brown Sugar. All starting at $4.25 for a small. Yes I know not cheap, but this is SF after all; haven't you seen our house prices?
The line moved very quickly and after 5 mins it was time to order. I went for the plum brown sugar in a cup and Sheila decided on the chai in a pizzelle cone. These were not your oridinary Thrifty's flavors. We watched as a young lady poured the cream, then brown sugar, then plum puree in a stainless steel mixing canister. "Kelvin" was turned on, out came the liquid nitrogen, and less than a minute later the ice cream was ready. We made our way over the upside down milk crate seating area (those familiar with SF know this is common) to taste them.
First up the plum brown sugar; it was sweet with a kick of tang. The chunks of plum tasted ripe; the brown sugar added some earthiness, and the cream was super smooth. This was one of the creamiest ice creams I've every had; in fact so creamy that it overpowered the plum and brown sugar. I actually would have preferred more plum chunks and maybe even some spice to help balance out the scoop. Okay so I'm nitpicking as it took me a mere few minutes to polish off the ice cream. However, for $4.25 I was expecting memorable.
Second up the chai; creamy with the essence / flavor of chai. Meaning it was like an ice cream version of the Peets / Starbucks chai without the pop of cloves. Sheila really enjoyed the her scoop as it was not overly sweet, but commented that she'd opt for a more exotic flavor next time. However, her gripe was with the pizzelle cone. Expected to be a crunchy, crispy sugar cone, the pizzelle tasted like a thin soggy shortbread cookie; not the right consistency for her taste.
Is Smitten Ice Cream worth it, you ask? Yes to try once for their never before heard of exotic flavors. With Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous, Mitchell's, Bi-Rite, and Humphry Slocombe also around, it's tough to make a case to limit yourself to one ice cream purveyor!