Summer is in full swing and there’s no dessert better suited to the season than ice cream. We first discovered Bi-Rite years ago when we began frequenting their grocery store when in San Francisco, a Mission district institution. Across the street, in 2006, Bi-Rite opened a small shop-front Creamery and there have been queues out their door ever since – last year they sold more than half a million scoops of ice cream! In recent years, along with many other old-fashioned treats including cupcakes and doughnuts, ice cream is seeing a gentrification of sorts and Bi-Rite has been at the forefront of this movement, creating their product by hand in small-batches on site and packing their flavours with top quality, carefully sourced ingredients. With a menu of options including Salted Caramel, Roasted Banana and Balsamic Strawberry, these are flavours that make natural sense and ground their more inventive but equally well-conceived offerings like Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel Swirl, Chai-Spiced Milk Chocolate and Orange-Cardamom. Whether the flavours are traditional or not, Bi-Rite treats their ice cream with the same respect as chefs in the finest kitchens.
Starting with an organic mix supplied by Straus Family Creamery, their concoctions rarely have more than 5 all-natural, farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients and additions they make in-house where possible. You can rest assured they have avoided the stablizers and gums that lace most store-bought, mass-produced varieties – and you can taste this difference. But at the end of the day it’s the fact that their treats are so very tasty that keeps the masses lined-up for a taste. When we visited Bi-Rite in the fall on a not-so-sunny or warm night, there was still a line-up out the door. The incredibly friendly pierced and tattooed staff were happy to indulge the customer ahead of us in sample after sample, much to his delight, each one practically causing the happy taste tester to swoon. Their generously portioned scoops have a freshness and creaminess that is immediately apparent; this is not only a testament to the quality of their ingredients but also to their popularity – because their scoop shop is so busy, their flavours don’t sit unconsumed for days on end dulling the flavours and turning icy the way your unconsumed ice cream does in the freezer. The Cookies and Cream offset a rich, visibly-vanilla bean inflected base with a dark, crunchy cookie. We were impressed with both the texture and flavour of their creation which was sweet without being cloying, well-balanced and creamy.
Other options to indulge your sweet tooth include baked goods, ice cream sandwiches, cakes and pies, as well as a soft serve window with daily flavour specials. We hit the window on a Wednesday when we were able to sample their salted caramel and vanilla swirl, a lovely combination of smoky sweetness, laced with a hint of savoury – a lighter option than their traditional ice cream but still packed with flavour. Their sundaes, both classic (like the Banana Split with caramelized bananas, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, and toasted walnuts) and contemporary (like the Dainty Gentleman with honey lavender ice cream, hot fudge, blood orange olive oil & Maldon sea salt) sound indulgent – and divine. Bi-Rite offers just a few seats and although nearby Dolores Park is a perfect spot to sit and enjoy, you can always take their pints and quarts to go for more deliciousness at home.
They have also recently released Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones cataloguing 90 recipes for making their sensationally popular indulgences at home. The book is divided into chapters based on flavor profiles like vanilla, caramel, chocolate, coffee and tea, and herbs and spices, giving you a sense of the wide range of treats you will be able to make with the help of just a standard household ice cream machine. Bi-Rite Creamery is so in demand, a second location is opening soon! Perhaps the lines won’t be quite so long there…