Date with myself at Frankie & Jo’s in Seattle

I used to think that going out for ice cream had to be a social experience. After all, those childhood memories of sharing dripping cones on family vacations are a major reason why I love ice cream to begin with. So, for most of my life, I wouldn’t have dreamed going out for an ice cream alone. While I’ll almost always prefer to share ice cream with friends or family, I’ve recently begun to experiment with going out by myself. There was a time (not too long ago) when I wasn’t comfortable being alone, so I’ve been on a quest to learn to be my own best companion. After all, the only person I am with 24/7 is me!

Last time I flew to Seattle for the weekend, I beat K to the city by several hours (he was working down in San Francisco). My body clock thought it was 11pm, but it was still early local time and very light. I love the long days of early summer in Seattle! Rather than curl up on our hotel bed, I decided to attend to my grumbling tummy and venture out to visit a new ice cream spot in Capitol Hill that my father-in-law had tipped me off to.

Frankie & Jo’s is only six months old but is already making a big splash online and in social media. It is the first entirely-vegan and gluten free “plant-based” ice cream spot in town. Like my beloved FoMu in Boston, most of the ice creams at Frankie & Jo’s are made with coconut milk instead of dairy. I’m not vegan by any means, but I really enjoy coconut-milk ice cream.

After a long walk in the warm evening sun, I was happy to spot the cheerful bright orange sign outside of Frankie & Jo’s. The shop is on the small side, and the interior is uber-hip, with bold green palm trees on the wall, real potted plants, and slate walls. Flavors, toppings, and prices are posted on a giant mirror hanging on the wall. It looked fantastic in person but did not make for good pictures!

There were a dozen flavors on the board, including one sorbet and three rotating seasonal flavors. None of the flavors are what I’d call “traditional.” I recognized the Salty Caramel Ash and Gingered Golden Milk from social media. The sorbet, Beet Strawberry Rose, also sounded fun. I was in the mood for something hearty, so the richer-sounding flavors caught my eye: Chocolate Mint Brownie, California Cabin (smoked vanilla and fir needle ice cream with black pepper cardamom shortbread), Mexico Morning (coffee ice cream with almond shortbread and dulce de leche), and Tahini Chocolate.

I ended up ordering a standard-size scoop of the Tahini Chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone. I’d read about Frankie & Jo’s maple-vanilla waffle cones, which are gluten-free and vegan. Since I was a bit hungry, I decided to indulge. The standard size runs $6, and a waffle cone is a $2 upcharge. So, this was a pricey ice-cream cone, but I felt okay about it because of the high-quality and unusual ingredients.

Tahini Chocolate

The verdict? It took just one bite for me to fall in love with Frankie & Jo’s. The Tahini Chocolate ice cream was sweet, salty, and nutty. Unlike with most coconut-milk ice creams, I couldn’t pick up on the coconut at all. The texture was thick and creamy, with a good bite and a few chewy bits of tahini. I’m guessing that the light brown swirl was chocolate sauce, but I couldn’t detect a chocolate flavor. But all was forgiven because this ice cream was divine. My pleasure was doubled when I got down to the cone; the maple-vanilla waffle cone tasted more like a crispy cookie than a waffle cone. The flavors of maple and brown sugar complemented – and maybe even enhanced – the rich tahini ice cream. Between Frankie & Jo’s, Glass Bottle Creamery, and Moo Shu Ice Cream, it’s been a good year for gluten-free waffle cones!

It was such a lovely evening in Seattle that I walked with my cone over to Cal Anderson Park. Sitting on the bleachers and watching a recreational baseball game in progress, I felt quite happy as I savored every last bite of ice cream. Satisfying, delicious and plant-based. What a wholesome date night with myself 🙂

The Stats:
Frankie & Jo’s
1010 E Union Street
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 257-1676
https://frankieandjos.com

Exciting surprises at Moo Shu Ice Cream in Ottawa

During the summer before my senior year of college, I interned at a non-profit in the Boston area. Since the nonprofit was  small and underfunded, they depended a lot on the help of summer interns. There were about eight of us that summer, and we broke up into smaller teams, researching and writing about specific topics. I was paired with Yael, a smart and passionate young woman from Canada, and it didn’t take long for us to develop a special friendship. When the summer came to a close, Yael headed back to McGill University in Montreal but promised to reach out next time she visited her sister — who conveniently lives in DC!

Lucky for me, Yael visits DC fairly often and we’ve been able to grow our friendship over the past 10 years. She’s also my e-mail pen pal; we write each other long and meaningful emails several times per year. I was so glad when K and Yael hit it off the first time they met; the two are very different on many levels, but their friendship has an obvious ease. But thanks to busy schedules and expensive airfare, we haven’t been able to spend nearly enough time together over the years. So K and I were both touched when Yael made the long journey out to Vashon Island for our wedding in 2014.

I’m ashamed to say that it took over two years for K and I to return the gesture, and visit Yael in her current home city of Ottawa, Canada. But we finally got our act together and booked a weekend trip last month. While the two days flew by, Yael gave us a fantastic introduction to Ottawa’s beauty, culture, and food scene. We shared breakfast tacos, took a tour of Parliament, walked through the downtown area, ate at a hip new restaurant, and even watched Yael play in her curling club!

Library of Parliament

Like the good friend she is, Yael offered to bring me to a new ice cream shop in her neighborhood called Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen. She had mentioned it to me in an email a while back, telling me about the black-sesame ice cream and an innovative flavor made by soaking Froot Loops in milk. So, on Saturday afternoon, Yael and I made the 10-minute walk down her street to Moo Shu. It’s a small shop, tucked in a row of cute shops and restaurants in a bustling part of the neighborhood. The friendly-looking cat logo is quite welcoming, and I can imagine this place is packed on warm summer evenings. But, on this cold afternoon, I wasn’t surprised to see just a handful of people inside.

Inside, Moo Shu is quite trendy – sparsely decorated, clean lines, white walls, and a couple tall wooden tables. But you’ll notice lots of charming small details, like a collection of small plastic Chinese cats along the wall behind the counter. Its young owner, Liz Mok,  spent her childhood in both Hong Kong and Vancouver and brings youthful Chinese flare to both her shop and food. While the focus is on ice cream, Moo Shu also serves wontons and rice during lunch.

Warm, sugary smells greeted me when I walked inside, thanks to the homemade cones cooking in the waffle iron behind the counter. The menu is quite short, with just a couple traditional flavors like Local Strawberry and Chocolate (which is vegan). I’d say that most of the flavors are on the unusual side, like Hong Kong Milk Tea, Froot Loops Cereal Milk, Vegan Apple Mint, and Black Sesame. There were two seasonal specials named for singers — “You Want It Darker” for Leonard Cohen (smoky sea salt + activated charcoal) and “Encore Un Soir” for Celine Dion (coffee with tarte au sucre).

Like many places in Ottawa, Moo Shu is very accommodating for those of us following gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan diets. Thus, I’m surprised that Yael had never noticed that Moo Shu’s homemade waffle cones are gluten-free and vegan! We were nearly giddy when I spotted those little GF and V markers. Despite the short menu, I had trouble selecting flavors. Black Sesame was a must, since – when done well – it’s one of my favorite favors. Celine Dion’s flavor sounded divine, but I decided to steer clear of the wheat in the pastry (which I can be sensitive to). In the end, I went with a small cone of Black Sesame and “You Want It Darker.” I wanted to know what this whole charcoal trend is about. Yael ordered a kid-sized cone of Ginger Vanilla Bean. The prices were reasonable, with my cone setting me back about Can$6.20 (including the $1.20 surcharge for a cone).

L: Black Sesame (bottom), You Want It Darker (top); R: Ginger Vanilla Bean

The verdict? Moo Shu may seem trendy, but their top-quality ice cream tastes timeless. Both scoops were my perfect consistency; frozen hard enough to be able to bite into, but creamy enough to melt quickly on your tongue. The “You Want It Darker” wasn’t my favorite; I liked the saltiness, but the activated charcoal tasted like sweet ash. Maybe it’s an acquired taste? The Black Sesame was nutty and toasty, with a bright and sweet aftertaste. It’s beautiful dark gray color made the ice cream seem oh-so-sophisticated. But the real star of my cone was the cone itself! Crunchy, light, and sweet, this cone was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before.

How did Yael like the Ginger Vanilla Bean? As she put it, “I shouldn’t be afraid to try flavour pairings that I wouldn’t have thought went together, because clearly, tasty amazingness can happen when ginger and vanilla combine in silky smooth ice cream.”

Enjoying good ice cream with a good friend… does life get any better?

The Stats:
Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen
477 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON, Canada K2P 1Z2
https://www.mooshuicecream.com/