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

Glass Bottle Creamery: New Kid on the Island

Vashon Island is my home away from home. Since my first visit in 2008, Vashon has occupied a special place in my heart. My in-laws own a small house overlooking Puget Sound, and K grew up spending weekends, holidays, and big chunks of summer vacation on the island. It usually takes about an hour to travel from downtown Seattle to the island, but you’re ultimately at the mercy of the ferry schedule. It can be a hassle getting here, but I promise you that your blood pressure will drop the moment you arrive on the island. Vashon feels like another world; a bit rural, with its plentiful livestock and very few chain stores (not even a Starbucks!). Vashon has a reputation for being quite hippie and alternative, but with an old-fashioned sense of community and hospitality.

vashon-map
K’s friend recently got married in Seattle, and we decided to spend the night before the wedding on Vashon. We headed there straight from the airport and made pretty good time. Hungry after our cross-country travels, we stopped for a late brunch of chilaquiles and salad at The Hardware Store Restaurant. The restaurant is located “downtown”, which is where the grocery store, pharmacy, and other restaurants are located. We ran a few errands before heading to the house, although the last errand wasn’t an errand at all: swinging by the Glass Bottle Creamery.

There are a couple spots to grab ice cream on Vashon, but no shops specifically dedicated to ice cream. There’s an ice cream counter at the front of the grocery store and at the back of the Vashon Island Coffee Roastery. While the ice cream is good, it just doesn’t feel super special. But a couple years ago, the talented Samantha Weigand moved from Washington, DC to Vashon Island to open a bakery. That next summer, K and I asked Samantha to bake our wedding cakes. She outdid herself, producing two amazing cakes. One vanilla cake with passion-fruit curd and buttercream and one gluten-free chocolate cake with coconut frosting. Both were surprisingly delicious, and the cakes were completely demolished by the end of our wedding night.

View More: http://sarahbradshaw.pass.us/kevan-grace-weddingAfter slowly building quite a following through her bakery, Samantha decided to expand and bought a small storefront downtown. She opened Glass Bottle Creamery, selling high-quality, local dairy products and homemade ice cream! While it’s been open for about a year, I had yet to try the ice cream. The lines were always long, or I was too full after lunch or dinner downtown, so the stars never aligned for me. But on this rainy Saturday afternoon, the shop looked warm and inviting and I had room in my tummy for dessert.

img_0732 picture2Like the bakery, Glass Bottle Creamery is decorated in soft baby blues, whites, and pops of pink. There’s two big glass refrigerators — one stocked with ice cream sandwiches, cakes, and pints, and the other with milk, yogurts and cheeses.

picture3 Keeping with its minimalist vibe, there are just a few flavors posted on the wall — but they all sounded lovely. There were even a couple dairy-free options for the vegan and lactose-intolerant crowd. While the Toasted Coconut and Peanut Butter Cup definitely piqued my interest, I decided to keep things interesting with Peach Cardamom.

bluebottle1As someone who avoids gluten, I’ve always appreciated the diverse and delicious gluten-free options at Samantha’s bakery. She continues this tradition at Glass Bottle Creamery, noting gluten-free flavors and also offering gluten-free cones for a small $0.50 surcharge. I asked for one scoop of Peach Cardamom in a gluten-free cone, and the friendly young woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted a cake cone or a waffle cone. I can’t remember the last time I had a GF cone that wasn’t a cake one, so I was incredibly excited for this waffle cone. It set me back around five dollars.

img_0739The verdict? This ice cream fulfilled a craving I didn’t even know I had — a craving for sweet, creamy ice cream in a crisp homemade waffle cone. The ice cream was served at the perfect temperature for me, frozen solid and just soft enough to get a good lick. I was glad that the Peach Cardamom was light on the cardamom spice (which I often find overpowering). The peach flavor was delicate yet distinct, and there was no weird fake aftertaste. What really took this ice cream over the top was the CONE. Oh my goodness, it was delicious enough to eat on its own. It was crisp, textured, and a bit sugary… almost like those Italian “pizzelle” cookies.  I have high expectations for anything Samantha makes, and she appears to really have outdone herself with Glass Bottle Creamery.

The Stats:
Glass Bottle Creamery
17637 Vashon Highway SW
Vashon, WA 98070
www.glassbottlecreamery.com

A Taste of Italy in WA’s Bavarian Village

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the town of Leavenworth, in Washington State.

K’s parents, who live in a small condo in downtown Seattle, treat this town as their “mountain oasis.” Nestled among the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a prime location for many outdoor activities. In the winter, you’ll find K’s parents skiing or snowshoeing. In the summer, they’ll be hiking, mountain biking, or tubing down the Wenatchee River. Because they love it so much, K and I decided to spend his birthday weekend with his parents in Leavenworth. And I, too, fell head-over-heels for this mountain town.

But because I’m not the outdoor-sporty-type, I fell in love with Leavenworth for different reasons. First and foremost, this mountain town is modeled after a Bavarian village. Imagine Disney World-caliber without all the cheesiness. Leavenworth’s local businesses take the Bavarian theme very seriously. Even the Starbucks and Safeway stores were designed in the quintessentially-Bavarian style. The downtown area is small, but it boasts multiple beer gardens and knick-knack shops. Plus, majestic snow-capped mountains are visible from every angle. Every time I walk down the main street, I’m overcome with an urge to belt out songs from “The Sound of Music.”

As you’d expect in any good tourist town, Leavenworth boasts a high ice-cream shops-per-capita ratio. Most ice-cream spots are housed within larger candy or gift stores, but I walked by a gelateria the day we arrived in Leavenworth. The Viadolce Gelateria sits in the heart of downtown, its large windows and open door inviting folks inside. Through the windows, I spotted a large case containing more than a dozen colorful gelato bins. Just then, a customer exited the shop, “mmm”ing while he licked a giant delicious-looking cone. I had to practice some serious self-control to walk past the store. But K’s mom loves ice cream almost as much as I do, so I wanted to wait until I could return with her.

The next night, we all enjoyed a nice bratwurst dinner together in the München Haus beer garden. The restaurant is just a block away from Viadolce, so I offered to treat K’s parents to gelato on our walk back to their place. It was a sweltering-hot night (over 100 degrees), and ice cream sounded really good. We ducked into Viadolce Gelateria and surveyed the options.
They carried about 18 different flavors, many of which were fruity “sorbettos”. The Pear looked delicious, but I’ve been disappointed by all pear-flavored gelatos outside of Italy itself. Plus, I had already spotted a bin of Cherry gelato.  Everyone who’s spent time in the Pacific Northwest during the summer knows what a BIG deal cherries are here. K’s and my favorite variety is the Rainier, which is only in-season during the early months of summer. Our local Whole Foods store in Washington, DC does carry Rainier cherries for a couple months, but they cost us ~$15 per pound. At Viadolce, I could get my fix of fresh Washington cherries for a fraction of the cost. I ordered a small size, and the nice man behind the counter asked if I wanted one or two flavors. You know what my answer was. I asked him what flavor would pair well with cherry, and he suggested Panna (Italian cream).

Cherry and Panna

The verdict? There is nothing as refreshing as ice cream on a hot and humid evening. Viadolce’s gelato felt cool and soft on my tongue, and I savored the flavors melting over my taste buds. Unlike most ice cream I find in touristy towns, the gelato at Viadolce wasn’t sugary-sweet. Both the Cherry and the Panna had a subtle sweetness, allowing the flavors of cherries and cream to stand out. A little sign in the Cherry gelato bin had warned that “gelato may contain pieces of cherry pits”, and they weren’t exaggerating! I literally found a couple small pit pieces in my cup. But it was a small price to pay for the authentic flavor of real cherries. While the creamy and mild Panna wasn’t exactly memorable, I would imagine it would pair well with any fruity flavor.

The others enjoyed their gelato, too – especially K’s dad, who proclaimed that the Toasted Almond was one of the best ice creams he’d ever tasted! I’ll have to give that flavor a try next time… when I return to Leavenworth for its annual Oktoberfest Festival! Stay tuned…

The Stats:
Viadolce Gelato
636 Front Street
Leavenworth, WA 98826
(509) 548-6712
http://www.viadolcegelato.com