Thursday, June 04, 2015

CREAM Ice Cream Sandwiches

New trend alert: ice cream sandwiches!  As you may recall from my review of Over the Moon, the other relatively new ice cream and cookie place in SF, this isn't a trend I'm really embracing.

Yes, I love ice cream.  But cookies aren't high on my list of desserts, although I could make an exception for an exceptionally good ice cream sandwich, or even, just a cookie for that matter.  And if anywhere is going to do it well, it will be somewhere that specializes in exactly those things, right?

So although I didn't really seek it out, one day when Ojan and I were in the Mission, we finally swung by CREAM.  I'll be honest, we were partially inspired because they had a PayPal promotion, where if you paid using the PayPal app on your phone, you got something like $5 off your order, which, given their amazing prices, made it totally free.  I'm a sucker for free things!

Just like Over the Moon, CREAM makes two things: cookies and ice cream.  While you can get either separately, the main idea is that you create a custom ice cream sandwich, from your choice of cookies, ice cream, and optional toppings.  CREAM started in Berkeley, but their success has been amazing, with nearly 30 franchises now, since starting only in 2010.

Talk about an overwhelming experience.  But not in the same way as Over the Moon, where it just wasn't that fancy, the ice cream was clearly old and icy, and the options fairly limited.

I like to have choice, but, wow, CREAM is choice overload.  I think I'd actually be happier with fewer options, as crazy as that sounds.

To start, you pick your cookie.  There are 10 varieties to chose from: chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, butter sugar, turtle, snickerdoodle, carnival, and lemon heaven.  Oh, and 4 types of vegan cookies, and 4 types of gluten-free cookies too.  18 total, compared to Over the Moon's 5.  Choices for everyone.  Oh, and did I mention, you can mix and match when you make your ice cream sandwich, so you can pick two totally different cookies, one for each side.  If I remember my basic math, that is ... 153 combinations!

The cookies are baked fresh continuously in a large array of ovens behind the counter, and left in warming areas, so they are served warm, a nice touch.  Of course, you could stop here, and just get a cookie.

But, most people then add ice cream, to make an ice cream sandwich.  Here the choices are even more extensive: more than 20 flavors of ice cream, including some seasonal options, plus of course a handful of soy based ice creams for the vegans.  All are on display behind a glass counter where you order.  And yes, you can sample flavors before you choose.

And then, optional toppings, like sprinkles, gummy bears, chocolate chips, assorted nuts, M&Ms, etc, that they roll the edges of the sandwich in.  That is, if you go for a sandwich.

You could also choose to get an ice cream sundae, with standard caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and cherries as well.  Oh, and brownies to as a base for your sundae.  Oh, did I mention, they also make milkshakes and float.  And, randomly, cupcakes?

So yes, choices.  Totally overwhelming.  At least you aren't bored in line.
Half Sandwich: Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie, Rolled Walnuts.  $1.50.
Even with so many choices, I went for an off-menu item: a half sandwich.  I read about it on Yelp, and I'm glad I did, as it was not listed anywhere on the menu.  A regular sandwich is two large cookies with two large scoops of ice cream.  I love desserts, but that seemed like a bit much, even for me.  So glad the Yelpers taught me something!

Of course, in getting a half size, you only use a one cookie, so I had to narrow down my choices to a single cookie.  I went for white chocolate macadamia nut, mostly because I just made a spur of the moment decision.  I am just not a big fan of cookies, and didn't have real opinions on this.  I appreciated that it was warm, but, it was just a cookie.  Ojan seemed to enjoy his choice of the carnival cookie (with M&Ms in it) in his creation, but, he likes cookies.

I sampled the seasonal pumpkin ice cream, but the nutmeg was too strong, a bit soapy tasting.  I settled on the peanut butter swirl, since I love peanut butter ice cream.  It was a peanut butter base with chocolate chips in it, and perhaps something else?  It had good peanut butter flavor, but was otherwise unremarkable.  Not really fancy artisanal ice cream or anything, like the other ice cream shops in the Mission.

I decided to get a topping just for fun. I went for nuts so I could have some protein with my sweets.  I was being healthy! (Or, so I told myself).  They were ... nuts.  I appreciated the crunch.

Overall, it really was just the sum of its parts.  No more, no less.  Novel I guess, but not particularly something I want.

The price however is remarkable.  A full size sandwich is only $2.99, which includes 2 cookies and 2 scoops of ice cream.  Toppings are additional $0.75.  The secret half-size is only $1.50, and totally sufficient.  Major kudos for creating a gourmet, fancy concept, and not charging accordingly.
Vegan Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip. $1.99.
On my next visit, I opted to just get a cookie, a very odd choice for me.  Even more ridiculously, I very strangely picked a vegan cookie.  I tried a few flavors of ice cream, and found them really unremarkable (soy blueberry didn't taste like much, the pumpkin was again too strong in the nutmeg).  I think their ice cream just isn't great, and I didn't want it.

But I wanted ... something.  Somehow, not a single one of the 10 varieties of regular cookie looked appealing to me.  They all just looked like basic, somewhat crisp, cookies.  But one of the vegan ones looked much bigger.  Softer.  Loaded with goodies.  So ... I got it.  Yes, I ordered a vegan cookie.

I was asked if I'd like it warmed up, which obviously I did.  It was handed over a few minutes later, moderately warm.  Not nearly as hot as I'd like though.

But the cookie was good.  It had a nice chew to it.  It was soft.  Almost gooey.  It tasted really buttery, although I know it was vegan.  I loved the crunch from the very generous amount of walnuts.  The little vegan chocolate chips got a bit melty.  Certainly one of the better cookies I've had, and shocking that it was vegan.

Single gluten-free or vegan cookies are $1.99, considerably more than standard cookies which are only $0.79 as singles (or $1.50/2, $2.20/3).
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