Thursday, March 01, 2018

Bi-Rite Creamery

Update Reviews, 2017

Another year, another few Bi-Rite ice cream reviews, but this time, of the ice cream cake!  They keep showing up in my office.  For my thoughts on the general ice cream, see my previous reviews.
Another day, another, "quick, we are having a celebration, come get ice cream cake!" message sent out one afternoon.  Of course I went running, to find ice cream cake from Bi-Rite.
Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Cake.
“Chocolate cake with cookies and cream ice cream and whipped cream.”

The base was chocolate cake, a fairly thin layer, compared to the others.  It was very firm, not really what I think of as cake, almost more like a very dense brownie.

Next was the main attraction: the ice cream.  This layer made up probably 70% of the cake, and was really just a thick solid mass of cookies and cream ice cream.  It was ... fine.  Not particularly creamy though, and cookies and cream isn't ever a flavor I go for.

The top layer was whipped cream based frosting, and it was decorated with crumbled Oreos.  The fluffy whipped cream was sweet and quite tasty, and it melted nicely, although, faster than the ice cream layer.  The Oreos were just kinda mushy/soggy.

Overall, I felt this ice cream cake lacked ... research?  I dunno.  I'm not going to claim that Carvel cake is amazing or anything, but, they have a formula that works, with layers in the right proportions.  This was really just a whole lot of ice cream, with some hard cake strangely at the bottom, frosting that melted faster than ice cream and slid off, and mushy topping.  The components were all fine, but it certainly didn't add up to anything special.
Chocolate Midnight Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
I'll be honest.  I'm not a big cake fan.  Not that I don't like cake, but, because I generally would pick most other things over a simple cake.  But, when someone says there is cake to try, how do I resist?

This was quite good, for a cake.

Two layers of very dense, super moist, rich, dark chocolate cake. Borderline brownie-like.  In-between those layers was a very thick milk chocolate, more like a fudge than a frosting due to its thickness.  The frosting was cream cheese, sweet, creamy, and delicious, but it seemed like a slightly strange pairing with chocolate.  Dark chocolate shards lines the outside, high quality dark chocolate, with a nice snap.

Overall, very good, again, for a cake.

Update Reviews, Summer 2016

It had been a few years since I had Bi-Rite ice cream, and then, recently, I was surrounded by it.  I was curious if my opinion had changed, since, well, I never found the ice cream to be anything special.  See my original review.  

First, a friend brought over several pints of Bi-Rite ice cream to a party at my house.  None were flavors I would have picked, but, I was glad to try more flavors.  Then, a week later, we hosted a Bi-Rite event at my office, with a bunch more flavors.  My opinion remains largely unchanged.  It isn't bad ice cream, but, it just isn't any better than other ice cream.  I'm not sure why people are so crazy over it.

I did notice that Bi-Rite ice cream freezes much softer than many ice creams.  That is, if you put pints of Bi-Rite, Three Twins, and Ben & Jerry's all in the same freezer, they come out at totally different softness levels.  I've always been struck by how hard Ben & Jerry's freezes, you really need to let it soften a good 10 minutes before even attempting to scoop.  Bi-Rite is on the other end of the spectrum, actually scoopable from the moment you pull it out.  Three Twins is somewhere in the middle.  I wonder what causes this?
Tcho Chocolate.
I don't generally like chocolate ice cream.  I like chocolate, I like ice cream, I like hot fudge on ice cream, but, for some reason, I just don't tend to like chocolate ice cream, or even chocolate based ice cream.

But this was very good chocolate ice cream.  Smooth ice cream, really rich flavor, and it reminded me of a rich chocolate mousse.  I'm still wouldn't opt for chocolate ice cream generally, but, if I wouldn't turn this down.
Cookies & Cream.
"We make our Cookies and Cream with Newman O’s, hand chopped, and mixed in to our ice cream."

This was pretty standard cookies & cream ice cream.  Decent enough vanilla ice cream base, decent distribution of decent sized chunks of cookie.  Decent is really the best description I have for it.  Nothing wrong with it, but nothing really remarkable either.

August 2016

The week after a friend brought Bi-Rite ice cream to my house, we hosted Bi-Rite at work for an ice cream tasting.  We had four flavors (peach, roasted banana, salted caramel, balsamic strawberry), and, of course, I tried them all.

I failed to get a photo of the roasted banana.  It tasted ... like banana.  Ojan said, "it tastes just like a frozen banana".  For me it was just too plain, as I'm used to Chunky Monkey, or at least lots of toppings on a banana ice cream.  We all ranked it third.
Peach with Masumoto Peaches.
The first flavor I tried was peach, as I've had salted caramel and strawberry balsamic before, and banana sounded boring.

I didn't care for it.  It tasted ... too healthy.  Yes, this ice cream was too healthy for me.  It really did taste like frozen fresh peaches, so, if you like peaches, then perhaps it is for you?  My least favorite, and no one else wanted more than one bite of this either.
Salted Caramel.
"Our number one seller, famous for the deep rich flavor of sweet caramel balanced with just the right amount of salt."

Salted Caramel is probably Bi-Rite's most famous flavor.

It was just way too sweet for me.  Ojan and I both pulled back a bit after taking a bite, equally shocked by how sweet it was.  He wanted some rich chocolate sauce on top to cut it.  And some whipped cream.  It was really just a lot on its own.  It did melt nicely though.  Second choice.
Balsamic Strawberry.
"We only make this flavor when local strawberries are in full season and offer the best flavor. Balsamic vinegar enhances the strawberries’ fantastic flavor even more."

And finally, another Bi-Rite Signature flavor, balsamic strawberry.

This turned out to be everyone's favorite, as the flavor was the most complex.  Fruity, like the peach, but, the balsamic added some interest to it.

I think in general these flavors were just a bit too plain for me. I think they'd make great foundations for a sundae, but aren't the flavors I just want a scoop of.

Original Review, April 2012

Bi-Rite.  Ah, Bi-Rite.  Everyone loves this place.  The lines are epic, even on the coldest San Francisco "summer" days.  Somehow, the magic has been lost on me.

Just like Humphrey Slocombe, they use Strauss Organic Dairy. They use organic, local ingredients.  Yadda yadda yadda.  The ice cream still just doesn't seem that much better than generic grocery store ice cream to me.
Malted Vanilla with Peanut Brittle and Milk Chocolate Pieces.
"This flavor combines malted vanilla ice cream with house make peanut brittle (made with Virginia peanuts) and TCHO milk chocolate pieces."

This pint reminded me of a pint of Ben & Jerry's - I had a hard time not eating the whole thing in a single sitting.  But, not because it was awesome.  Because every bite seemed like it was about to be awesome.

The ice cream base was fairly boring, perhaps slightly malty, but just vanilla ice cream.  It wasn't particularly creamy.  The milk chocolate pieces were tiny flecks, and there weren't many of them.  Nothing so far was very tempting.  But ... the peanut brittle.  That was my weakness.  But again, not because it was awesome.  Because it was almost awesome.  There wasn't much of it.  It wasn't really brittle, but more like little bits of peanut surrounded by some caramel.  But I couldn't stop digging for more.  This is exactly what happens to me with a pint of Ben & Jerry's, particularly with Heath Bar Crunch.  The ice cream isn't great, but I can't help myself from seeking out "just one more chunk" of the candy.

So, did I easily finish the pint?  Well, yes.  But, I can't say it was a very rewarding pint.

[ Update review: A friend brought a pint of this over to my house, and I again almost loved it.  The malty vanilla ice cream was smooth and melted perfectly, and I really did love the idea of the brittle and chocolate chunks.  Somehow though, it didn't quite satisfy. ]

Hard Ice Cream
  • Almond Fudge Swirl:  Meh.  Mostly just vanilla ice cream, didn’t get much of the other flavors.
  • Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel Swirl: Way too sweet.  Just sweet.
  • Ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodles): Ok flavor, but nothing special.
  • Salted Caramel:  Nice and creamy, good caramel and salt flavors.  There is a reason this flavor is famous.
Soft Serve
  • Pumpkin: Not very pumpkin-y, not very well spiced, meh.
  • Salted Caramel: Sweet, not very salty [ Decent concistency, but just sweet, not salty, not caramely, not very good at all ]
  • Vanilla : Very generic, nothing special.
Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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