An invitation to our friends’ three-year-old daughter’s birthday party in Golden Gate Park finally gave me an excuse to trek to the opposite side of the city for a stop at one of my personal local favorite ice cream shops nearby: San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery.
It is a one-of-a-kind place in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, a foggy neighborhood along the way to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is one of those local joints that truly embodies some of the most endearing qualities of San Francisco, from its decor to its ice cream.
Founded four years ago by two brothers, Adar and Saadi, they proudly promote the fact that the are supposedly the “first creamery in San Francisco to make small batch ice cream completely from scratch on-site.” They also champion their “farm to cone” story, with a focus on everything being homemade from local ingredients, resulting in a “simple yet premium quality product.” Personally, I get more of a sense of their dedication to their hometown community than the farm side of the story, but that doesn’t make it less charming (or delicious).
The whole interior is rustic, fully trimmed in weathered dark wood hard floors and paneling and decorated with quirky signs and murals of various San Francisco neighborhoods painted by Saadi himself.
What they lack in a farm story, they make up for by showing off the ice cream production process. You can actually take a peak into The Lab where all the magic happens. A sign helps educate customers about how it all works.
Unfortunately, no live action is happening this Sunday afternoon. I’m told production happens early weekday mornings a few times per week, before the shop opens. (This does not discourage me in the slightest. Let it be known that I intend on finding out if public viewing times are available!)
They do only small batches and keep a manageable rotation of nine flavors. There are a few standard “hometown favorites,” like Madagascar Vanilla and Fresh Mint Chip, that regularly stay on the boards. These are complimented by a fresh set of creative new flavors, which give you a great reason to stop back often. Today’s flavors were a wild assortment of names I can’t pronounce and every single one of which I want to try.
The good news is, for the indecisive like me, you can select a “smidge” size, which is a little taster cup sized scoop that is the perfect option for those who can’t (or don’t want to) decide on just one or two, and want more satisfaction than a teeny tiny sample spoon bite. (Don’t worry, for the more decisive (or hungry) there are plenty of “big kid” sizes too.)
I tiny-spoon-sampled the exotic sounding Cantuccini, Papanasi, and Finnegan’s Wake Cake. What, pray tell, are those?
- Papanasi – a deconstruction of the traditional Romanian cheese donut, creme fraiche ice cream with homemade papanasi and black currant sauce
- Finnegan’s Wake Cake – Irish cream ice cream with chocolate stout cake and a whisky caramel ribbon
- Cantuccini – star anise ice cream with Frangelico, nutmeg rum soaked raisins and bits of almond cantucci (Tuscan biscotti)
All were fairly creamy, though had a little bit of texture from ice crystals, and not too heavy. They do a particularly good job of integrating a well-balanced ratio of base to mix-ins ,which act as accents rather than distractions from the main ice cream event.
I finally settle on a smidge of an old favorite, Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, which is a regular feature on the “hometown favorites” menu. No matter how hard I try or how many other flavors I sample (and love), I just can’t help coming back to this one. Probably because it is the closest I have found to my hands down all time favorite, Peanut Butter Brownie from The Ice Cream Man in Upstate New York.
This version is creamy smooth, not too intense, heavy or rich, as so many peanut butter flavors can be (when you’re lucky enough to find them, that is). The peanut butter comes through in a balanced, more subtle way, that reassurances you that are indeed enjoying ice cream and not a spoonful of peanut butter from the jar. The fudge swirl is well blended – no big globs of fudge – adding a nice balanced chocolate accent.
It’s worth noting that beyond ice cream, they also have a lovely assortment of freshly baked goods and homemade spiced cider. While it’s nothing like the good stuff I can get family’s orchard at home, it is a welcome warm-up in a neighborhood that, according to SF Gate, “suffers some of the worst weather in the entire Bay Area,” nearly always cool, damp and shrouded fog. This is a place for the hearty ice cream lover that knows no ice cream season!
Total score: 4.8 scoops