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The Coolhaus Shop

October 30, 2014

One day while at work, my husband emailed me a link to a list called the “World’s 30 best ice cream parlors.”  You’ve all seen that I’m an ice cream fiend.  Morning, noon or night, or all three, I could eat ice cream.  100 degrees outside or -10 below and I could eat ice cream.  So, you know that I immediately had to start going through this list to see where these “world’s best” ice cream places would be.  To my dismay, though I’d been in numerous cities around the world where these various ice cream parlors were located, in places such as Florence, Seattle, San Francisco, Playa Del Carmen, Berlin and Copenhagen, I’d only ever tried one of these places before, and that was #22 – The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in New York City’s Chinatown.  We’re going to have to rectify this problem.  It turns out that #8 on the list is a place that I had heard of many times, in fact, I’ve even seen their pre-packed ice cream sold at some eateries I’ve been to, but had never tried, despite the fact that one of their 2 Southern California locations is located no more than 4 miles down the road from where I live.  First thought that came to my mind, “we’ve got to check this place out!”

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Described on this particular website as “‘Architecturally-inspired’, Coolhaus lets customers design their own gourmet ice cream ‘sammies’ – one-layer, two-layer, or three-layer – by mixing and matching cookie and ice cream flavors for crazy-good combinations like chocolate molten lava cake ice cream sandwiched between two carrot cake cookies.”  And their ice cream sandwiches, with homemade cookies and cooky and crazy ice cream flavors is really what has put Coolhaus on the map.

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I remember hearing about Coolhaus years ago when they started out as a food truck.  During the height of the food truck craze in Los Angeles, they had a food truck out their on the streets pushing their crazy ice cream sandwich concoctions.  Soon, their name, and especially their product, became legendary and they moved from just being a food truck to selling and packaging pre-made frozen ice cream sandwiches to local retailers in the greater Los Angeles area and eventually opened up 2 brick-and-mortar ice cream shops – one of them being in the trendy and hip Culver City area.  So, on a cool, and drizzly Sunday afternoon, my husband and I decided to drive out to Coolhaus and check them out.

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The storefront itself is quiet and unassuming.  Unless you were specifically looking out for the shop, it’d be so easy to miss.  The inside is tiny as well with an ice cream counter featuring all of their current flavors of the day as well as a small freezer featuring pre-packaged goods and finally a few stools and small tables for those who choose to enjoy their ice cream creations at the store rather than taking them away.  Out front of the store is a handwritten board that lists the current day’s flavors of ice cream and cookies to help you make a decision as you wait in the almost, ever-present line found at the store.

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And when I say they make some really crazy, and weird flavors, believe me, they do.  Some combinations of flavors I’ve never heard of or ever seen together before, and yet, somehow they work.  Have you ever heard of Fried Chicken & Maple Waffle ice cream before?  Made with homemade fried chicken, caramel infused with organic chicken skins, all swirled in a brown butter base with maple syrup, cayenne pepper and black pepper and sage and topped with crunchy waffle bits.  It’s like savory food in an ice cream.  Not really my cup of tea, but supposedly the ice cream is outstanding.  When it’s your turn and you step up to the counter, you’re allowed a few samples of different flavors of your choosing.  Of course, it’s hard not to request a sample because some of the flavors are so off the wall that you’d really need to taste them before you decide on them.  However, I noticed that a lot of people who step up to the counter generally ended up asking the scooper behind the counter what their favorite flavors were or what the most popular flavors were.  I heard multiple times that the salted chocolate was really popular, and I saw a number of people order it.  Made with chocolate base and maldon salt with stone ground chocolate, it’s a favorite of those who like their sweet and salty all rolled into one.  Again, not completely my cup of tea, but who am I to argue?

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Brown butter candied bacon was also quite popular.  Another example of people who like their sweet and salty all in one bite.  The ice cream is made with a brown butter, maple syrup and a bacon base with candied bacon bits, it all sounded a bit too much for me.  I think one of the most unusual flavors that I saw, and one that I know interested my husband was the Maker’s Mark Manhattan made with a bourbon base swirled with Italian amarenna and sour cherries.  Really, it sounded more to me like it should be a dessert rather than ice cream, but maybe that’s why the flavors work so well together.  As one would expect red velvet was also another popular flavor, made with a red velvet and mascarpone base with chunks of red velvet cake pieces, I can only imagine how sweet that must have been.  If you were looking for something a little less sweet and with a bit more of a kick to it, why not try the chocolate chipotle?  Made with a dark chocolate base and spiced with cayenne pepper, I bet that would have provided a bit of a kick.  Of course, there were also more traditional flavors such as Tahitian vanilla bean made with real Tahitian vanilla beans.  Or Nutella almond made with a dark chocolate and hazelnut base with roasted almond pieces.  Peanut butter was also another flavor sure to be a hit with customers made with rich peanut butter with just a hint of salt.

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And of course, you can’t forget the cookies.  Can’t make an ice cream sandwich without cookies, after all.  The flavors available on the day we went were: maple flapjack, gluten-free coconut almond, red velvet, peanut butter captain crunch, chocolate chip and snickerdoodle.  Even some of their cookies have interesting flavor combinations.  I’ve never heard of a maple flapjack cookie before.  Peanut butter captain crunch was also new for me.  I’ve seen captain crunch ice cream before, but the combination of that with peanut butter in a cookie was different.  In the end, neither my husband nor I actually chose to get an ice cream sandwich made because we were more interested in the ice cream itself than the cookie, but we did each buy a red velvet cookie just to give it a try.  I’ve got to tell you the cookie was fantastic.  It was soft and chewy and moist and the red velvet cookie tasted just like a slice of red velvet cake and the little bit of cream cheese frosting drizzled over the top of the cookie was the perfect amount of sweetness for the cookie, any more and it would have been overkill.

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So what kind of ice cream did my husband and I end up choosing?  We each got 2 scoops of ice cream in a cup at the store to go with our cookie and in the end each of both loved one of our ice cream selections so much that we both took a pint of ice cream home.  For me, one of the flavors I chose was dirty mint chip.  This was a bit of a surprise as I am not really a mint kind of girl.  I’m a straight up chocolate chip kind of girl, but in this case, I couldn’t seem to resist the dirty mint chip.  So, why is it called dirty mint, you ask?  As you can see in the description dirty mint chip is made with fresh mint leaves and dark brown sugar, infused overnight, with dark chocolate chips.  Essentially, it’s straight up natural mint flavoring in the ice cream rather than artificial mint flavoring, which is the mint that I’m not fond of.  So, when you get a scoop of dirty mint chip, the ice cream is actually white, or off white, with dark chocolate chips swirled through it, it’s not that unnatural neon-alien green color generally associated with mint chip.  And the taste of the ice cream really has a natural mint flavor.  It’s strong, but not overpowering the way artificial flavoring can be.  For me, the ability to taste the hint of natural mint flavor, but have it overwhelm your taste buds was enough for me to ask for a scoop of dirty mint chip.

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My second flavor choice was Vietnamese ice coffee.  I’m a huge fan of ice coffee.  Heck, I’ve even done a blog post dedicated to various types of ice coffee, so when I see Vietnamese ice coffee on the menu, I’m not going to pass that up.  I’m already a fan of regular coffee ice cream, and Vietnamese ice coffee has to be that much better.  According to the description, its delicious coffee ice cream sweetened with condensed milk.  And I love condensed milk, so this is the perfect combination.  It’s the condensed milk, along with the extra strong French press coffee which makes Vietnamese ice coffee what it is.  If you like the drink, how can you resist the ice cream?  And obviously I couldn’t  And the ice cream lived up to its billing.  It was strong with coffee flavor, but also sweet from the condensed milk, which kept the bitterness out of the flavor profile.  Looking at it, it looks like your standard coffee ice cream, it’s only when you take a spoonful of it that you know it’s something entirely different all together.  For me the Vietnamese ice coffee was different and unique and something I totally fell in love with.

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For my husband, he went with flavors that were way off the charts, but ones he absolutely loved as well.  And neither were flavors I would have ever chosen.  First off, my husband had seen a flavor on the board outside that he really wanted to check out.  When we got inside, we didn’t see the flavor displayed behind the ice cream counter, so we had to ask the girl working there if they had it.  She had told us that this particular flavor was up on the board yet because she had just pulled it out of the freezer and it was frozen solid, but that if my husband really wanted it, she’d try to pull a scoop out of the carton for him.  Apparently, he really wanted it.  So what was the flavor?  Balsamic fig & mascarpone.  Mascarpone is a cheese technically, and to my husband’s way of thinking, anything with cheese in it has to be good.  The ice cream is creamy mascarpone-based ice cream with balsamic glazed California figs and a balsamic swirl.  It’s described by Coolhaus as being like a frozen cheese plate.  I think my husband said he wholeheartedly agreed with that description.  He loved the balsamic swirl and could definitely tasted the figs and enjoyed the creamy sweetness of the mascarpone.  That’s not really a flavor combination I would have chosen, but apparently, my husband likes things a bit more savory than I do.

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But for my husband, the real star of the day was the second ice cream flavor that he chose: whiskey & lucky charms.  Who thinks of flavor combos like this for an ice cream?  It is certainly one of the more unique flavors I’ve ever seen.  Accordingly to the description, the ice cream is spiked with Jameson and is sometimes referred to playfully as Irish breakfast.  My husband had a sample before he ordered it and liked it so he got a scoop of it.  He said that you could really taste the whiskey, but that it wasn’t so strong and overpowering that it dominated the whole ice cream.  The lucky charms cereal added texture to the ice cream and the marshmallow pieces added just the right touch of sweetness to compliment the whiskey.  According to my husband, he’d never tasted anything like this before and really enjoyed it more and more every spoonful he had.  Of course, that could have been the alcohol talking.  But my husband did mention that it might be one of his most favorite ice cream flavors he’s ever tasted.

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In the end, my husband liked the Whiskey & Lucky Charms enough that he decided to get a pint to go for our freezer at home.  And though it’s not obvious from the picture above, the packed pint to go actually came in a mason jar with the Coolhaus logo in the shape of a house etched on the side of the mason jar.  The idea is a cute one as this is a reusable mason jar which we can take back to Coolhaus to get refilled (at a better price) for more ice cream to bring home.

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Instead of asking the girl behind the counter to pack a new jar of ice cream for me, I saw in their freezer a pre-packed quart of Vietnamese ice coffee ice cream and my husband convinced me that I needed to have my own quart of ice cream to bring home since I wouldn’t be enjoying any of his ice cream.  That’s all the convincing it took me to bring home my own quart of ice cream.

My husband and I both walked away from Coolhaus happy customers that day.  Our tummy was full of interesting and creative ice cream and we each had some ice cream to go to put in our freezer for later.  Oh, let’s not forget the yummy cookie we each enjoyed as well.  It was fun and exciting to see, and try, some of the more unique and crazy ice cream flavors I’ve ever seen before.  And it was quite surprising that this unusual flavor combinations were actually quite good and something we would actually order.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing to step outside of the box of what is considered “normal” as the crazy, weird, and unique can be just as good.

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