In 2013, my husband and I made plans for a weekend getaway trip to San Francisco and Vancouver over the 4 days of the Thanksgiving weekend. Once our plans were finalized, I remember sitting down and making plans for what we would do during our short time in both cities. One of the items on my “to do” list in San Francisco was an ice creamery that’s very well known in the City by the Bay because, of course, I’m the world’s biggest lover of ice cream and can never turn down a chance to taste small batch, locally made ice cream in various cities that I visit, regardless of the weather outside or the time of year. Unfortunately, that particular trip to San Francisco, we were only in the city for 24 hours, most of which was Thanksgiving Day, so that pretty much meant that a trip to this ice creamery was going to be out of the question. Fast forward 14 months later to a quick New Year’s weekend getaway to San Francisco, and this time around, with 3 days in the city, I told my husband that finding a way to get to this ice creamery was now a “must” on our agenda.
Bi-Rite Creamery, opened in the Mission District of San Francisco, in 2006 across the street from Bi-Rite Market, part of the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses begun in 1940, was the brainchild of two, local pastry chefs who started making baked goods for the market in 2002 out of a rented kitchen. Eventually, when space across the street from Bi-Rite Market became available, it was gobbled up and the idea came about to create a Bi-Rite business offering something to the neighborhood that it didn’t previously have, and that was an ice cream shop with small batch, hand made ice cream made from scratch on a daily basis using organic and locally sourced ingredients in the most sustainable way possible, all the while creating bold, unique and creative flavors.
Opened in 2006, Bi-Rite Creamery has created a name for itself by becoming the first ice cream shop in San Francisco to only use Straus Family Creamery organic dairy for all of the milk and cream for their ice cream and soft serve. From only 45 miles away, Straus Family Creamery is the first certified organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi. The ice cream created at Bi-Rite Creamery generally does not contain more than 5 ingredients total, and everything that goes into the ice cream is generally made in house at the bakery next door to the ice cream shop. So the brownies, the graham crackers, the snickerdoodle, the almond toffee, and the peanut brittle, just to name a few, are made from scratch, in house before being added into the ice cream. Hand made, locally sourced, organic, fresh from farm to table, all contributes to the amazing ice cream that is served scoop by scoop and cone by cone at this unique ice creamery. Often times, in front of this small storefront, you can find locals and tourists alike lined up down the block waiting to sample some of this terrific ice cream.
In addition to hand scooped ice creams, popsicles, soft serve and sundaes that you can get at Bi-Rite Creamery, you can also take home a piece of Bi-Rite with you. The Creamery offers a freezer full of hand packed ice cream quarts, including some of their most popular flavors, as well as ice cream sandwiches and ice cream cakes. Additionally, you can also pick up packages of Bi-Rites famous baked goods, ice cream toppings, and some products that come from the local farms and businesses whose items are featured in Bi-Rite’s unique ice creams.
Due to the fact that the ice cream is made small batch and seasonally, there’s constantly a rotating list of available flavors from day to day inside the creamery based upon what’s available from the local farms or what’s been baked inside the bakery. When you step into the store, you’re greeted with an ice cream case that displays all of the available flavors of the day with the glass casing being hand written with a description of each and every flavor. On the day we visited Bi-Rite Creamery, the flavors we had to choose from included a mix of every day available flavors and a couple of holiday seasonal flavors reflecting the winter Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The salted caramel was labeled as their most popular flavor. The creme brûlée was the winner of their 2010 ice cream contest. Holiday flavors included pumpkin, candy cane with Seely mint oil, and egg nog. Mint chip ice cream with Seely mint oil was also being served. Coffee toffee with Ritual coffee and housemade almond toffee could be had as well, with Ritual Coffee Roasters being located only a few blocks away. If you wanted something that was non-dairy, you could order the apple cranberry sorbet. There was also Bi-Rite’s original flavor of Ricanelas made with cinnamon and snickerdoodles. How about earl grey for some tea in ice cream form? Coconut chocolate was also an option. Brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl sounds good to me. How about malted vanilla with peanut brittle and chocolate flakes? And what about cookies & cream with organic Newman O’s? I’m not sure you could go wrong with any flavor.
After looking over our choices for ice cream, my husband and I each decided to order an ice cream sundae. My husband went for something called the Dainty Gentleman which was made with three scoops of honey lavender ice cream, hot fudge, blood orange olive oil and a touch of Maldon sea salt. It was the blood orange olive oil that really caught my husband’s eye. At that point, he didn’t care what else was even in the sundae. And he wasn’t disappointed. The honey lavender ice cream was made with organic dried lavender and nearby Bobby Winston’s Sonoma honey. But it wasn’t even the ice cream that my husband could taste that put this sundae into the realm of amazing. It was solely the blood orange olive oil. One spoonful of the sundae and my husband was mouthing “wow!” and telling me that I had to try his sundae. And I must agree, the olive oil was outstanding. The blood orange giving it a great citrus and tangy flavor without being too sweet, and the olive oil giving it a creamy smooth mouth feel. The combination of the blood orange with the chocolate hot fudge and the touch of sea salt just made for a perfect spoonful of ice cream. My husband wasn’t as in love with the honey lavender ice cream itself as he felt like the ice cream at Salt & Straw in Portland, which we just enjoyed the week before, was actually better ice cream as it was denser and creamier. But, it’s the toppings on this particular sundae, rather than ice cream itself, that put this sundae into the realm of out-of-this-world amazing for my husband, and I have to agree. My husband is so enamored with the blood orange olive oil that he wants to figure out how to get his hands on a bottle of it.
For my sundae, I chose the Afternoon Snack. This particular sundae is made with roasted banana ice cream, housemade graham crackers, caramel sauce and whipped cream. The roasted banana ice cream with fudge swirl is made by roasting organic bananas with brown sugar until they are tender and caramelized, and the care with which this ice cream is created can be tasted. This was the most amazing banana ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I could have just had a gallon of this ice cream and been satisfied. There were even bits of the actual roasted fruit mixed into the ice cream, which I loved. The chocolate fudge swirl was the perfect amount to enhance the sweetness of the ice cream, but without taking away from the banana flavor. The housemade graham crackers on this sundae are what really made me fall in love with the concoction. These graham crackers were out of this world, crunchy, thick and with great flavor. It was more like a graham cookie rather than a thin cracker that you’re apt to think of and it worked so well in this combination with the ice cream and the whipped cream. The whipped cream was thick and full and obviously homemade with just a slight hint of sweetness to it. I thought that perhaps the sundae could have done with either a little less caramel sauce, or really without the caramel at all since the caramel sauce was so thick and gooey, texture and flavor-wise it took a little bit away from the sundae to try to have to dig your spoon through the caramel sauce. But overall, this may have been the most perfect combination of ice cream flavors in a sundae that I’ve ever had.
I was beyond excited to finally make it to Bi-Rite Creamery on this trip to San Francisco. I’ve been wanting to go there for so long after reading about their wonderful ice cream and seeing pictures of it from some of my friends who live in the Bay Area. And now that I’ve had my chance, Bi-Rite Creamery did not disappoint at all. In fact, it exceeded all expectations. This was, for me, probably the most perfect bowl of ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in San Francisco because I could imagine myself making a trek out to Bi-Rite Creamery as often as possible. As it is, Bi-Rite is already on my list of places I must return to each and every time I visit San Francisco. I think Bi-Rite Creamery is truly the San Francisco treat not to be missed.