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Berkeley: Ici

October 21, 2006


It appears as if Alice Walters has extended her arm over yet another part of the East Bay. It is as if every restaurant in Berkeley is somehow connected to her in one way or another. Recently opened by a Chez Panisse alum, Ici is the new ice cream hot spot in town. Nestled between eateries along College Avenue, it’s just skip, step and long uphill walk from UC Berkeley. Imagine a subdued, high end Magnolia Bakery in terms of decor with soft homey shades of pink and woodsy pictures frames along the walls.

The shop was not very busy when I arrive around 7 in the evening, but many people were popping their heads in with the “hmmm, is this a new place?” and then recoiling in slight shock when they see the price in comparision to the portion sizes. hehe. Oh we Americans. Why must everything be so BIG? Flavors change daily and they all sound quite decadent from the Blue Bottle Espresso to Black Mission Fig and even a Coffee-Cardamom. There’s also bitty ice cream sandwiches if you so desire – a weentisy size (60% the size of a deck of cards) for the $4.50 price tag, though adorable nonetheless.

After much sampling and indecision, I carefully selected a scoop of the Honey Lavender and the Pumpkin Gingersnap in a cone. And what good decisions I made! Both ice creams were soft almost to the point of buttery. So smooth and full of pure honey flavor. The lavender was lost somewhere between and the treat as a whole was just a tad sweet. But everything tasted so simple and honest. Just the bare minimum. The Pumpkin reminded me of an October autumn of earthy scents studded with crumbled gingersnap cookies.

But wait! The ice cream was good, very good. However, not nearly as enrapturing as Batali’s Olive Oil Gelato (I’ve yet to find a more addictive flavor). What you SHOULD come back here for is their ICE CREAM COOOONES. Yes. The CONES! They are amazing. Incredible. Golden butterfly wings of crunchy sugar, light and delicate, practically see-thru-thin. They are long and elegant, like the arm length white cashmere gloves I’ve been eyeing at Barney’s for far too long. The tip is dusted is sugar and at the very bottom of the inside is a tiny nugget of melted dark chocolate. Oh so bitter and just perfect. I felt as if I would break the cone just by holding it – three layers had to be spun around in increasing heights for the wafer-like cone to maintain it’s ice cream holding integrity!

My only irk about this place is that there’s no place to sit! Don’t people like to settle their okole’s down when enjoying a $5 cone of ice cream? Ice cream can get messy. Maybe I’ll just have a $.50 cone next time. I would be just as content. Or maybe it will take two cones to make me content. Oh heck, they sell it by bags of ten. I’ll have ONE bag.

2948 College Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 665-605

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