AAA’s Guide to Top Ice Cream Shops in Washington, North Idaho and Surrounding Areas
Here’s the scoop: ice cream makers throughout the Northwest are being more creative than ever, crafting irresistible combinations using fresh fruits and intriguing premium ingredients. With summer temperatures spiking, this is the perfect time to enjoy a cool treat, and AAA has a few tasty suggestions!
Bainbridge and Vashon Islands
While Bainbridge Island is a delightful destination reached via ferry from downtown Seattle, Mora Iced Creamery is a top reason to visit. This highly lauded ice creamery makes elegant frozen delights chock full of flavorful ingredients. Their Blueberry ice cream is thick with intensely flavorful blueberries, their Dulce de Leche with Shaved Chocolate is a flavor sensation, and their Mojito is fruity and refreshing. Mora also has scoop shops in Poulsbo and Kingston. On nearby Vashon Island (reached by ferry from West Seattle, or by weekday water taxi from Seattle’s Pioneer Square), Glass Bottle Creamery (above) makes dreamy, housemade ice creams use island ingredients, as much as possible. Flavors, which change regularly, might include Strawberry Balsamic Swirl and Toasted Coconut Theo Chocolate. Their ice cream sandwiches are made with fresh Vashon Island Baking Co. cookies.
Mallard Ice Cream (above), in a cheery storefront, crafts their ice cream five gallons at a time, with high-quality, “real food” ingredients going into each batch. Permanent flavors include Super Chocolate (a dense, dark, fudgy concoction) and Peppermint (using a custom, house blend of mints); rotating selections include flavors such as Strawberry Rhubarb, Bourbon Black Pepper and Lemon Cheesecake. ACME Ice Cream, scooped inside the fun and funky Rocket Donuts, is an ultra-premium style, made with fresh cream from local dairies. Scratch-baked brownies go into their Fudge Brownie, freshly roasted nuts are sprinkled into their Butter Pecan, and fresh local blackberries and raspberries make their Black Raspberry ice cream burst with flavor.
Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho
At Abi’s Artisan Ice Cream in Coeur d’Alene, fresh batches are made daily, from scratch, in an open kitchen. A pan of toffee is churned into Malted Vanilla with Toffee and Chocolate Chips; freshly made lemon curd is used for Lemon Twist ice cream; and homemade jam is swirled into Huckleberry ice cream. Even the waffle cones are made in-house, with a hint of cinnamon adding to the sweet fragrance wafting out the door and drawing in customers. Handcrafted, ultra-luxe ice cream is the name of the game at Panhandle Cone & Coffee, on Sandpoint’s main street. While selections change regularly, summertime’s ripe fruit heightens the flavor of choices such as Lemongrass & Blueberry Swirl and Pineapple, Peach, Mango & Habanero.
There’s a reason why the lines are so long at Big Dipper Ice Cream. The shop’s handcrafted frozen desserts, in flavors such as Espresso Heath, Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla-Reese’s, among others, star in cones, milkshakes and sundaes. At Sweet Peaks Ice Cream (in Whitefish, Missoula, Bigfork, Bozeman and Kalispell, plus Coeur d’Alene and Spokane), the base is made from milk and cream from Montana dairies, eggs and natural stabilizers. A variety of unique seasonal flavors (Pine and Chocolate, Caramel S’mores and Blackberry Lavender among them) are dished up alongside signature flavors such as Grasshopper Mint, Honey Cinnamon and Coconut.
Central District Ice Cream Company is wild about unique flavor sensations, such as Pistachio Fig Cheesecake, Urfa Biber Chocolate (Turkish spiced chocolate) and Chamoy ice cream with a tamarind caramel swirl, made with local, seasonal ingredients. Flavors rotate monthly, but there are always eight inspired creations to choose from at this scoop shop, which also offers floats and ice-cream sandwiches. Kurt Farm Shop (above), on Capitol Hill, makes their custard base with uber-rich Jersey cream and milk, and eggs from pasture-raised hens, sourced from their own Vashon Island farm. Churned with ingredients grown on the farm, seasonal delights might include Lemon Verbena, Tri-Star Strawberry, Rose Geranium or Sungold Tomato Jam—using cherry tomatoes that are tiny orbs of sunshine and sweetness. Sweet Bumpas, which boasts ice cream creations that are “unconventionally bold and complex,” uses local Smith Brothers milk and cream, and sources ingredients from nearby farms for their creations, including Cinnamon Basil Corn Cookie and Fresh Mint Cocoa Crumble. You can find them at a walk-up window in Georgetown, and at farmers markets in and around Seattle, including Columbia City, Mercer Island, Queen Anne and Carnation. Parfait, a Ballard ice creamery that started with a food truck, crafts their creamy delights from the ground up, making their own ice cream base, working with local farms, growing some of their own ingredients … even making homemade sprinkles. Seasonal flavors include Rosemary Almond Brittle, Cacao Nib Blackberry Ripple and Rosewater Raspberry Ripple. Seattle is a kingdom of frozen delights, with more ice cream parlors than you can shake a spoon at; among additional chill options are Bluebird, Cupcake Royale, Full Tilt, Molly Moon’s and Salt & Straw, each with its own fervent followers … and these are only the tip of the iceberg.
Sweet treats are stirred up into creative flavor sensations at Brain Freeze, a Spokane ice cream parlor whose two locations always have a couple of dozen choices in the case. Among top customer favorites are Dirt, with chocolate pudding and cookie bits; Cakey Dough, with a white cake mix and chocolate cookie dough chunks; and Banana Pudding, with fresh bananas, banana pudding and vanilla wafers. The Scoop, on Spokane’s South Hill, uses liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze ingredients in small batches. Flavors, which change regularly, might include Caramel Coffee Toffee, Salted Caramel and Nutella. The house-made Liege-style waffles make a crunchy base for scoops, as an alternative to traditional cones.
Ice Cream Social’s dreamy flavors range from classic (think Butter Pecan and Mint Chocolate Chip) to creative (Roasted Banana, Strawberry Mascarpone & Honey, and Fresh Fig & Honey), in an airy, industrial-chic storefront at Point Ruston, and a second location on Sixth Avenue. All are fashioned from natural, locally sourced ingredients.
In Vancouver, summer and ice cream go hand in hand. Earnest Ice Cream, at four locations, churned up the city’s frozen desserts world when it opened in 2012 with small-batch, seasonal ice cream; try their Whiskey Hazelnut, Matcha Green Tea or Salted Caramel flavors. Kitsilano boasts two new parlors: Rain or Shine uses seasonal, organic ingredients to craft its fresh delights, including Honey Lavender and Blueberry Balsamic flavors. And La Glace scoops ultra-rich French-style ice cream (with extra egg yolks and cream) and offers parfaits and pastries, including macarons, in a très élégant ice cream parlor. The ever-changing flavors here might include Saffron Nougatine (saffron-infused honey cream, orange blossom and toasted pistachios) or Rosemary Brûlée (caramel and rosemary cream with bittersweet buttered caramel).
—Written by Leslie Forsberg