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Photograph by Curtis Cartier
SWEET SUCCESS: Zachary Davis and Kendra Baker show off scoops of Blackberry and Earl of Gray ice cream at the Penny Ice Creamery.

The Ice Cream of the Crop

Designer 'scream comes to town in wondrous flavors and luscious textures

By Christina Waters

IT STARTED with Kelly's at the beginning of summer, and soon came Mission Hill Organic Creamery. Late last month the Penny Ice Creamery opened its inviting doors, and that made three artisanal ice creameries in one small seaside town. Already grateful fans of unforgettable handmade ice creams are giving thanks. The difference between these painstakingly created, intensely flavored, utterly smooth and creamy concoctions and the mass-produced stuff—even Häagen-Dazs—is evident from the first rhapsodic lick.

And love at first lick was my response to the impossibly creamy pistachio ice cream made by David Kumec, chef and owner of Mission Hill Organic Creamery, ensconced at the front of the spacious Food Prep Culinary Center. Kumec, who studied on the East Coast with an Italian ice cream maestro, uses only local organic fruit from our farmers markets and all-organic Strauss Family Creamery dairy products to create 16 rotating flavors that chart the seasons. I sampled. I sighed. Kumec's strawberry ice cream offered ripe berry depth without cloying sweetness. His vanilla was definitive. He also has fun with left-of-center variations such as Orange Creamcicle and a chocolate laced with chocolate nibs whose rich finish is the stuff of addictions. Two-ounce scoops or cups start at $2.

The newest home of all-organic ice cream is Penny Ice Creamery, an entrepreneurial venture between globally trained pastry chef Kendra L. Baker (most recently at the two-Michelin-starred Manresa) and MBA-trained management expert Zachary David. The charmingly refurbished Mission Revival suite across from Gabriella is now a sparkling palace of such designer ice cream and sorbet flavors as Blackberry Corn, Bourbon Bacon Chocolate and Fresh Mint/Chocolate Nib. Touting its products as small-batch local, seasonal and organic ice creams made in-house completely from scratch, the Penny offers tempting tastes to patrons unable to choose from the nine flavors, oodles of toppings and Verve coffee drinks to accompany. The vanilla is complex and as serene as a Fra Angelico sunrise, but the Brown Butter Spiced Pecan has the power to leap tall buildings. The buttery foundation is layered with the pure flavor of pecan to create an archetypal ice cream experience. Single scoops are $3.50.

Kelly Sanchez, as usual, started it all in June when, after taking an intensive ice cream course at Penn State (where her great-grandfather, a Los Angeles ice cream maker, once studied), she added an ice cream laboratory to her Kelly's/ French Pastry operation on Ingalls Street and soon started offering French-style ice creams and sorbets in a broad range of classic as well as inventive flavors. Sanchez located a prime dairy source at Humbolt Creamery, where the pasture-fed cows boasted a high butterfat milk. The results are opulent. Kelly's vanilla ice cream is resoundingly satisfying, but the Caramel Almond already has its own cult following. Rich, tightly textured, opulent with fat almonds and a house-made caramel sauce interior, this is ice cream the way the child in you remembers. Small scoops and cones start at $2.50.

MISSION HILL ORGANIC CREAMERY Open Tue–Sun noon–8pm (Fri–Sat 9pm). 504 Front St., Santa Cruz. 831.515.8799.


Open Tue–Sun noon–9pm (Fri–Sat 11pm). 913 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.204.2523.


Open Tue–Sun noon–7:30pm (Fri–Sat 8:30pm). Swift Street Courtyard, 402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.9059.

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