Sunday, September 14, 2014

We visit Capitol Hill and Bluebird Ice Cream

                                                                         (So, so true)

Could this weekend have been it- the last beautiful weekend in Seattle? I certainly hope not, the weather has been amazing and as a Colorado-by-way-of-California transplant, I'm grateful to have gotten so much sun since we moved! Since we'd heard great things about the Capitol Hill neighborhood, we decided to go explore the area. It was a gorgeous day; the Sunday farmer's market was in full swing and we stopped by some fun neighborhood hangouts. We wandered through some furniture stores, visited Elliott Bay books and tried some beer at Elysian Brewing Company (I'm sad to report that we tried the seasonal sampler and didn't find any beers that we liked- I'm hoping that maybe I'll like their regular beers better?). But, as usual, our primary mission: to sample the neighborhood ice cream shop.

With its high yelp ratings, it was clear that Bluebird Microcreamery and Brewery was our best bet. Bluebird completely fits in with the hipster vibe of the neighborhood, featuring some funky flavors alongside the classics, as well as a handlebar mustachioed server and a weed trade magazine. We were the only people there on the Sunday afternoon when we visited (to be honest, I was shocked by how empty the whole area felt- I'm used to the Castro in SF, which becomes an absolute disaster zone on a nice Sunday afternoon). Since business was slow, we didn't feel bad about sampling a selection of flavors.

Bluebird has a nice mix of classics, like Theo chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter, in addition to some more original flavors like chocolate pudding, peanut butter and jelly and marionberry. They've also thrown their take on salted caramel into the mix. Like Molly Moon's salted caramel, this one was way, way over the top with the salt. To be honest, I hated it; while it was salty and sweet, I felt like the saltiness was absolutely overpowering and made the ice cream almost inedible. I had much better luck with the more traditional flavors I tried; the chocolate pudding was delicious, preserving the very particular taste of pudding (where does that come from?!), while still being rich and complex. The peanut butter ice cream was slightly chalky, but nicely nutty; paired in a split scoop with the chocolate pudding, I got a delicious peanut-butter cup-like concoction. Forrest went for the marionberry and salted caramel; the marionberry was fresh and fruity, but ice crystals made it lack the creaminess of some of the other flavors.

Overall, we really liked Bluebird- I thought that the flavors were interesting and well-executed and the ice cream was creamy, rich and smooth. I'll definitely make another visit! One other consideration- the portions are very generous at Bluebird (they serve the ice cream in a tall cup, rather than a more traditional ice cream bowl), so it'd be easy to split if you wanted to spend a little less.

Very excitingly, there's also a Bluebird in Fremont that I'm looking forward to checking out in the near future. :) Our final numerical ratings:

Texture - 8
Flavors - 8
Cone - n/a
Execution - 7
Taste - 7
Ambiance/service/etc - 9


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Molly Moon's: In which we pay a visit to the local behometh

I'm starting to be able to feel it in the air and see it in the shortening days that summer is coming to a close in Seattle. But, last weekend was absolutely beautiful, so we took advantage of what may (hopefully not!) be the final "summer" weekend by paying a visit to a classic Seattle ice cream shop: Molly Moon's. Molly Moon's is an institution in Seattle; there are shops in many Seattle neighborhoods (Wallingford, Capital Hill, Madrona, Queen Anne, University Village and 19th and Mercer) and even a Molly Moon's ice cream cookbook. When we moved here and started researching ice cream places to try, it was immediately obvious we couldn't neglect this ice cream empire.

We decided to walk to the Wallingford Molly Moon location on a beautiful evening. We clearly weren't the only people taking advantage of the beautiful weather; we were joined by many others, with patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk enjoying their ice cream. Although it was busy, the line moved quickly, with employees actively engaging customers in line. Forrest and I both tasted a couple of flavors. We had read online that the salted caramel was very salty, so we wanted to try it before deciding whether we wanted a full cone. True to the reviews, it was extremely salty; Forrest and I both found it unpleasantly so. The caramel notes were also very simplistic; the classic Bi-Rite salted caramel has a complex smoky palette that Molly Moon's was completely lacking, we thought to its detriment. The Scout Mint was the best flavor we tasted; it was light and minty, without being overly sweet or conjuring the essence of toothpaste. Balsamic strawberry was nicely balanced between two flavors and was bright and summery, but the balsamic flavor gave the ice cream a slightly odd savory element that I found somewhat off-putting. A maple walnut ice cream was rather uninspired; I found it bland and lacking maple flavor.

While Forrest and I both weren't very impressed with the flavors, the ice cream was technically excellent; it was smooth, creamy and rich. However, we overall both felt that although the ice cream was good and well executed, it was not exceptional. What we noticed about the ice cream was creaminess and sweetness, rather than exceptional flavors. So, while the ice cream was enjoyable, and we thought Molly Moon's was solid, classic ice cream, we don't think it's a player in the big leagues.

*Pro-tip- you get more ice cream if you do a single scoop with two flavors making it very good value!

Texture - 8
Flavors - 5
Cone - 8
Execution - 6
Taste - 6
Ambiance/service/etc - 9


Monday, September 1, 2014

Mora Iced Creamery: We head to Bainbridge Island for an afternoon

To mark the "official" last day of summer, we decided to take a day trip out to Bainbridge Island. It's a short and beautiful 20 minute or so ferry ride from Pier 52 in Seattle out to the Bainbridge ferry terminal. (Bonus fact: you only have to pay the fare from Seattle to Bainbridge) It was a glorious sunny day, and so after stopping at the free (!) art museum and walking through downtown a bit, we (obviously) wanted ice cream. We had read from the great interwebs that Mora ice cream was amazing (which was secretly one of our major motivations for going to Bainbridge Island in the first place).

Mora Ice Creamery was started in 2002 by Ana Orselli and Jerry Perez. Originally from Argentina, Orselli and Perez sought to combine elements of both Argentinian and Pacific Northwest culture in their shop. They wanted a comfortable gathering place for friends and family, but above all to make delicious ice cream using fresh, local ingredients. These ideas are reflected in the name "mora," which means blackberry in Spanish and Italian.

On the sunny afternoon when we arrived, there was a big crowd at Mora (when the ferry comes and disgorges its passengers, it's clear that many of them head rapidly towards ice cream- so if you can work out your timing in between ferries, you'll have a shorter wait!). However, service was speedy, partly because of a slightly unorthodox line organization, in which you pay first for your desired size, and then move onto tasting and ordering your ice cream flavors (additional tip: one can have two flavors in a "single scoop"). We were also impressed by the knowledge of the staff; none of the ice creams are labeled, but everyone seems to just know by some kind of muscle memory where each flavor is. While the flavors in general skew towards traditional (no black pepper ice cream here), there is a wide variety, including many, many chocolate variations, as well as a generous array of fruit-flavored ice creams and sorbets. Everything we had was delicious. The ice cream is technically perfect, with no detectable crystals and a rich, smooth texture. Mora's dedication to fresh flavors is obvious as well; I had lemon sorbet and blackberry (mora) ice cream, both of which were amazing. Fruity, bright and refreshing- the perfect combination for a warm afternoon. Forrest got raspberry cheesecake, which was smooth and rich, but lightened by the bright raspberry accent, and peanut butter chocolate moreo, which had generous chunks of peanut butter and an Oreo-like cookie. The cone was delicous and nicely accented both ice creams; importantly, it also had a wide mouth, facilitating the overall structural integrity of the cone (no one likes when you have a narrow mouth cone with the ice cream sitting on top- that's when you give your cone a lick, and end up feeding the sidewalk, which is an ice cream tragedy).

Mora was hands down the best ice cream we've had since we moved here, and I expect it to remain a seriously tough competitor in our ice cream-off. The smooth, rich ice cream accented by the fresh
ingredients and wide flavor selection were a delectable treat. Here's how our final scores came out:

Texture - 9
Flavors - 8
Cone - 9
Execution - 9
Taste - 9
Ambiance/service/etc - 9