With July being the hottest month of the year, we celebrate National Ice Cream Month. National Ice Cream Day is also held on the third Sunday of July.
Ice cream is one of the most profitable industries. Over 1.3 billion gallons of ice cream is produced every year. Ice cream adds $13 billion dollars to the economy with 29,000 direct jobs from it and $1.8 billion in direct wages. Also, the average American consumes 20 pounds of ice cream annually.
While ice cream is a big business, only a small portion of the ice cream makers use real ingredients. The majority of ice cream uses milk which comes from factory farms and fed genetically modified corn and soy. The sweeteners used, such as beet sugar and corn syrup, also contain GMOs . Many of the ingredients are sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. Conventional ice cream ingredients also consist of artificial flavors and colorings. Plus ice creams have become largely batch frozen and loaded with air, fillers, and stabilizers.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of companies churning small batch ice cream the old fashioned way with grass fed milk and cream, organic and natural ingredients, and cane sugar. These can be found with both local shops and in the supermarkets. I’ve loved ice cream since I was a child, so this is “cool” in more way than one. As we celebrate National Ice Cream Month, it’s important to make better choices when chillin’ with this wonderful frozen comfort food.
I’m starting off with the local ice cream shops in Los Angeles. In alphabetical order, here are the 8 best grass fed ice cream shops:
Carmela Ice Cream Shop
When Jessica Mortarotti & Zachary Cox founded Carmela Ice Cream in 2007, they knew nothing about ice cream making, running a business, or if their ice cream business would even take off. But the one thing they did know is they wanted to make handmade ice cream with seasonal farmers market produce. They began making their ice cream in the kitchen for a downtown pizza shop at night and selling at the one farmers market interested in a “new concept”. From there, Jessica & Zachary were able to get the product into additional farmers markets, sell wholesale, cater events, and eventually move out of their shared kitchen. In 2011, they were able to open a brick and mortar creamery in Pasadena for Carmela. Carmela’s summer flavors include strawberry buttermilk, lemon verbena vanilla bean, white peach vanilla bean, and rose petal.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Location: Los Feliz, Venice, Larchmont, Calabasas, Playa Vista, Beverly Hills
As an art and art history student, Jeni Britton first made ice cream in 1996 at the age of 22. Jeni loved blending her own oils and threw them into various foods. One day she added cayenne to her chocolate ice cream. She loved the balance of being sweet, cold, and flaming in the same product. From this point on, Jeni knew she’d be making ice cream the rest of her life. In 2002, she opened her first Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams shop in the North Market in Columbus, OH. She now has 65 scoop shops with several being in the greater Los Angeles area. Her ingredients include milk from family dairy farms, fair and direct trade chocolate, and fresh fruits and vegetables. From the beginning, Jeni’s Ice Cream has gone for unique varieties and now has ones including brambleberry crisp, watermelon taffy, and everything bagel.
Kansha means gratitude in Japanese. The word fits very well with the visions of Kansha Creamery founders and siblings Elaine Yukari Marumoto-Perez & James Tatsuya Marumoto as they wanted to open a business to raise money for charity. Elaine & James were originally considering opening a restaurant or something larger. But they felt it was best to have a small staff and low overhead, so they went with an ice cream shop. James also had been making ice cream at home since he was 14. In 2015, their storefront opened and 75 cents of every item sold went to charity with rotating organizations to which their money was donated. Among Kansha’s current flavors offered are cinnabacon, matcha, white peach, white sesame, and blueberry black tea.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams
Location: Downtown Los Angeles, Studio City, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica
Gordon “Mac” and Ernesteen McConnell founded McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams Mafter they had just moved to Santa Barbara in 1949. In the 1930s, Mac owned some of the first health food stores in the country and was looking for an idea. After having a bowl of vanilla ice cream one night, he realized how creameries had moved away from using real ingredients. Mac felt it was time to make small batch ice cream again. Mac and Ernie turned to the Central Coast farmers where they could get annual and seasonal ingredients, grass grazed milk and cream, fruits, nuts, and produce. The McConnell’s made their own jams and caramels and baked their own inclusions. In 1950, they opened their first shop. After Gordon had passed away in 1962, the company was sold to Santa Barbara local Jim McCoy. Jim and his wife Jeney expanded the business into Southern California. In 2012, husband and wife Michael Palmer and Eva Ein became the third generation to own McConnell’s. Some of the current limited release flavors of McConnell’s are matcha coconut crisp, toasted hazelnut butter, Garrison Brothers whiskey & pecan pralines, raspberry cheesecake & chocolate crust, & s’mores.
Mother Moo Creamery
Location: Sierra Madre
Mother Moo Creamery owner Karen Klemens is a graduate of Penn State’s Ice Cream Short Course, the largest ice cream program dedicated to the science and technology of ice cream. Her ice cream contains locally sourced ingredients grown within miles from her store. In addition to her fresh local ingredients, her commitment to sustainably extends to the products coming in recyclable and compostable cups and with recyclable and compostable spoons. Some of the flavors on the menu now at Mother Moo are caramel ripple with brownie, apricot crumble, and organic strawberry.
Rori’s Artisinal Creamery
Location: Santa Monica
Rori Trovato grew up enjoying her grandmother’s fresh churned ice cream after her family’s Sunday dinners. Rori began her professional career working in New York for food and travel publications as a food stylist, chef, and writer. But she eventually returned to California to launch Rori’s Artisanal Creamery in October 2011. Her ice cream follows her philosophy of “the only way to make it pure is to make it pure”. Rori’s favorite ice cream flavor is lemon curd. Other flavors include black pepper pistachio, fresh mint patty, honey almond, malted milk ball, NY strawberry cheesecake, and root beer float.
Sweet Rose Creamery
Location: Santa Monica
Josh Loeb, Zoe Nathan, Colby Goff run the restaurant group Rustic Canyon Family. It began with one restaurant called Rustic Canyon sourcing produce from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. It soon expanded into multiple restaurants of various cuisines. Among them is the ice cream shop Sweet Rose Creamery. The first Sweet Rose opened in the Brentwood Country Mart and now there’s one on Main St. in Santa Monica. Like other Rustic Canyon restaurants, Sweet Rose’s ingredients are sourced from the nearby farmers market. It’s important for Sweet Rose to make all of the ice cream from scratch and with only organic, non-GMO ingredients. Sweet Rose’s dairy base is made in house with all organic ingredients. Their organic milk, cream, and eggs are all from California. New flavors are created every month at Sweet Rose, including ones coming from seasonal crops.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
Location: El Segundo, Culver City, Franklin Village, Silver Lake, The Arts District, Studio City, Long Beach, Fairfax, Woodland Hills
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream was first served by Ben and Pete Van Leeuwen and Laura O’Neill in a yellow food truck on the streets of New York City in 2008 with a mission to serve “good ice cream that makes you feel good”. A major part of being good was knowing that the ingredients in their ice cream were simple and clean. Van Leeuwen says “If it’s tough to pronounce, it’s probably tough to digest”. They also saw mental health and being happy as important as physical health. And using the real ingredients of milk, cream, eggs, and cane sugar for ice cream sounded like the key to happiness. Van Leeuwen currently has ice cream shops in five different states, including California.