Tucked away in North Oakland is the Rockridge neighborhood. While most people simply stop at the beginning of College Avenue for ice cream, I prefer to trek further down to Smitten Ice Cream, well-known in the Bay Area (at several locations) for making delicious ice cream using liquid nitrogen, see a fun video here.
Smitten Ice Cream
5800 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618
Having spent the summer working in Berkeley, I quickly added Smitten to my list. I have watched countless hours of Food Network and Top Chef, where someone inevitably made ice cream using liquid nitrogen. After pouring in the ice cream base, the Brrr-istas – as they’re called at Smitten – will simply add liquid nitrogen and the mixture freezes to the proper consistency! It’s mesmerizing each and every time.
You walk in and the smell of freshly made waffle cones wafts over to you and a giant nitrogen tank greets you. Smitten Ice Cream has a couple of default flavors, such as vanilla or chocolate (made with San Francisco chocolate TCHO), but they also have seasonal flavors. When you first walk in, a really awesome Brr-ista will take your order, or even give you a recommendation if you’re not too sure. You have the option of either getting solely ice cream, or pair it with one to two of their suggested toppings, such as TCHO crispies or spicy caramel sauce. They also have ice cream sundaes, picked by their Chef de Brrr and vegan pops.
At my first visit, I decided to play it safe, just in case. We waited for a bit as each of our personal batches to be mixed in the ice cream machine. This is to ensure that each batch stays nice and cold when you eat it. It was a really hot day for the Bay Area, so ice cream was the perfect choice.
I ordered TCHO 60.5% Chocolate with spicy caramel sauce, and my sister ordered salted caramel. The first thing I noticed is that the consistency feels lighter. More importantly, the ice cream stays colder for a longer period of time! Finally, I don’t have to worry about my ice cream melting while I’m eating it. The TCHO is incredibly rich, but the spicy caramel helps to balance it out so it’s not super bitter and adds a little kick! The salted caramel is a great balance of salty, creamy, and sweet. Needless to say, our little scoops disappeared very fast.
I returned with friends and decided to be a little bolder. I ordered Fresh Mint Chip in a house made waffle cone, drizzled with TCHO chocolate sauce and TCHO crispies. I went all out with their suggested pairing. I eagerly anticipated my ice cream and was not disappointed. This wasn’t just any old mint chip. It ACTUALLY tasted like fresh mint leaves, rather than peppermint. The chocolate sauce and crispies added made it extra decadent. I plan to make this my go-to flavor for future visits.
However, the most recent time I visited the shop, I decided to go all out and get one of their intriguing seasonal flavors. I ordered Crème Fraîche with Pear Caramel, which is described as sun-blushed pears, ripe for the picking in early fall, are on ideal “pear-ing” with tangy crème fraiche. I will admit, I was nervous. I’ve had crème fraîche before as a condiment for savory dishes, and I basically describe it as a richer sour cream. True to that description, the Crème Fraîche felt really rich and tangy, rather than overly sweet. The pear caramel provided the sweetness needed to balance out the tanginess. I can’t say that I would order it again, but it was definitely worth getting if you’re into trying cool and unique flavors.
Smitten Ice Cream is a really fun place to bring your family and friends. Each and every person I’ve brought here is delighted to watch their ice cream being made, with the liquid nitrogen pouring out in a mist of smoke as their personal batch is being mixed. While the wait may seem a little long, the liquid nitrogen, in my opinion, makes the ice cream even better!