***** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED *****
Ici ice cream is aristocratic. A first lick tells you there is something superior about it. Even before you taste, the mere list of one day’s flavors posted on the wall is sure evidence that rare and exotic pleasures await. Mocha salted almond, anyone? Earl Gray and cookies? Sesame praline? Brandied cherry? How about peach habanero sorbet? The one that knocked my socks off was molasses gingersnap, a golden cream thickly veined with soft streaks of peppery gingersnap cookie. It is similar to the Indian pudding flavored ice cream one finds at a few places in the Northeast, but bolder.
You can have it in a cup for slow savoring – as it softens, the flavor blooms – or perched on a dramatically delicious cone, made here in such limited numbers that the kitchen had run out the first afternoon I visited. Of course, I was back the next day – to dive into a hot fudge brownie sundae, which I had made with not-the-least-bit-plain vanilla – but also to sample a Santa Rosa plum ice cream cone. Modestly-sized, crisp, and elegant, Ici’s cones are made with a surprise inside, in the form of a nugget of rich chocolate secreted in the point at the bottom.
While the inevitable wait in line and lack of seating might make Ici seem user-unfriendly, the staff is happy and helpful, offering little spoonfuls of anything you need to taste before committing to a flavor. And there are few food service establishments of any kind more assertively earth-friendly. Among its virtuous practices are the use of spoons made from potato starch and soy oil, biodegradable ice cream sandwich wrappers, and bowls made from material derived from sugar cane fibers recovered as crop residue.