When it comes to anything regarding the food industry in the Bay, it seems as though the most difficult, time-consuming aspect isn't recipe development, staffing or finding a space. It's cutting through all the ridiculous red tape.
But over the bridge and through the tunnel, after months of battling through the rules and regulations, down to the wavy shape of the floor in her kitchen, Deb Phillips of Lottie's Creamery in Walnut Creek has finally opened the first ice cream shop in Northern California to pasteurize her ice cream base on site -- all in her 15 gallon drum named Louis.
California code requires all ice cream sold to be pasteurized, and every single ice cream business to become a state certified pasteurizer. As an alternative to the latter, a shop has the option of using a pre-made, pre-pasteurized mixture. Many, including city favorites Humphry Slocombe and Bi-Rite Creamery, use Straus Organic base: and with good reason. Simple, high quality ingredients make up the custard base, allowing for creative wiggle room in terms of flavor and texture.
So now comes the million dollar question: so what if Lottie's pasteurizes on premises?
Here's the thing: as in any recipe, the final product is all about a delicate balance of ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar and flavors. But what if, say, a shop wanted to roll out a Philadelphia-style ice cream that doesn't use eggs? Or perhaps wanted to alter sugar levels in order to add or counterbalance them in a different form later on?
By relying on a base that someone else makes with a set ingredient list, there are limits, albeit small ones, but limits nonetheless that can sometimes make a tremendous difference. Don't get us wrong -- we are certainly not at a loss for tasty ice cream in our seven-by-seven square -- Secret Breakfast, Rincanelas, and Salted Caramel are all incredibly tasty. But one lick of Lottie's is all it takes to realize what separates it from from the pack, and can be summed up in one word: intensity.
Not for the faint of heart, imagine flavors on all-natural steroids. The honey-lavender is powerfully floral without being soapy or perfumy and, because of a lower original sugar content in the base, finds a strong sweetness from increased honey added later in the process. The cardamom was significantly more pungent than that of Three Twins, the spicy hot chocolate was pure, unadulterated Guittard with a smoky spice upfront and a tingle toward the back, and then lemon marshmallow was zesty and bright with miniature fluffy pillows scattered throughout.
Deb makes everything from scratch, from the aforementioned mallows to the waffle cones and caramelized pecans. She bakes her own brown butter brownies that she uses for ice cream sandwiches and occasionally folds into other flavors. For a woman who spent her entire life in the non-profit industry, Deb is certainly making grandma Lottie proud.