Three Best Places for Adventurous Ice Cream Lovers

So you really love ice cream? Think you've tried it all -- tin roof sundaes, Monkey Wrench, peanut butter, bubble gum? We've got news for you: You haven't even licked the surface. There's a small universe of ice cream flavors waiting to be tried -- avocado, cardamom, ube (see what we mean?). A visit to the shops below are guaranteed to expand your horizons about what flavors are possible -- or, for that matter, even appropriate.

Bombay Chaat and Ice Creamery

552 Valencia (between 16th and 17th streets), 431-1103

Step into Bombay Ice Creamery and enter a whole other dimension of ice cream flavors. The place looks like any ice cream shop, but the labels on the windowed freezers will throw you: cardamom, lychee, saffron rose .... You can stick with familiar exotics like green tea or coconut, which taste pretty much as you would expect, albeit stronger and less sweet than usual (which could also describe the shop's counter service, but don't let that keep you away). Or you can sample something with a more Indian-American tinge, like almond saffron pistachio, a nutty ice cream with a bright yellow color. For a little more adventure, try lychee, ginger, or fig. But if you really want the Bombay experience, live it up and order cardamom or saffron rose -- flavors you experience not so much as a taste but as a heady aroma that takes residence in your sinus cavity. A worthy experience.

Mitchell's

688 San Jose (at 29th Street), 648-2300

You'll find some innovative standouts at this family-owned shop, like cinnamon snap, a spicy cinnamon ice cream laced with gingersnap cookie bits, or Thai tea, a bright orange, sweet, and aromatic treat. But Mitchell's really excels at its tropical selections, importing all kinds of fresh and exotic fruit directly from the Philippines. That means that, beyond great flavor, Mitchell's ice creams are beautiful to look at, imbued with a rich palette of colors. (Unfortunately they are all hidden behind the imposing counter -- perhaps daring you to try something you've never heard of.) You could go for Tropical Four, a mixture of mango, guava, banana, and pineapple, or you could risk it all and order Halo-Halo, an ice cream made of buko, langka, pineapple, mongo beans, and sweet beans. And don't forget avocado or langka. Or ube -- it's made from purple yams!

Rory's Twisted Scoop Ice Cream

1300 Castro (near 24th Street), 648-2837; 2015 Fillmore (near Pine), 346-3692

Of the three shops mentioned here, Rory's is the most traditional. The décor is bright and perky, and many of the flavors are the usual favorites, but with a few offbeat choices thrown in. The consistency of Rory's ice cream is thicker than most -- it sticks to the ribs. And it is sweet! Buy a sundae, have a seat, and get ready for a rush. Honey poppy-seed makes a great alternative for lovers of vanilla: It's subtle and flavorful, and those crunchy little seeds give it extra punch. Cinnamon is spicy and perfect. The sorbets are superlative, especially the wine-and-fruit combinations such as raspberry cabernet and blueberry zinfandel. And Rory's carries both dark chocolate and white chocolate, and green tea and Thai tea, making for some great flavor duels. Just remember: Cinnamon goes with everything.

 
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