Bluebird Ice Cream

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Can you blame us for expecting blue ice cream?

This one is kind of a stretch to include in my Ballard ice cream shop reviews, since it’s technically in Phinney Ridge. Even my four-year-old called me out on this one before we even got out of the car, “Are you sure this is in Ballard?” These hipster kids, their hipster radar is strong. But, I drive by this place on my way home from work and I didn’t want to miss out if there was some good artisanal locally sourced organic stuff going on there. And once my two-year-old heard the name, BLUEbird, she was insistent. She was certain this would be where she would finally find the elusive blue ice cream she’s been desperately craving.

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Consistent with our previous experiences, the ice cream flavors offered at Bluebird are delicious mysteries. They are listed on a chalkboard but hidden behind the counter, it’s anyone’s guess what colors they are. Is it really that weird to ask, “Do you have any blue or green flavors?” Because I have gotten some very strange looks.¬† Have these people ever met children? It’s a well-known fact that children eat colors, not flavors. Or is that just my kids? Maybe these wholesome Ballard kids raised on hemp milk and artisanal nut cheese don’t know that food can be blue. The girls finally decided on chocolate and mint chocolate chip, but D had a really hard time with the fact that there was no blue ice cream at Bluebird.

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All the cool ice cream shops sell their own swag.

We sat outside, though the whole wall of the shop opens up to blur the distinction between indoors and outdoors. I think this is supposed to be desired if you don’t associate “outdoors” with sunburn/rain/wind/bugs/traffic. But I digress. My #optoutside #hipsterkids outvoted me on this one. M stated that this was her favorite ice cream, but to be honest, she usually says that. I sampled both kids’ flavors, and they were good. Though to be honest, I’m writing this a month later and am having trouble remembering how they were, so I suppose it wasn’t very memorable. I recommend Bluebird if you enjoy sitting outside inside and have an empty growler to fill with beer.

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Salt & Straw

Did you know that the ampersand originated as a ligature of two letters, E and T, the French* word for “and?” No? Me neither. These are the interesting factoids that you can learn while spending 26 minutes in line waiting for ice cream. If you pretend to be immersed in the ice cream menu in front of you, you can actually just tune into the conversations around you and learn something.

Last week Matt and I found ourselves kid-free for an evening and after a lengthy and mostly silent dinner (the best kind, if you usually eat with small squirrelly people) at our favorite local BBQ place, we decided to brave another local ice cream shop in order to review it here for you. Because I’m all about journalistic integrity. And cold tasty sweet things. We chose Salt & Straw because there is always a notoriously long line so it was best to do it without small squirrelly people in tow.

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We had a lot of time to peruse the detailed menu of artisanal homemade locally sourced ingredient flavors while we queued. Though on the surface, the shop gives off an old-timey unprepossessing vibe of “gosh golly, I can’t believe we’re so busy,” (think: 1880s Goldrush meets hipster-mustachioed Seattle) I suspect a cunning marketing genius behind it. There was ample, poorly used floor space inside the shop that should have easily accommodated a serpentine line formation but by snaking the line out the door and down the street, they get free advertising and automatic Ballard quality points: If other people are waiting in line for (insert otherwise unimpressive product here) then it must be amazing and I’m need to have it too. Also at play here is cognitive dissonance and the principle behind hazing: the more you suffer to obtain something, the more you believe it was worth it.

IMG_5974IMG_5977IMG_5984We also had ample opportunity to peruse the merch while in line. But somehow resisted the urge to impulse-buy $12 black licorice (think old-timey 1880s Gold Rush) or madrona-smoked sea salt. Nothing says April in Seattle like the scent of burning Madrona trees. Or something.

While I overheard other servers asking customers if they had any food allergies, ours didn’t ask us so Matt didn’t get a chance to explain that scallops make his cheeks feel tingly. Fortunately we went on to survive the encounter. He sampled some whiskey coffee flavor but was disappointed not to discern even a whiff of the water of life (whisky, you fools). I sampled something with cheddar cheese in it, and while it was admittedly not bad, I couldn’t face the thought of an entire cone filled with surprise cheese chunks. There were NO blue flavors (sorry, Daphne!) and the coconut mint thingy was vegan so Matt wouldn’t even try it (sorry, Miriam!) I finally decided on strawberry balsamic peppery something or other. Matt got lemon meringue pie but was very disappointed it didn’t have any crusty-type chunks in it. I mean, PIE, right?

So overall, it was okay. Not my favorite waffle cone, a bit too chewy. To be fair, we got the “kid size” cones but still. It was very melty, I think that’s supposed to be appreciated as “extra creamy” but I’m not sophisticated enough to be able to tell the difference. At least they didn’t have blue so I don’t have to brave that line again with the girls.

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* I googled it so you don’t have to, and those basics were wrong about it being French, it actually derives from Latin. So much for a teachable moment.

Frankie and Jo’s

Today we visited the second stop on our tour of Ballard Ice Cream joints: Frankie and Jo’s. It’s the newest addition to hot spots in Ballard, located in the trendy Dump Town* area of Ballard. I know it’s trendy because this three-block “neighborhood” is characterized¬† long lines and impossible parking on this street, which is universal hipster signal for “high quality and important.” Frankie and Jo’s other claim to fame is that it’s entirely vegan. Today I chose it simply because it was on the way from the playground to the toy store. Again, I have arcane criteria.

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Points for permanent signage not requiring chalk.

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Three out four millennials declare: Wallpaper on trend!

Finally it was our turn to order, turns out the line wasn’t too long but the presence of a couple of Toyotas (they may have just been strollers, hard to tell sometimes) in line made it appear longer. After the server inquired as to our allergy status, we ordered mint chocolate brownie for Miriam and vanilla for Daphne. This time I didn’t even ask if they had anything blue. And it took some convincing that I really did order mint chocolate brownie: “No, it’s not green, but it really is mint. I’m sure. Really. I can’t explain it. I know mint leaves are green. I know this ice cream is white. JUST TRY IT.” I even got a little bowl of chocolate date somethingorother (can it really be called ice cream if there’s literally no cream or sugar?) and it was pretty good. Admittedly, once we were served our ice creams, I was suddenly no longer cranky. The girls really liked it and didn’t have any idea that it was vegan. Not that they know what vegan is, even I have my parenting limits of what I’ll shield my kids from. So, we give the ice cream five stars and the service three stars. Our server was really friendly and sweet, but I later discovered I’d been overcharged for an extra cone. And thumbs down for no blue.

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IMG_5751.jpgThe face of a skeptical mint connoisseur.

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Daphne really did like it! No idea why the tiny snark-face here. (Apples, trees, yeah I get it).

Overall, it was really good, and they had some interesting flavors I’d go back to try again. I’m avoiding sugar for a month so I was impressed I could find something sweetened only by maple syrup and dates. But unfortunately, as my biggest motivator in life is convenience, the fairly inconvenient location and possibility of lines would likely stop me.

*Matt corrected me that Dump Town is not the actual name of this neighborhood. Sometimes we make up names for these random little micro neighborhoods because it’s easier than saying, “You know, that corner of two blocks on 70th sort of between 11th and 14th where we tried to go for pizza that one time but the wait was too long next to that place that advertised Chinese cupping and skin shredding.”

Parfait

This is the first installment in my new series, Cranky Mom’s Review of the Ice Cream Joints of Ballard. This idea came about when I decided to take the girls for ice cream on a Friday afternoon, the first sunny afternoon we had this spring. I realized there were no less than a dozen ice cream places in our neighborhood of Ballard alone, how could we ever decide? So naturally, we must try them all. I often enjoy mocking the people lining up down the block in cold, rainy weather for the latest hipster artisanal locally-sourced small batch non-GMO ice cream shoppe because you could save time and money by stopping by the freezer aisle of QFC for essentially the same thing. Perhaps my ice cream samplings will open my eyes to this trend and by the end of the summer you’ll find me waiting in those long lines with the Patagonia-clad man-buns of Ballard, anxious to try the new balsamic beet sesame ice cream flavor. Or maybe the girls and I will just have a lot of sticky fun on this tour.

We have pretty loose criteria for the ice cream places: Miriam requests mint chocolate chip, Daphne requests Blue. Both girls want cones with an optional bowl for when it gets melty. My arcane criteria are perhaps only explained by the fact that I’m an old cranky, reluctant Ballardite who eschews all things hipster and trendy. I grew up in the Midwest, where you chose your flavor by color by looking through the scratched, finger-print smeared plexiglass. If you were fancy maybe you went to Ben and Jerry’s sometimes because there were chunks of things in the ice cream. Based on that, you may guess that I was disappointed the second we stepped into our first stop on the Ballard Ice Cream Tour: Parfait.

The day’s flavors were written on chalkboard signs behind the counter, and all the tubs were hidden under metal doors beneath the counter. I didn’t even bother reading off the flavors to the girls because a) I didn’t have two hours to explain what black sesame vinaigrette meant and b) I wouldn’t have been able to read the descriptions without a sneer. Also, I could have just waited until the next hipster came in, gazed at the menu, and gasped with appropriate incredulity, “Black sesame seed? Am I reading that right? I’ll have that!”

“Do you have mint chocolate chip?” I asked.

“Sorry, our mint from the garden isn’t ready yet.” Sigh.

“Do you have anything blue?” Blank stare. She offered matcha flavor, being green, but I declined. At least they had chocolate and vanilla, so the girls were somewhat placated by that. I think we give it five out of five stars for flavor. It’s not a very discerning scale, but basically if the girls consume most of something I call it a win. I give the service 3 out of 5 stars, because while they gave us samples, we then had to wait until the server thoroughly discussed the merits of the locally sourced artisanal rosemary and then waited while the customer savored his sample with appropriate ecstatic mumblings before she would turn to us to give us the extra bowls I requested before we left.