Ici Opens a Second Outlet

Mary Canales’ new shop keeps Downtown Berkeley Cool.


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Ici Ice Cream opens a second location in downtown Berkeley with new and old favorite flavors.

Photo by Lori Eanes

What goes great with ice cream?

Cones, sure. Spoons, yep. But what inspires us to eat ice cream? What brings out ice cream’s best?

Sunshine, of course. And that’s what prompted Mary Canales to open a new scoop shop in downtown Berkeley. Launched in December, Ici’s second location serves the same handcrafted, small-batch, largely organic ice creams as does the original Elmwood district shop.

“I’d been approached for years about opening a new space in various neighborhoods,” remembered former Chez Panisse pastry chef Canales, whose husband, Paul Canales, helms Uptown Oakland’s Duende restaurant.

“I was shown this space,” on upper University Avenue, Canales said, “and it was so sunny. I stood in front, watching all the people walk by, enjoying the downtown vibe, which is so different from the College Avenue vibe.

“I thought about the UC campus, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Ippudo being so nearby, the UC Theatre nearly across the street — and the sunshine actually made my neck hot.

“It just felt right.”

Every week, Canales composes a new menu featuring different flavors for every day. “We always have core staples such as vanilla and chocolate, and a dairy-free sorbet. Other flavors are dependent on what fruit is happening — a lot of farmers deliver directly to me. Plus, we have fun with holidays,” she said.

Some flavors evolve over a span of days or even weeks.

“Someone on the staff might describe a savory dish they loved — say, curry with bananas — and we’ll work on turning that into a flavor.

“In our early days, I thought some of our flavors would be too unusual and challenging to catch on. But some of those flavors have become our most popular signatures.”

Rose-Pistachio, for instance. And Earl Grey. Candied Meyer Lemon. Also, Spicy Mexican Chocolate, which includes cinnamon, a chili infusion, and Guittard and TCHO chocolate:

“Making our chocolate base is one of the hardest things we do,” Canales said.

That and all other production happens in Elmwood, where Ici’s main kitchen is.

The new downtown location “is more about serving,” Canales said. “It’s like the front of Ici.”

 

Ici Ice Cream, 2079 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-665-6054, IciIceCream.com

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