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We all scream for Petaluma ice cream

Where to find them

Petaluma Creamery
621 Western Ave, Petaluma
petalumacreamerycheeseshop.com

Three Twins
threetwinsicecream.com

Straus Family Creamery
strausfamilycreamery.com

LaLa’s Creamery
134 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma
lalascreamery.com

Clover Sonoma
cloversonoma.com

Fru-ta
Plaza North Petaluma
fru-ta.com

Mariposa Ice Creamery
facebook.com/Mariposa-Ice-Creamery-426491960759440

Where does one start when writing a Petaluma ice cream guide? First and foremost, I will warn you that there was no clear-cut “winner.” Everyone on my food crew had their favorites, but Petaluma produces a lot of great ice cream, so what we ended up with was a bunch of great ice cream choices. However, I will reveal which flavors seemed to rise to the top of everyone’s list.

There are few “foods” more universally loved than ice cream, and its cousins, such as gelato. So I have to admit that with six locally produced ice creams, I am a bit ashamed that it took me so long to think up this assignment. Luckily, everyone on my food crew is a fan of ice cream, so we were well equipped to dive into the 50+ flavors we accumulated in preparation for our master tasting. In no particular order, they came from Petaluma Creamery, Three Twins, Straus Family Creamery, LaLa’s Creamery, Clover Sonoma, Fru-ta, and Petaluma newcomer, Mariposa Ice Cream.

To say I am an avid ice cream fan would be an understatement. Rabid fan might be a more appropriate description. I can quit anytime I want, but I certainly cannot think of a good reason to do so. In fact, I like to say that the day is split into two distinct timeframes. There is the time I am having ice cream and then there is the rest of the time, which is when I am thinking about ice cream, on my way to get ice cream, coming back from having ice cream, or dreaming about ice cream.

A quick note on calories is appropriate at this juncture. Contrary to how good it tastes, ice cream is actually not all that high in calories. When compared to a can of Coke, a cookie, a candy bar, or even frozen yogurt, an ice cream craving should not set off any caloric intake warning bells. Another nonsensical is the idea that the weather somehow should dictate my ice cream intake. Rain, shine, hot, cold, I do not care. It is never a bad time for ice cream.

Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store as I headed into Petaluma Market to begin this endeavor. I was only looking for local delights, but alas, even those are so vast and varied that my budget would not allow me to buy everything. With plenty of Clover, Straus, and Three Twins to choose from, I selected flavors that either piqued my taste buds, or that I thought would give us a nice mix of flavors to choose from. And by “flavors to choose from” I mean the order, not in totality, because personally, I would be trying every single flavor. Both the checker and bagger proclaimed that my purchase was the thing that dreams are made of.

After leaving Petaluma Market, we were off to Mariposa Ice Cream, which as luck would have it, was having one of their rare warehouse sales. With no retail outlet, the majority of Mariposa’s business is wholesale, catering, and special events, so catching them selling their overflow is a special treat.

Owner Pilar McGoldrick-Bernard comes from the world of corporate sales, but as she approached 53 years old, just so happen to read Jess Jackson’s book about how when he turned that same age, he left a successful law practice and started what would become one of the most successful wineries in the country, Kendall Jackson.

Where to find them

Petaluma Creamery
621 Western Ave, Petaluma
petalumacreamerycheeseshop.com

Three Twins
threetwinsicecream.com

Straus Family Creamery
strausfamilycreamery.com

LaLa’s Creamery
134 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma
lalascreamery.com

Clover Sonoma
cloversonoma.com

Fru-ta
Plaza North Petaluma
fru-ta.com

Mariposa Ice Creamery
facebook.com/Mariposa-Ice-Creamery-426491960759440

Entering into her third year of production, Pilar usually sources her milk from Straus Family Creamery, and because of her small production, offers small-batch custom orders, so if you have any ideas, send her an email. The FDA requires a 10% minimum butterfat in order to call it ice cream, but Pilar’s comes in at a creamery 15%. She also offers both ice cream and fruit juice bars, and once opened, Penngrove Market will carry her ice cream.

Fru-ta was next on the list, where we picked through a large assortment of Michoacan style ice creams, most of which are also available in bar form. Although a highly polished operation, Fru-ta makes all their ice creams on-site, and is just a three-shop operation, all owned by the same person. Of special note was Lisa’s excellent customer service. She never flinched as we ran her through the ringer with our sizeable last-minute order, and as a bonus, she was able to easily answer all our questions, not only about the ice cream, but about the shop.

As much a style as a philosophy, Michoacan is the state in Mexico where this ice cream originates. Based on the idea of using local and seasonal ingredients, this style fits well into an area like Petaluma, where ingredients are fresh and plentiful. I first thought it was a fruit based frozen treat, but no, it is ice cream, just like the rest, and quite good ice cream at that.

Of all the Petaluma producers, Fru-ta had the broadest selection, as well as flavors we had never seen before, including a lot of exotic fruits, which are traditional to this style.

Next up was Petaluma Creamery, which is simple known as “the Creamery” to locals. My favorite creamery, you will find stacks of their ice cream freebee punch cards littering the center console of my car. Ranging from their single scoop all the way up to the three-gallons, I have been hoarding my punched out cards with designs on throwing a big free Creamery ice cream party one of these days.

Handmade in three gallon batches, this ice cream is creamier than the others, in large part because they use Jersey cow milk, which has a higher butterfat content than the Holstein milk usually used for ice cream.

Coming in at somewhere around 18% butterfat, the Creamery’s is clearly more dense than commercially produced ice creams, which also include a lot of mixed in air, which acts as a filler of sort, making those ice creams lower in calories, but often also less vibrant with flavor.

Because the Creamery’s huge cheese making complex sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood, owner Larry Peter goes out of his way to make sure he treats his neighbors with special care and consideration, which is why he insists that his flavors are customer driven. If someone suggestions something, it is not usual to see it on a test run within a couple weeks. Other than supplying the Graton Casino and the Alameda Coast Guard Base, the Creamery is the only place where this award-winning ice cream is available. I owe him, and his assistant Molly, and ice cream maker Tanya a special thanks for not only allowing me a tour of their tiny ice cream making facility, but also for supplying us with one of every pint they offer, on the house. If I did not already love their ice cream, that kind of generosity certainly would raise their stock in my eyes.

Unfortunately, by the time we made it to LaLa’s Creamery, we were running short on funds, but made sure to get a pint of their vanilla. They have several interesting flavors I will have to try on another occasion, including Earl Gray Tea & Honey, Horchata, and Maple Candied Bacon Chocolate Ganache. They also offer a dozen dairy-free ices, including several vegan options. Additionally, customers can order a flight of ice creams, which is a great way to try a bunch of their ice creams all at once.

Of special note is the only non-locally produced ice cream in our tasting. Juan Gutierrez, owner of Quinua, introduced me to Lucuma ice cream last year, and I have not stopped craving it since. It is definitely in my top five favorite flavors.

The Lucuma is also known as the “gold of the Incas” and due to its many health benefits, is considered by many as a superfood. It is one of the most deliciously unique ice cream flavors I have ever devoured, tasting like a cross between caramel and coffee, which is particularly odd after learning that the lucuma is similar to an avocado.

Generous almost to a fault, Juan has extended a special offer to Argus readers. Dine with Juan for lunch on a weekday during this summer and he will give you a free scoop of this incredible ice cream.

When choosing flavors, I started with every vanilla available from each producer, because they have to have a good vanilla in order to have any kind of ice cream street cred.

Mariposa’s Pilar confirmed the vanilla idea with a story about when French Laundry owner Thomas Keller first tasted her ice cream. He asked for the vanilla and the strawberry, positing that one should not be in the ice cream business if they cannot make a good vanilla and strawberry. After tasting Pilar’s, he concluded that she should definitely be in the ice cream business and has been buying hers ever since.

The winners? Well, there were definitely cartons we kept returning to, but all the Petaluma producers make excellent ice cream, which is what one should expect from a town so well known for its dairy industry.

We started with just the Vanilla’s, which all did well. Although Fru-ta and Straus seemed to be the favorites, I would not kick a single vanilla, French vanilla, or vanilla bean out of my freezer.

My personal favorite did not change from Petaluma Creamery’s Toffee Crunch, although some of the new flavors we tried certainly gave it a run for its money.

Along with their Toffee Crunch, Petaluma Creamery’s Meyer Lemon and Lavender were also big hits, garnering the most confirmations when I asked my Facebook friends for their favorite Petaluma ice creams. Relying heavily on their rich creamy base, the flavors, which are mixed into each three-gallon batch by hand, by Tanya, are subtle yet sustaining.

Three Twins has some unique flavors, which everyone enjoyed, including Lemon Cookie, Butterscotch Pecan, Banana Nut Confetti, Bittersweet Chocolate, and Chocolate Orange Confetti. Two attention grabbers were their Milk Coffee, which beat out all the other coffee flavors, and their Dad’s Cardamom, which makes for a great food-pairing ice cream. We look forward to trying two flavors that I was not able to find in the store, which were Brownie Batter Chunk and Land of Milk & Honey.

Straus was the most consistent across all their flavors. Along with the already mentioned excellent vanilla, we tried their Mint Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream, and Dutch Chocolate. Flavors we missed were their Caramel Toffee and Lemon Gingersnap.

Clover too was very solid, offering two different lines of ice cream, one organic, and one regular. The coffee lovers were excited to try the French Press flavor, but being well trained to reject coffee grounds, it was hard to get over the ground texture in this one. But the flavor was excellent.

Although Fru-ta’s Rose Petal was a bit too soapy for all, the rest of their flavors were real hits, including their vanilla, tequila, and as odd as it sound, their Cotija cheese ice cream. We were also impressed with the huge number of ice cream and fruit bars, and dipped strawberry and dipped banana offerings.

Last, but certainly not least, was Mariposa Ice Cream, which likely is the most fancy, yet least expensive of the bunch. The pretzels in their Peanut Butter Pretzel were crisp and added a great crunchy texture, which complimented the ice cream’s creaminess. The Brandy Caramel is infused with Etude Brandy. Because the winery is not allowed to give tastes of their $150 bottles of brandy, this ice cream is the only way to get a taste before purchasing. But the biggest surprise, and one of the clear standouts of the evening, was Mariposa’s Spicy Mexican Chocolate, which had hints of cinnamon and drew its heat from cayenne pepper, which is flavorful back of the throat heat, as opposed to most peppers which burn your tongue from front to back. The heat is subtle and subsides quickly, but was so good, especially when juxtaposed against the chocolate and cream flavors, that we could not stop talking about it.

Whether you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the happily crowded LaLa’s Creamery, prefer the relaxing hum of activity at Petaluma Creamery, or simply enjoy a pint on your back patio, Petaluma’s ice cream choice are the clearly the cream of the local crop. From a plethora of vanillas, to ice cream sandwiches, to flavors you never would have dreamed of, there is almost literally a pint for every person and palette.