Sunday, August 17, 2008

A New Spice in Ice Cream

Enough about fro-yo. Today I checked out a new ice ream store in Berkeley.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream opened just a week ago. I guess the area could be considered the edge of Rockridge; it's on College Avenue at Alcatraz not too far from my favorite restaurant Wood Tavern. Looking from the outside, Tara's looks almost like a yoga shop with its lotus-sitting goddess as a logo. It totally blends in with the Berkeley crowd. My friend Joe and I almost walked past it.

Tara's is a husband-and-wife business, but it's mostly the brainchild of Tara Esperanza who was actually behind the counter when we visited today. The Esperanzas are originally from New Mexico, where they opened their first shop. Now they've ventured into California, and to College Avenue, which is kind of ballsy considering that the foodie favorite Ici is just a 5-minute walk away.

The place has a real strong Latin and Southeast flavor, both in the look and in the flavors of the ice cream. I really liked the art work hanging on the walls.

I have to say there were some really crazy flavors, from agave to orange-rosemary to sweet corn. (That's right, corn.) There really seemed to be a big emphasis on spices and herbs. There were also several sorbets.

Joe got a scoop of the Pink Peppercorn and another scoop of the Garam Marsala, an Indian-inspired flavor. I thought they both looked kind of the same, huh? I think he needs little labels so he would know which is which. But once you try it, you could tell. The Garam Marsala was extremely spicy and reminded me like eating pumpkin pie with all the different spices. It was full and flavorful. The Pink Peppercorn, according to Joe, tasted like vanilla with bits of peppercorn in it.

I went for the Strawberry-Balsamic and Kaffir. The Strawberry-Balsamic was all right but nothing spectacular. It also had a lot of clumpy bits, which I noticed occurred in some of the other flavors. The ice cream, overall, at Tara's was very authentic and home-made, but some like the Strawberry-Balsamic suffered from that clumpiness. The Kaffir, however, was a big winner in my eyes. A big citrus person, I loved the lime essence of the kaffir leaves in this ice cream. It was significant and interesting.

The ice cream sells for $2.85 for a one-scoop cup and $4.60 for medium cup and $3.60 for a scoop in a hand-made cone and $5.35 for two scoops in a cone.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream is pretty daring in the flavors, but I have to say the texture and creaminess of the ice cream is nice but isn't comparable to places like Ici, which continues to be my favorite. (We walked a few blocks to Ici and they still had a long line outside.)

It's nice having Tara's as a new addition in the neighborhood. When you feel like experimenting with odd and unusual flavors, this is a mini ice cream lab for just that.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream, 3173 College Ave. (at Alcatraz), Berkeley. PH: 510.655.5014. Open noon to 9 p.m., Mon., Wed., Thu. and Sun.; noon to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. Closed Tuesday. Web site:

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