Does sweltering summer heat have you searching for soothing treats?
Here’s the scoop on locally made ice cream and gelato.
Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab
Where: 114 West Branch St., Arroyo Grande; 860 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
With more than 75,000 gallons of ice cream made annually, Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab is king of the scoops in San Luis Obispo County.
The ice cream contains 16 percent butterfat, allowing it to be labelled “super-premium,” said Greg Steinberger, who founded the company in 2003.
Fans of Doc Burnstein’s get their fix at the flagship location in the Village of Arroyo Grande or the newer scoop shop on Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo. (There’s a third storefront in Orcutt, and Doc Burnstein’s ice cream is available at some Central Coast businesses as well.)
Both San Luis Obispo County locations have a vintage ice cream parlor ambiance and serve up 32 flavors, eight of which rotate seasonally. (The recipe repertoire features 100-plus possibilities.)
Among the more popular options are Mint Chip, Merlot Raspberry Truffle and Motor Oil, a concoction of dark chocolate and Kahlúa.
Harmony Valley Creamery
The new ice cream kid on the block is Harmony Valley Creamery. Pints of its self-described “udderly awesome” flavors started hitting select retail store shelves in March.
Currently, the label offers six flavors: Mayor Freddy’s Vanilla Bean, Harmony Chapel Chocolate, School’s Out Strawberry, Local Yodelers Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Doo Dah Mint Chip and Blue Door Butter Pecan.
“We’re working on introducing a couple new flavors, such as a robust coffee,” said Tom Halen, managing partner for Harmony Valley Creamery. The business is the brainchild of owner Alan Vander Horst, who hopes to preserve San Luis Obispo County’s rich agricultural heritage.
The ice cream flavors’ names are nods to the creamery’s namesakes: the town of Harmony, which Vander Horst and his wife, Rebecca, have owned since 2014, and its history as a dairy cooperative in the late 1800s. During the summer, that’s where you’ll find Harmony Valley Creamery’s mobile “scoop truck” — right in the center of town, serving cones and cups of ice cream.
The distinctive ice cream made at Negranti Creamery comes from flocks, not herds.
“When I started in 2011, I couldn’t find anyone else in the United States producing sheep’s milk ice cream,” owner Alexis Negranti said. Because it isn’t made with cow’s milk, many people with lactose issues can enjoy it.
Negranti handcrafts her small-batch ice cream in Paso Robles. “We make our own ice cream base every week from fresh milk,” she said, “and we don’t use any ingredients I can’t pronounce!”
The most popular flavor of Negranti Creamery ice cream is vanilla, made with real vanilla beans. Other favorites include Strawberry Basil with organic basil, Blackberry Rosemary and the seasonal Pumpkin.
Pints of Negranti Creamery are available in select groceries, and its mobile truck serves scoops at special events. Ice cream sandwiches are a new addition to the lineup, and gourmet ice cream cakes are available by pre-order.
Leo Leo Gelato
Grazie to the Italians for giving us gelato, their tempting take on ice cream.
“It’s denser, but with a much lower butter fat,” Niccolo Lekai explained. He and his family founded Leo Leo Gelato in Paso Robles in 2011, inspired by a family tradition of visiting a favorite gelateria in Florence.
Leo Leo Gelato is made in small batches, which Lekai called “the key to our success.” Several dozen flavors are available and served by the scoop at several retail locations and restaurants. Many of the flavors are made with locally sourced ingredients such as Paso Almonds in San Luis Obispo, The Pistachio Factory in Paso Robles and Harmony Lavender Farm in Atascadero.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams
Made in Santa Barbara, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams have been a Central Coast favorite since 1949. (In addition to its Santa Barbara flagship store, McConnell’s has locations in Los Angeles, Studio City and Los Feliz, and sells its products in local grocery stores.) The company’s longtime production manager, Mike Vierra, is a Cal Poly graduate.
McConnell’s also has a direct San Luis Obispo County connection via its vanilla ice cream. For more than 50 years, it’s been made with R.R. Lochhead vanilla beans from Cook Flavoring Co. in Paso Robles.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how many gallons of ice cream Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab produces a year. That number has been corrected.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.