Partner Spotlight: Smitten Ice Cream
Partner Spotlight: Smitten Ice Cream
By: Stephanie Garr, Staff Writer; Photography by Ahmet Aydogan
Neither fog nor rain nor an hour-long wait will keep San Franciscans away from their ice cream. In fact, shops devoted to the cool treat continue to pop up throughout the city. However, none can boast a purer or fresher product than that churned out at Smitten Ice Cream. This once one-woman operation is now a bona fide San Francisco success with a clutch of locations in the Bay Area and L.A., and it all started with a childhood obsession with ice cream and a classic red wagon.
Shortly after graduating from Stanford’s prestigious Graduate School of Business, founder and owner Robyn Sue Fisher decided to shift her career ambitions to fall in line with her lifelong love of ice cream.
“In 2007, I began immersing myself in all things ice cream and was increasingly bothered by the modern industry’s complicated ingredients and focus on shelf-life,” she tells us. “The child in me was depressed at what ice cream had become, but the maker in me got excited. I decided that if I could bring ice cream back to its purest form while making it taste better than it ever had before, I would really be able to offer something new and exciting to the industry.”
So, with help from a retired engineer, Fisher invented a high-tech machine using liquid nitrogen, specially designed helical-shaped scrapers, and software to make the “freshest, purest, creamiest” ice cream around. That means no stabilizers, emulsifiers, or any other unpronounceable ingredient are allowed.
She first set out with the machine on the streets of San Francisco, lugging it around in a Radio Flyer wagon and tweeting her locations. Her ice cream quickly became a hit and she landed her first brick-and-mortar spot in 2011 in a recycled shipping container in Hayes Valley.
A visit to Smitten is a unique experience in itself. The patentedBrrr machineallows the “brrristas” to churn each scoop to-order, right before your eyes and in under 90 seconds.
And instead of overwhelming you with a dizzying array of flavors, they’ve perfected the classics while rotating in a few seasonal specialties.
Cacao connoisseurs will want to go straight for the TCHO 60.5% Chocolate, made with melted pieces of the Berkeley-based fair-trade dark chocolate and a touch of Valrohna cocoa powder. You can also kick it up a notch with the Hot Stuff Sundae, a combo of their chocolate ice cream, toasted almonds, spicy and brown sugar caramels, and organic whipped cream, all sitting pretty in a hand-rolled waffle bowl.
If that sounds a touch too rich, go for the Classic Vanilla,flavored with a dash of vanilla extract from Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. This straightforward flavor brings out the heavenly texture of Smitten’s ice cream, and it’s also the perfect base for their toppings, including spicy and brown sugar caramels, TCHO chocolate sauce, strawberry Prosecco sauce, TCHO crispies (rice cereal mixed with the 60.5% chocolate), cookie dough, toasted almonds, and all-natural rainbow sprinkles.
Another must-try—and one of Fisher’s first flavors from her wagon days—the Salted Caramel is downright knee-melting. The simple recipe of organic milk and cream, golden caramelized sugar, butter, and salt is everything you could possibly dream of in one scoop. However, Fisher’s personal favorites are the chef-inspired seasonal flavors like Peaches & Bourbon and Strawberry Buttermilk, all blended with fresh, organic produce.
Whatever your preference, you’ll likely not find a smoother, silkier, seeminglysinful (but rather guiltless!) sweet elsewhere. One taste of a Smitten scoop and you’ll have a hard time going back to the store-bought stuff. Dare we say you’ll be plenty smitten.
San Francisco Locations: Mission District (904 Valencia St.), Hayes Valley (432 Octavia St.), Pacific Heights (2404 California St.), Marina (2268 Chestnut St.)