Saturday, May 7, 2011

Not Your Mother's Ice Cream Truck: COOLHAUS vs. Lake Street Creamery

A music-box-like jingle used to signal the magical arrival of all that is good in the world, neatly compressed into a single silver scoop / heaping swirl on a blissful sugar cone - that could roll into the neighborhood on any given day.  That jingle said to kids everywhere - run out to the street to grab your favorite treat.  And that was back in the days of chemical cones, and mass-produced ice cream and rusty roach coaches. 

Fast forward to present day - handcrafted, all-natural ice cream and their eco-conscious purveyors are helping to drive the food truck movement that started here in LA, and kids of all ages can now 'experience' frozen treats of a quality like we've never had before from a roving artisan, that lets you eat well, while being a responsible citizen. (And with the recent heat wave in LA, ice cream becomes not just a tasty treat, but a life-saving device!)

COOLHAUS and Lake Street Creamery are two that I have developed addictions to.  Last week, I had my 'food truck zombie*' moment - though I am far from a hipster, I promise! - (*yes, I'm working in a Happy Endings reference, it's my new fav show!), tailing Lake Street Creamery as they struggled with a local business complex, who had overbooked their space, on where to park. 

So how do the two measure up? 


COOLHAUS:  All-natural, handmade, customizable ice cream sandwiches inspired by architects and architecture!  Modernist vibe. The name comes from: Bauhaus (modernist design movement of 1920′s & 30′s) + Rem Koolhaas (Dutch Architect and Theorist who challenged mantra “Form follows function”) +  “Cool house”: ice cream sandwich deconstructs into cookie roof and floor slab with ice cream walls!

Lake Street Creamery: Handmade ice creams, gelatos, sorbets served in waffle bowls, and floats in unique flavors. Nostalgic, old-timey soda fountain aesthetic.  Though their website manifesto is rather random, with a tagline that doesn't have obvious relevance to the name: "We guarantee IT WILL TURN YOU INTO A GOD.*"

Winner: COOLHAUS for most cerebral, cohesive, clear and customizable concept


COOLHAUS: Rotating menu, usually 8-10 flavors of ice cream and 6-8 varieties of cookies. 'Construct' your own ice cream sandwich via mix and match!

Flavors are original and eyes-rolled-back-delicious: from Nutella Toasted Almond to Lycee Martini to 'luxe' flavors like Pistachio Black Truffle.  My all-time favorites are Balsamic Fig Mascarpone, and those mentioned above - but I've pretty much loved every flavor I've tried - and they are always coming up with new creative ones (like Foie Gras, Strawberry Jalapeno and Spiced Persimmon).

Cookie flavors range from classics like Chocolate Chip to Lemon Rosemary to Brioche.
Lake St C: There are 6 ice cream flavors on the regular menu, with rotating specials.  The flavors are original and fun.  For example, chocolate based flavor Aztec Sacrifice, is described as ", spicy chocolate in the tradition of the Precolumbian Americas...chiles, cayenne, and the blood of a thousand virgins." (Tastes like Mayan Hot Chocolate in ice cream form) There is a Donut flavor, and Pancake Breakfast which is is described as "Cakey, satisfying flapjacks, pure maple syrup, and bits of real bacon, sprinkled with fresh-ground peaberry coffee." - I think the Pancake Breakfast is my hands-down favorite!!!

They also offer rotating specials like Strawberry Basil and my favorite, the hilarious and tasty at the same time "Don Draper" - made with vanilla, caramel, bourbon, and smoke!  On on particularly stressful Friday, I decided to make my own 2-scoop combo - the "Don Draper Breakfast" (1 scoop Don Draper + 1 scoop Pancake Breakfast) for lunch, died and went to heaven - and it is as great as advertised)!

Floats combine ice cream with gourmet sodas - fun pairings include Jelly Donut with black cherry soda + Donut ice cream or Orange Blossom with orange soda + California Zephyr ice cream.

Winner:  Tough call, I LOVE flavors from both but COOLHAUS wins narrowly for greater variety, being ever full of surprises, and a concept that never gets tired (there are SO many DIY combinations!)


COOLHAUS: Their ice cream sandwiches are all-natural, handmade and organic whenever possible, using local and seasonal market fresh ingredients. Dairy is produced sustainably and is free of artificial growth hormone.  I am blown away every time by the sophistication and creativity of their flavors.  They don't skimp on ingredients either - the Pistachio Black Truffle ice cream has actual, very visible bits of truffle throughout!  Cookies also taste fresh, homemade.
Lake St C: Makes their ice creams by hand, right on the truck, using the freshest ingredients available.  In the California Zephyr, made of "Tahitian vanilla, fresh Meyer lemon, and bits of fresh mint leaves," you can see and taste the actual flecks of fresh lemon and chopped up leaves of mint - the flavor is undescribly refreshing.  Donut is made with actual cake donuts.  Waffle bowls also taste fresh made and crisp.

Winner: Lake Street Creamery's ice cream wins for best mouthfeel with incredibly smooth, creamy texture that says homemade, and tastes like it's good for you.


COOLHAUS:  Customize sammiches by picking your own flavors of ice cream and cookies.  Fun suggestions inspired by architects are offered.

Lake St C: Customize floats by choosing your own soda flavors and ice cream to dunk into it. Fun suggestions inspired by other sweet treats like Jelly Donut and Black Forest, or random ideas like Weird Creep (Black Jack ice cream and cream soda)

Winner:  Tie. COOLHAUS makes their entire menu customizable.  Lake Street Creamery's DIY floats are simply a brilliant idea for an ice cream truck - best use of ice cream to create a product extension, offering another refreshing treat that lets you cool down with 'dessert', while quenching thirst on a hot day!!


COOLHAUS:  Ice cream sandwiches are made using all-natural, handmade and organic, local ingredients whenever possible. Dairy is sustainably produced and artificial growth hormone free. Even the wrappers are edible and all-natural - made of potato paper and soy ink.

Lake St C: Ice creams served in waffle bowls to eliminate waste.  Utensils are biodegradable: wooden spoons and cardboard straws. The only drawback for me was that the straw gets a bit soggy after a while, so not the best way to experience your float (kinda like pixie stix, if you suck on them to get the candy powder out, the paper becomes soggy and gross - and with the floats you can't really just dump the contents into your mouth).

Winner:  COOLHAUS for zero waste, and making their edible wrapper is a zero-calorie novelty that enhances your enjoyment of the treat.  (Well, for their ice cream sandwiches.  If you order your scoop in a cup they'll still give you a paper cup and plastic spoon.  But for the most part, zero waste with ice cream sandwich orders! Can't wait to see how they continue their green efforts when they open their brick-and-mortar store this summer!)

FINAL VERDICT?  It's like asking a mother which child she loves more (so I'm not a mom, but can imagine).  COOLHAUS is like the valedictorian who impresses with smarts and constant achievement, and Lake Street Creamery is like the sensitive, artistic hardworker, whose talent shines through with their passion projects.  But ultimately I can't choose - love them both in different ways!  Somebody get me a Coolhaus by the Lake, stat.


All over Los Angeles - see Twitter for updates
Price: $5 ice cream sandwich, $8 for double; $20 for skyscraper of 5 sandwiches (skyscraper is free if you can eat all by yourself!)

Lake Street Creamery
All over Los Angeles - see Twitter for updates
Price: 1 scoop $4, 2 scoops $6, 3 scoops $8; floats $6


COOLHAUS:                Lake Street Creamery:
Coolhaus (food truck) on Urbanspoon   Lake Street Creamery on Urbanspoon

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