As a Northwest native and sworn enemy of summer heat, I make a point of finding the best way to cool down every summer with something sweet and icy.
I started dreaming up a tour of frosty treats one hot Sunday in early June. Remember? The day it hit 90 degrees but felt like 110?
I wanted a big bowl of gelato.
A sweet-and-spicy mangonada.
A plastic cup of halo-halo.
A chocolate-dipped ice cream bar.
Or anything that would make me a little less sweaty.
Here is the result of my research: A week’s worth of frosty treats to help you cool down when the heat notches up.
HAND-DIPPED ICE CREAM BAR
Find it: Johnson Candy Co., 924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma; 253-272-8504.
Cost: $2.50 for milk or dark, $2.75 for chocolate dipped with crushed almonds.
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch owner Ron Johnson hand-dipping these delicious vanilla ice cream bars. They come in dark or milk chocolate, with a dip of crushed almonds, if desired.
These are 1,000 percent better than those wafer-thin coated bars at the grocery store with the chocolate that never quite resembles the taste and texture of real chocolate. The Johnson ice cream bars came with a thick chocolate coating that crackled at first bite, then melted into a rich swirl of chocolate.
While at Johnson Candy Co., be sure to peruse the selection of truffles and other chocolate treats made on-site at the chocolate company in the Hilltop neighborhood.
Find it: Mother Lily’s Kusina, 11109 Pacific Highway SW, Lakewood; 253-984-7801, facebook.com/motherlilyskusina.
This Filipino favorite is a standard dessert offered at Mother Lily’s Kusina, which is a turo-turo restaurant in Lakewood. Translated from Tagalog, turo-turo means “point point,” which is exactly what you do when you decide what you want to eat from the steam table of Filipino favorites, such as pancit, lumpia and kare kare.
Halo-halo translates to “mix-mix,” which is apt advice for fully incorporating the sweet sauce settled into the bottom of the milk-based crushed ice drink. At Mother Lily’s, it’s served as it would be in the Philippines, with beans (garbanzo, black and white), coconut jelly and cubed sweet potatoes in a thick, sweet sauce. The cup was topped with a scoop of vivid purple taro ice cream and a wedge of flan. It’s a terrifically filling dessert, providing ballast while satisfying a sweet tooth.
Find it: Dolce Si, 5005 Main St., Tacoma; 253-292-0172, dolcesi.com.
Cost: $3.85 small, $4.85 medium, $6.50 large and $26 for jumbo.
Elisabetta O’Shea hand makes all her gelato, which is Italian ice cream characterized by its smooth, ultra-creamy texture. On a recent visit to her Sicilian bakery at the Point Ruston development, the display case held hazelnut, torrone, banana, orange, strawberry, wild cherry and more gelato flavors. (And lots of Italian pastries.)
Try the gelato I like to call “amaretto crack,” a black cherry gelato modeled after the Italian almond-flavored liqueur. Pistachio carried a vibrant nuttiness and mild sweetness. The small cup might seem not enough, but trust me that the medium is a lot of gelato to eat in one sitting unless you’ve got help. The spoons are tiny little scoops, which means it’s tough to jam huge spoonfuls into your mouth, which is what I want to do every time I eat gelato here.
ICE CREAM DOUGHNUT SANDWICH
Find it: Legendary Doughnuts, 2602 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-327-1327, legendarydoughnuts.com. There is another location in Lake Tapps.
It’s ice cream merged with a doughnut and it’s a tremendous idea. Owner Shannon Patten was at a trade show in Texas when she saw a nifty machine that could press a doughnut into a panini sandwich stuffed with ice cream.
The dome-shaped machine keeps the ice cream cold and the doughnut hot. A raised doughnut of your choice is split in half, then filled with a choice of fillings, including lemon, raspberry or blackberry jelly, or peanut butter and jelly. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is added before the doughnut is pressed into a hot pocket of sweet dough and a swirl of ice cream. Patten calls them “polar paninis.”
Find it: Erica Peace, Love and Ice Cream, 4822 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-232-5463, ericapeaceloveandicecream.wordpress.com.
Cost: Small, $3.25; Medium, $4.25; Large, $5.25 (larger sizes also available).
This Mexican smoothie, ice cream and snack shop specializes in a wide range of smoothies and frosty treats, but the mangonada is its specialty. It’s a popular Mexican treat sometimes called chamango.
While in Mexico, you might find this as a crushed ice drink, Erica Peace, Love and Ice Cream (hands down, the coolest name for a smoothie bar) makes its mangonada with a mango smoothie base. Into the creamy base, a thick or thin streak of chili powder (per preference of mild or spicy) was stirred in, along with a squeeze of lime juice, sour tamarind juice and a liberal pour of Chamoy, the spicy-sour-sweet Mexican sauce. Velvety cubes of mango topped the drink, which came with a tamarind candy straw. The drink was a swirl of sweet, savory, creamy, spicy and sour.
Rookie mistake: Be sure to stir up the blended drink before taking a sip so you don’t hit pockets of pure spice.
ICE CREAM SUNDAE
Find it: Ice Cream Social, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-327-1660 or icecreamsocialtacoma.com.
At the base of every sundae at Ice Cream Social is handmade ice cream in fanciful flavors, the hallmark of the scoop shop from Layla Isaac, who opened her Sixth Avenue business in 2014.
For a sundae, hot fudge, strawberry or caramel sauce can top any flavor ice cream you pick, whether that’s lavender, strawberry-rhubarb, porter and pretzel, beet, roasted caramel or salted caramel (I said the flavors were fanciful, didn’t I?).
The specialty sundae menu changes frequently, but if you’re lucky enough to see the Cracker Jack sundae, get that. The base of caramel peanut ice cream was topped with a sticky swirl of caramel and caramel-coated popcorn.
The cafe also has more-mainstream flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
TROPICAL SHAVED ICE
Find it: Bubbles, 1724 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-627-2111, facebook.com/BubblesUWT.
Unless you glance at the poster at the front counter of the downtown Tacoma cafe specializing in bubble tea, you’d never know Bubbles offers “flavored snow,” which is just another name for the frosty treat called shaved ice.
The tropical fruit version was a mishmash of fruit atop a fluffy pile of shaved ice. The bowl was built for two, with fresh cubed mangoes, sliced strawberries and pitted lychee, which is a tropical fruit that tastes like an exotic strawberry but looks like a grape.
Fruit juice saturated the feathery ice, yielding creamy texture and fruity flavor. I loved the finishing touch, which was a spoonful of strawberry popping boba, the delicate gel spheres filled with sweet juice.
There’s another “flavored snow” version, also $5.79, made with strawberries.