Scoop Deck

Wells, ME

OH goodness, pack your bags now and ship off to Maine. On an annual family trip to the great state, we rolled through Wells to visit Scoop Deck. A family establishment since its start out of their summer home in 1983, it's been owned and operated by the Erskine clan and their loyal scoopers for the past 37 seasons.

A glittering standby along the main drag, Scoop Deck is far too inviting not to stop in for a scoop or two. Their white barn style shop is surrounded by ample parking and outdoor seating, with a massive menu sign in front - you'll need time, lots of time, to consider a plethora of over 50 flavors. Once inside, the wood paneled space is decorated with bright, clever hand-painted signs and two additional displays of their endless menu - one running down the wall and another along the ceiling near the front doors, for those waiting further back in line. Their cartons of ice cream rest behind the serving bar, lined up at the ready as servers weave their way about collecting scoops for eager customers.

We tasted a few like Dirty Water (Colombian coffee base with chocolate cookie swirl and chocolate chips) and Cherry Blossom (cherry base with dark Bordeaux cherries) - they were generous with samples and patient, warning us kindly about their serving sizes. Paige settled on Dirty Water and Dough Dough Bird Lite (peanut butter base with brownie dough and cookie dough) and Katherine chose Bubblegum (pink bubblegum base with assorted bubblegum pieces) and Moose Tracks (vanilla base with mini peanut butter cup swirl and fudge swirl). They dexterously mounded scoops on what started to look like miniature cones, and we fell silent. It was a marvel. Their scoops are absolutely gargantuan. And the ice cream  rocks. Creamy with both unique and classic flavors. As we turned around with the goods, we noticed a wash station beside the serving bar, solely for cleansing after a messy cone. We laughed, "Ahh right, haha, cute. That's nice for the kids." Ohh how mistaken we were. Fresh ice cream, pint sized scoops and 80 degree weather. Let's just say, we ended up needing the dang wash basin. 

With its genuine nature and killer ice cream at a fair price, our thoughts were immediate and resounding; Scoop Deck is a true dream ice cream shop. If you're in the neighborhood, or even a state or two away, get over to Scoop Deck for a scoop that reigns supreme. You might spot us there, devouring our next favorite flavor on the list before it melts away.

Establishment Aesthetic: 4.75

Flavor Variety: 5

Product Quality: 4.75

Skoops: 5



Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles is certainly the land of pretty things, much of which prove to be just that - so seeing pictures of MILK's brightly colored macaron ice cream sandwiches definitely intrigued us. The MILK Shop has been serving their ice cream and baked goods since chef Bret Thompson opened its doors in 2007. But could they be more than just photo-ready desserts? We went to the MILK Beverly Blvd location to find out.

The shop doesn't exactly have a defined, refined or organized feel. A bulbous line had formed in the small space from the door to the ice cream display, so we looked up to study our options. However, posted on their hanging boards aren't flavors, but menu items from scoops sizes to sundaes and shakes or coffee and tea. So we chatted in wait beside their soda fridges and until we made it to the display case. 

Inside are housed their ice cream bars and sandwiches as well as their grouping of ice cream flavors at the ready. We sampled a few, including Thai Tea, Coffee Toffee and Blood Orange Sorbet. Paige went with their crowning glory, a Watermelon Ice Cream Sandwich and Katherine chose Birthday Cake and Peanut Butter Brownie in a cup.

The ice cream was good - did it blow our socks off? Nah. Though the flavors didn't surprise us, they were satisfying. Probably the best option is their ice cream sandwich, which delivered on both beautiful appearance and full flavor. Pricing was high but not astronomical.

If you're floating by The Grove and want a rather bombastic ice cream sandwich, check out The MILK Shop.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.25

Flavor Variety: 3.75

Product Quality: 3.75

Skoops: 3.50


Solvang Flavors

Solvang, CA

Calling all Denmark friends! On a trip to Santa Barbara, we were lucky enough to have time for a quick jaunt through Solvang; a small town nestled in the Santa Ynez valley. Amongst the Danish style shops rests Solvang Flavors, a relatively young artisan cafe and gelateria next to the famous Solvang windmill.

After a hot day in the sun, we wandered into the shop in desperate need of ice cream. Though un-unique in appearance, the display of gelato seemed pretty good. Our servers doled out a few samples - their flavors are more classical, nothing wild. Paige ended up with Cookies and Cream and Hazelnut and Katherine chose Pistachio and Coconut - both in a cup.

We never want to say "boring" but the entire experience was rather run-of-the-mill. The gelato was pretty good, but not tantalizing, the flavors basic, the ambiance transitory and unbranded and the prices high for the small servings.

If you're really in need, don't stop yourself from trying Solvang Flavors, but for adventure go elsewhere.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.00

Flavor Variety: 2.50

Product Quality: 3.50

Skoops: 3.00


Rori's Artisanal Creamery

Santa Monica, CA

To start, for some reason Katherine had it in her head all this time that 'Rori' was a man. Nope! Rori's was founded by Rori Trovato in 2011 with her first location in Carpenteria. Some of their first ingredients were even harvested from Rori's home garden. Now having spread to 5 other locations down the California coast, they source ingredients from local farms and their milk from Straus Family Creamery.

We popped by their Santa Monica location, admiring their chalkboard walls and extensive flavor menu as we walked through the door. Excitement went from a 5 to an 8. Our servers dished out some samples of their classic, seasonal and vegan flavors before we settled on split scoops in a cup. Paige dove in with Brown Sugar Banana (banana ice cream with house-made dark brown sugar) and Wild Berry Chocolate Crisp (seasonal berries with dark chocolate covered rice crispies). Katherine got Cup O' Joe Spinelli (espresso ice cream with a hint of bittersweet chocolate) and Root Beer Float (sassafras and birch base with vanilla).

Rori's flavors confused us - at first we smiled, taking in what we initially thought was lovely flavor. But on the second and third bites, the coffee taste was harsh, the wild berry drab, the root beer a lumpy consistency. Everything seemed a bit off - when we really thought about it, each flavor tasted as if a basic ingredient was simply dumped into the mix and that was that.

And goodness, did the price to scoop ratio nearly make us spit take. We very much follow the "never judge a book by it's cover" rule, but it's safe to say Rori's both surprised and matched our predictions. With their chalk signable walls, industrial creamery vibes and robust menu, Rori's might do nicely for an after school snack or a quick stop along your Sunday stroll.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.75

Flavor Variety: 4.00

Product Quality: 3.25

Skoops: 3.50


Long Beach Creamery

Long Beach, CA

On the drive back from our San Diego stint, we thought of Hammond's and refused to end the trip on a disappointing note. We'd be passing through Long Beach soon and after searching for a good spot, Long Beach Creamery seemed like it could deliver. The shop was founded in 2014 by Dina Amadil, who got her start making small batch ice cream at home. Since opening, she's established 3 locations across Long Beach.  

Situated around the corner from The Promenade, Long Beach Creamery’s nondescript brick and mortar gave way to a bright, industrial space bustling with loyal patrons. A lovely server walked us through the varied options under the display case - they advertise unlimited samples -  and even let us try their famous buttercake which knocked us back on our heels.   

Even with the freedom of a split scoop, it was difficult to choose just two flavors each. But we forged ahead - Paige with Pow! Wow! Golden Mallow (vanilla with candied golden rice crispies and golden marshmallow fluff) and LB Crack (mexican vanilla with chocolate covered caramelized cracker cookies and fudge swirls), and Katherine with Burnt Caramel as well as Biscuits & Jam (honey vanilla with biscuits plus peach and apricot jam).

Oh, were we impressed. These flavors proved inventive and well developed, with a high quality of ingredients. And our server’s patient but enthusiastic energy made the experience all the more enjoyable. We headed out looking forward to our next visit, and what could be better than that? If you're trekking down the coast or simply looking for a tastebud adventure, swing by Long Beach Creamery for your next scoop.

Establishment Aesthetic: 4.25 

Flavor Variety: 4.25 

Product Quality: 4.75  

Skoops: 4.50


Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream

San Diego, CA

On a weekend jaunt to San Diego we wanted to hit at least one new shop. With it's Hawaiian ice cream and Best of San Diego 2018 win, Hammond's felt like a solid choice. Founded in 2012, they have three locations across the city - we made a stop at their North Park shop.

The place has sweet green and white walls, adorned with an array of scoops and a fountain shop glass chandelier hanging over the seating area. On a large chalkboard displayed behind the ice cream case is their selection of scoop options.

Hammond's offers dozens of flavors and boasts the home of the original Hammond's Flights - a rack lined with mini scoops on cake or waffle cones. They looked adorable, so we went for their 6 flavor cake cone flight; and after settling on Honey Lavender, Lychee Cream, Vietnamese Coffee, Peanut Butter Reese's, Pineapple Coconut Cream and Banana with Macadamia Nut [pause for breath], we felt poised for great flavor.

Maybe the cute factor blinded us. 

Each flavor decidedly brought us down a peg, tasting weaker still and more artificial than the last. Their high prices and tiny servings left us incredulous after discovering the taste wasn't even close to the bar. With cheap ingredients and unattained flavor, we recommend making your ice cream stop at another shop along your travels through "America's Finest City".

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.50

Flavor Variety: 3.75

Product Quality: 2.00

Skoops: 2.50


Van Leeuwan Ice Cream

Culver City, CA

We've seen the Van Leeuwan trucks around LA, but we always seem to be eating already as we pass, so we hadn't yet tried them out. Born in Brooklyn, Van Leeuwan started in 2008 with a truck and has since expanded all over NYC and LA, with accompanying shops spread about each city. Feeling rather idle to stalk their trucks, we conceded to making the trip to their shop in the Culver City Platform.

The place is bite-sized, but tasteful with their classic butter yellow and pastel color scheme. Their fast food energy gave us little time to hem and haw as we love to do, so we squeezed out a couple samples - as much as we could get before overstaying our welcome. Paige went with one of their most popular flavors, Honeycomb, which is made without honey and instead a house-made caramel candy. And though we normally don't buy into "top flavor" hype, Paige can attest - with it's unique and smooth flavor - Honeycomb earns it's puff. Katherine went with one of their specials, Vegan Deluxe Brownie, with house-made brownie chunks and Luxardo cherry swirls.

Their servings are quite small, and seemed even smaller when we saw the price. But the flavors were lovely and the quality very good. Van Leeuwan's loveliest facet is they make just as many great vegan flavors as they do regular dairy ice cream. A scoop from one of their trucks might be most preferable, especially for our vegans friends. 

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.00

Flavor Variety: 3.75

Product Quality: 4.00

Skoops: 3.75


Little Damage

Downtown LA, CA

Little Damage was a shop that popped up for us during the whole charcoal flavor frenzy - waiting for that one to end - and on a night with perhaps a bit too much time on our hands, we piled into the car to stop at their downtown LA location. A relatively young thing, Little Damage opened their doors in early 2017, and serves up a selection of soft serve flavors out of their small corner shop.

The space is cramped but understandably so. They only have 4 rotating flavors and a small bar of toppings from which they add to your swirl. We tried each flavor - Kiki & Cream, Black Churro, Strawberries & Cream and Vegan Choco Peanut Butter and Banana - hoping each new sample would help us recover from the last. But they continued the syrupy sweet ride. Paige went with Vegan Choco Peanut Butter and Banana with Oreo crumbles and Katherine got Kiki & Cream (blue colored cookies & cream) with Fruity Pebbles on their charcoal waffle cones.

After finishing a whole cone, the overwhelming taste was a mediocre quality cream with heavy artificial flavoring. The price is expensive, though they do give sizable portions. It seems the goal here is to serve "cool" looking ice cream designed to be photographed before an edgy backdrop - their shop includes black and white checkered walls with neon signs that read "Cute But Psycho, But Cute" and "I Like Love You". To that end, they succeed.

If you're looking for ice cream that satisfies your instagram story instead of your tastebuds, stop by Little Damage for some soft serve.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.25

Flavor Variety: 2.00

Product Quality: 2.25

Skoops: 2.50


McConnell's Fine Ice Creams

Studio City, CA

Why is it that mini golf and ice cream always seem to go hand in hand? Well whatever the reasoning, we had a hankering for a pint or two after a round at the Sherman Oaks Castle Park. And with a McConnell's shop nearby, we gathered our clubs - kidding, we don't own personal mini golf clubs - and headed over to try out this California staple.

McConnell's was founded in Santa Barbara in 1949 by husband and wife, Gordon "Mac" and Ernesteen McConnell. After testing and perfecting recipes, they opened the first shop in December, 1950 and have been serving their homemade ice cream ever since.

They just about won us over upon entry, having an ice cream scoop as their door handle. Walking in, we were both delighted and perplexed as to how we hadn't yet encountered such a novel idea in our travels. Along their walls was a sweetly designed map of their history, beside the menu - a robust list of both classic and seasonal flavors. We tested an array, letting other customers pass as we perused the flavor board; from Sprinkle Cake to Cookies and Cream and Eureka Lemon and Marionberries. Each a distinct flavor using local ingredients.

Paige settled on Sea Salt Cream & Cookies (sweet cream base, local sea salt and homemade chocolate chip cookies) and Santa Barbara Strawberry in a cup. Katherine also went for Sea Salt Cream & Cookies as well as Honey & Cornbread Cookies (central coast wildflower honey with chunks of sweet and salt cornbread cookies) on a sugar cone.

What surprisingly adventurous ice cream! We thought we were in for a run of the mill place, but McConnell's serves up well developed flavors mixed with quality cream. Their scoops might not be monstrous for the price, but it's well worth it for the taste. With numerous locations in Los Angeles and many more across the Golden State, stop in McConnell's Fine Ice Creams for a scoop far better than fine.

Establishment Aesthetic: 4.00

Flavor Variety: 4.25

Product Quality: 4.00

Skoops: 4.50