If you had grown up in Cleveland, you'd already know all about Handel's Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt, but this being Southern California rather than suburban Ohio, Handel's is a barely known brand with only two far-flung franchises in Southern California: one in Redondo Beach and one in Upland.
San Bernardino county in summer isn't a hospitable environment for consuming ice cream. A few licks into your scoop, it's half-melted into a puddle of creamy goo. Order fast and eat faster, not that this is easy advice to follow.
In Upland, Handel's has only a window, a counter and a few nearby tables baking in the heat. The ice cream is hidden in metal-lidded freezers, not displayed alluringly in a cacophony of colors. The variety at Handel's, which rotates through approximately 70 flavors, can be overwhelming. The best way to dive into it is with a four-scoop sampler, but what to get?
Handel's makes their own ice cream, as soft and creamy as a cloud and generously laced with nuts, caramel, candy and fruit. The black raspberry truffle is studded with large pieces of dark chocolate truffle, and any of Handel's pie flavors -- banana cream, coconut, deep dish apple and more -- are hands-down winners, replete with hunks of baked pie crust. The plain strawberry ice cream is fresh and surprisingly tart, which cuts down on the sometimes cloying nature of plain strawberry ice cream.
We haven't worked our way through the entire roster at Handel's, but we always return to Spouse Like A House. The name doesn't give away much, but the tangy malted vanilla ice cream with plenty of large chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels yields all of its charms, bite after bite, never growing stale or boring. If all you every know of Upland is this strip-mall ice cream shop, it's well worth the trip.
Handel's Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt: 373 S. Mountain Ave., Upland. (909) 946-9077, www.handelsicecream.com.