Danielle Keene has always had a fondness for retro. Back when she ran the dessert kitchen at Wilshire, she instituted Ice Cream Shoppe night. She often favors a '50s-era aesthetic at her Pasadena bakery and ice cream shop, Bittersweet Treats, putting bundt pans on the walls and Whoopie pies in the cases. And she's recently started hosting Ice Cream Socials, devoting a night each month to the kind of community gathering that makes you think of hand-cranked ice cream machines on the front porch rather than the state-of-the-art engines in her actual kitchen. Last night, at Keene's second Ice Cream Social, the pastry chef even wore a circle skirt as she dished out sundae scoops for the neighborhood crowd.
Keene's Ice Cream Socials feature more than just (just??) ice cream. Last night's four-hour event included not only a sundae bar, milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches, and samples of tiny ice cream floats, but also a taco bar and live music from Motown cover band Stone Soul. Locals and students from Pasadena City College, which campus is across the street from the shop, filled plates with tacos and bowls with ice cream, sitting outside under the evening sky and a low heaven of helium balloons.
For those of you who still think of ice cream sundaes as exercises in vanilla and chocolate sauce, you'll be happy to know that Keene's idea of the dish can include any of her more inventive ice cream flavors: Thai tea, honey lavender, Earl Grey, pistachio rose or cocoa nib, to name some of the flavors in the case last night. As for toppings, look for granola and macerated berries, brownie chunks and caramel sauce, among others. Of course, for purists, there's plenty of whipped cream and maraschino cherries, too.
The next Ice Cream Social will be Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 5 to 9 p.m. Keene says they'll be doing food in-house this time: “We're thinking '50s-themed food or maybe just stick with tacos.” Poodle skirt optional.
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