We went vegan once, for about three months in college, mostly because our roommates bet us we couldn't do it. We ended up living on a diet of potato tacos and Snyder's of Hanover hard pretzels dipped into peanut butter. (Anyone who automatically equates veganism with health ought to spend 5 minutes with some of the fat, beer-guzzling vegans we knew in San Francisco.) Were we to try veganism again, we'd eat healthier, but we'd still probably satisfy our sweet tooth on Kind Kreme's assortment of raw and vegan ice cream.
The local mini-chain has three locations: Studio City, Pasadena and Echo Park, where it shares space with Sage Vegan Bistro, in the former home of ill-fated Mooi, a raw vegan restaurant known mostly for its tiny portions, expensive prices and piss-poor service. The Dr. Seuss decor and bad attitudes are gone. In its place is a friendly café that seems to be bustling with life. Like most newfangled Echo Park eateries, it's filled with skulking hipster cliches: skinny genes in skinny jeans, un/ironic 1980s fashions and asymmetrical haircuts. But the staff at Kind Kreme wants to make sure you to enjoy their ice cream, whether or not you're a vegan.
With about a dozen flavors (we're told the Pasadena location has several more), Kind Kreme covers the basics -- chocolate, coffee, mint -- and branches out into the arcane. The honey lemon ginger was too bland for us and the martian green kale and lime was too tart, but the carrot-ginger was lovely and oatmeal-raisin was the best thing we've ever had from the dreadful Babycakes, where almost everything seems to be made of sawdust and sugar. The banana and coconut flavors are standouts, rich and naturally creamy with strong flavors that don't overwhelm.
There's a pervasive nuttiness to many of the ice creams at Kind Kreme, and to the much lauded raw salted caramel topping. That makes sense since many of them are made with almond milk or cashews. This works well for some flavors, like coffee, but not as well, surprisingly, for chocolate, which should be a vegan home run. The chocolate ice cream was filled with all sorts of wonderful crunchy elements -- nuts, cacao nibs, who knows what else -- but just wasn't chocolatey enough.
We can appreciate vegan ice cream, even without the velvety texture that dairy would impart. We can get down with the funky flavors. We can overcome our intellectual resistance to agave (a darling among the health food crowd but really no better for you than sugar). One standard to which we cling: chocolate that's as dark as a moonless backcountry night and as strong as a V8 engine.
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The other downside: Kind Kreme's scoops don't come cheap. They cost $3.99 each, and they're small. Even for a specialty ice cream shop, that's a bit steep, but the ice cream shop seems to have found its niche and its fan base.
Previously on 30 Scoops in 30 Days...