No matter where I go, I find myself drawn to local frozen dessert favorites, from the frozen custards of the Midwest, the La Rosa bars of my hometown and the gelatos of Italy. Since I've moved to Southern California, I've eaten a lot more mochi, raspados and tart frozen yogurts.
My yen for ice cream means that I've found my way to some choice local spots. My coworkers came up with some of their favorites as well. These are just a few of the places serving cold treats.
We encourage you to tell us where you like to go when you have a sweet tooth on a hot day in the comments below.
Freshest ice cream
La Mich Paleteria's ice cream is eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good. It's cursing-for-joy good. And while you're enjoying the ice cream, you're a stone's throw from the big box chain of your choice in a strip mall in Duarte. File this one under "strip mall epiphanies."
The ice cream comes in unassuming pastels - like espresso in a cappuccino, the rich color of real fruits and intense flavors is drowned out in cream. The flavor mamey was a winner, a customer favorite made from a mild Mexican fruit that tastes like papaya and was flecked with small bits of fruit.
It seems appropriate that you also can find La Mich Paleteria's fresh and fruity ice cream at the Monrovia Farmers' Market on Friday nights. The Mexican caramel, cajeta, was rich, not too sweet and there was a hint of salt - the way caramel should be.
I've tried two flavors, and I live in agony, knowing that there are so many more Mexican-inspired flavors I haven't tried, like the sorbets or the paletas that you can dip in toppings like nuts or chocolate.
La Mich Paleteria, 1026 Huntington Drive, Duarte, (626) 359-6333.
The one that started it all
Oh, how the tides have turned in the world of yogurt. The saccharine yogurt of chains like TCBY now seems like a distant, sticky memory. Tart is in, for better or for worse, and Pinkberry is the culprit. It's the kind of hyped-up place that people love to hate, but we have a feeling that more people love it than admit it: witness the sheer number of locations and thriving knock-offs.
We have to offer props to Pinkberry - not for inventing tart frozen yogurt, but for blowing open the market in the Southland and doing it well. Other knock-offs might be cheaper or offer more flavors but we still love its tart, creamy simplicity.
Pinkberry, 862 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, (626) 691-0170; 19756 Colima Road #A, Rowland Heights, (909) 595-7612 ; 612 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia, (626) 359-9729.
Best old-school creamery
Fosselman's revels in its old-school status. There used to be others, but now the Alhambra location is the last one standing. There are even old pewter ice cream molds from an era when people cared about the shape of their ice cream.
But if Fosselman's prides itself on being old school, it's at least forward-thinking with its flavors and flavor combinations. I'm not usually a fan of throwing a candy bar on top of an ice cream to make it taste better - I'm all about premium ice cream that stands on its own - but the banana Heath bar combination is greater than the sum of its parts. I can't wait to try some of the sorbets, like Blackberry Cabernet or a frothy Pink Champagne. No matter what you pick, the ice cream has premium quality that stands on its own or makes a great base for a milkshake or banana split.
Fosselman's Ice Cream Co., 1824 W. Main Street, Alhambra, (626) 282-6533.
Yogurtland is definitely not for the fickle-minded. There are at least 16 yogurt flavors and 33 toppings to choose from, plus everything is self-serve, which can be torture for the undecided. But it's, oh, so worth it. The franchise offers classic flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, cookies `n' cream and cheesecake, and tart ones like strawberry, mango and green tea. But one really popular flavor among Yogurtland fans is taro, a sweet, purple concoction that pairs perfectly with the mochi bits topping. Die-hard fans also add lychee, coconut flakes and red beans to this combination, then top it off with condensed milk (yes, condensed milk. There are other liquid toppings as well: caramel, chocolate and strawberry).
At 30 cents an ounce, a regular cup will cost $3 to $6, depending on how much you pack in there. But two people can share that cup, which makes this dessert even sweeter.
Yogurtland, 100 W. Covina Parkway, West Covina, (626) 337-4800; 18253 Colima Road, #103, (626) 964-3405; 19755 Colima Road, Diamond Bar, (909) 859-8758; 633 W. Duarte Road, Arcadia, (626) 821-8723.
Most pounds of toppings
Cherry on Top takes the frozen yogurt concept and puts it in the customer's hands, literally. Choose from a selection of about 10 different yogurt flavors (including cheesecake, chocolate and Hawaiian delight), then dish up your own toppings (nearly 45 choices, from graham crackers to fresh fruit to breakfast cereal). The price is calculated by the total weight.
Cherry on Top, 1299 E. Green St. #100, Pasadena, (626) 440-1299; 2761 S. Diamond Bar Blvd., Diamond Bar, (909) 468-4884; 176 W. Foothill Blvd., D4, Monrovia, (626) 303-5600.
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2705