summertime! And the living is full of steam, so we wander around in search of food that will cool us. We’ve rounded up eight frozen desserts, a mix of recent finds and frosty new items from local favorites.
Since July is National Ice Cream Month, we’ve reviewed it with the International Dairy Food Association and learned that the average American eats roughly 20 pounds — 4 gallons — of ice cream each year. And those ice cream companies, most of which are family-owned, produced more than 1.3 billion gallons of ice cream last year, contributing more than $13 billion to the US economy. So the next time you’re looking for a scoop, know you’re doing your part. Maybe we can all go the extra mile on National Ice Cream Day on July 17th.
Pop culture artisan pops
The combination of playful, fresh flavors caught my eye when I first saw Pop Culture Artisan Pops at Kualoa Ranch: Lemon Korean Pear, Strawberry Guava Creams, Tropic Butterfly with mango, liliko’i, vanilla, honey and pea flower. And if you feel nostalgic for the time of young children? Cookie Monster mixes in Oreos. Then at the Sunday Kailua Farmers Market, try Whatamelon. Possibly the nicest to pop with a watermelon rind made with matcha and cream, but it’s also perfect for those hot days, as it tastes like fresh watermelon.
All this from a local boy who started his career in accounting. Justin Yudom quit after five years and returned home from California to study culinary arts at Kabilani Community College. He worked in local restaurants before starting his own business in 2020. Pop Culture relies on good memories of making ice cream at home in the Kuli’ou’ou Valley. Yodom explains, “I thought lollipops and ice cream bars hadn’t been reinvented in a long time, so after a lot of trial and error, here we go!” The assortment reflects a strong focus on local ingredients. Typically eight alternating flavors, three seasonal flavors (think Kinako Miso Caramel, Kabocha Cranberry, and London Fog) and five “forever flavors”—65 total so far. The latest is the Coffee Cacao Nib Swirl, which Udom says is “made with 100% Kaua’i Coffee Cream”, “flanked in a rich coconut milk base using organic fair trade compliant cocoa powder” and finished with locally sourced cacao nibs. Nondairy Hibiscus options include Passion Punch, juice Blackberry Yuzu with local Meyer lemon, raspberry and yuzu – perhaps the most refreshing flavors we’ve tried and a surprise to skeptics who fear health might mean less taste.You can now find Pop Culture Artisan Pops at farmers markets and storefronts across O’ahu including That’s Feast in Mānoa, Hawaiian Chip Co. in Kalihi, and Kalapawai in Kailua. At $4.25 a pop, these rewards will easily repeat for summer and beyond.
$4.25 USD, popcultureap.comAnd the Tweet embed
We discovered Sage Creamery at the Thursday night farmers market in Kailua and were impressed with the fresh fruit folded into small batches of ice cream produced by this small, Native Hawaiian company. Then one of her friends made her birthday dinner even better when she arrived carrying pints of kiawe honey, Vietnamese coffee, and North Shore vanilla. We enjoyed the lightness and sweet citrus of lemon and honey in the Fruity Sherbet of Life. And my daughter’s choice, Chocolate Chantilly, best describes what would happen if chocolate ice cream and Coco’s puff smashed together in the freezer room. In the past few weeks, we’ve been swoon over two new flavours: mango cheesecake with delicious mango chunks and graham crackers. And Orange Dreamcycle, Creamy Calamansi Orange Syrup and Salted Blue Vanilla Ice Cream taste as good as it looks. Our other happy discovery is that Sage Creamery can be found in stores near us, as well as farmers markets, its mobile van or a new planned ladles shop in Ho’opili near Ewa Beach. (Pro tip: This also means that we can sometimes score a seasonal flavor even after direct market sales have ended.)
$7.50 for half a pint, sagecreamery.comAnd the Tweet embed
Slice by HB Baking
If you’re not ready to commit to a full Technicolor Ice Cream Pie and Cake from Slice by HB Baking, we won’t question your priorities. But now you have an alternative: an option that’s still great and tasty, but in a smaller size and brand new. Cutie’s pies have appeared in the new Slice Cream truck around town and can sometimes be found in-store inside Jolene’s Market in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. We got lucky and ate Cutie in Chocolate, Snuggy Bear, Strawberry and Vegan Matcha. Strawberry is a spectacle with sparkly Fruity Pebbles cereal topping birthday cake ice cream, strawberry ice cream and bits of cookie crust. But Snuggy Bear killed others with the right mix of textures and salty-sweet flavors: pralines, coffee, English toffee ice cream with an Oreo crust and brine.
$7, 100 N. Britannia Street, (808) 202-8601, slicebyhbbking, @slicecreamtruck/
SEE ALSO: Ice cream pies by the slice are a new thing in Chinatown
Kāne’ohe’s Got’z Grindz sure has earned a worthy rep for its authentic delicacies: cold ginger chicken musubi, om shizu spam musubi, a picnic set of half-sized Spam musubi for in-flight snacks. When we rummaged through the freezer box on a recent visit, we found some original frozen foods from the creative folks in the Goto family.
First, the pops. These pops popped last year with chunks of li hing mui and seeds to add a salty flavor that offsets the sweet and fruity flavors. The latest flavors for this summer bring in mango, passion orange, and pineapple alongside root beer, blue vanilla, river green, and strawberry. We found that they had more flavor during the pop than the ones we tried, and not just about the seed. We also appreciate that the flavors change every time we visit.
$2.50 or $10 for $20, mui pops, 45-726 Kamehameha Highway, (808) 234-0818, Tweet embed
SEE ALSO: Asato Family Shop Serves Up Cream Sherbet With Childhood Nostalgia Flavors
Another frozen dessert appeared this year at Got’z Grindz inspired by a family vacation: frozen creme brulee. “We actually had this dessert in Japan in a restaurant, and we thought ‘Oh, my gosh, what?’ “It’s the best thing,” says Yumi Goto. After they got home, her brother-in-law, a “complete candy man,” worked on the Goto version, experimenting until he was pleased with the smooth, creamy version with a little custard in it. New for this summer is more flavors Gorgeous, blended with homemade purees of fresh mango, strawberry, and lilyco.Goto says they need to tell customers that this dessert is designed to be eaten frozen: To enjoy the full icy effect, don’t try to thaw or light the top in the house.
$3.95 for a single serving size, 45-726 Kamehameha Highway, (808) 234-0818, Tweet embed
We’ve been fans of La Gelateria ever since we used to arrive at the factory for a mid-afternoon dessert curated by a clever ’90s co-worker. Turns out he found out the company was doing low-key retail sales when he dated someone in the restaurant business. Even then, the small factory, started in 1981, had a modern vibe: Before the pandemic, we could go in and pick cups and pints of gelato from the freezer near the door. Some of our favorites included black sesame, chocolate, coffee gelato flavors, and any fruit in season for our sorbetto selections. Recent visits have revealed these new discoveries: guava gelato, local mango gelato made with your choice of regular or Fairchild mango, and mango and mochi gelato. Our favorite black sesame gelato is still around, as is the classic spomononi and sugar-free vanilla. When in-person visits disappeared during the pandemic along with most restaurant sales, La Gelateria started ordering online. Fortunately, prices are still reasonable for restaurant quality food. And the place still has a somewhat offbeat vibe: We stop under a mango tree in front, knock on it, and a masked worker comes out to get our name out. Then we wait under an umbrella for you to come back with our pints. The online ordering system allows us to narrow our search to what’s in stock, a huge improvement over the previous iteration that allowed us to see every flavor, only to find out that many were out of stock.
Most $5 pints, 819 Cedar Street, (808) 591-1133, lagelateriahawaii.com, lg2go.menuAnd the lagelateriahawaii
Eager for a swirl of frozen dessert without the guilt that might come with ice cream or gelato, we happily head to Banán, which turns locally grown bananas into soft vegan. We still love the original banana flavor, topped with the company’s proprietary Honey Mac Nut Butter, some local fruit or maybe some chocolate. But we appreciate the latest Riss Moore, infused with acai, a nod to humble surfer and Olympic-inspired Karissa Moore. Sure, she’s married to one of Banán’s founders, but we’d name something after her if it was our company, too. Various flavors are served in cups, bowls, acai bowls, and even a pineapple boat.
$7 cup, multiple locations, banan.coAnd the Tweet embed
SEE ALSO: Shave Ice Shades: The sparkle of local fruit at the new Shave Ice Shop in Waikīkī
We think of Via Gelato as a goldilocks for dessert spots because even after a lovely meal nearby in Kaimūki or Kapahulu, we somehow manage to find a spot for something of 12th Avenue business. The combination of flavors appeals to the mix of tastes in our friend group: indulgent, vegan, acidic or experimental. Fun new flavors include Butterbeer, Hurricane Popcorn, Vegan Corn Gelato, and July’s Special Mango Float. Nor can Sorbato Via be ignored. We recently tried the vegan guava sorbetto topped with Lee Hing Moi ($1.50 more and it’s worth it) at the suggestion of our helpful server. The blend provided the perfect curl ratio to fruity sweetness ratio. Via’s adventurous spirit that we make any flavor keep us coming back, as do our email newsletters complete with updates on Mina’s Bird Neighbors. One day, we’ll come home with some gelato sandwiches that tempt us. But yet we can never resist scoops of the latest concoctions plus our old-fashioned gelato favourites, strong chocolate and hoopia.
8- US$8.50 per pint, 1142 12th Street, (808) 732-2800, viagelatohawaii.com
SEE ALSO: Honolulu Staff Favors: The 12 Best Frozen Desserts for a Hot Boil Day in Oahu