New Santa Cruz ice cream shop The Penny Ice Creamery from former Manresa pastry chef & UC Santa Cruz alum

Delectable, organic ice cream sundae at The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz

Former Manresa pastry chef Kendra Baker has opened a new downtown Santa Cruz ice cream shop at 913 Cedar Street, The Penny Ice Creamery. The doors opened yesterday, Tuesday, August 24, 2010, at noon. Warning: continued reading might result in stomach growling…

Baker, a UC Santa Cruz alum and California native, and co-owner Zachary Davis say that The Penny Ice Creamery is the only artisanal ice cream shop in Santa Cruz making ice cream and sorbet completely from scratch in-house. “Being licensed by the California Food and Agriculture Department to pasteurize gives us a tremendous amount of freedom to craft our ice cream from scratch,” says owner/chef Baker.  And with an open kitchen and production room, you can see it all for yourself!

There will be nine rotating flavors each day featuring local, seasonal, and organic ingredients including wild fruits, flowers and herbs – plus organic dairy, eggs, and sugar. Davis and Baker both became parents in the last six months. “When we choose to use all organic cream, cane sugar, and eggs in our ice cream, we’re thinking about what’s best for our children,” Davis says. Then laughing he adds, “We’re also thinking about what’s best for our taste buds!”

The current flavor list:

1. Tahitian vanilla

2. Dark chocolate sorbet

3. Fresh mint and cocoa nib

4. Coffee toffee

5. Blackberry corn, made with corn grown at Baker’s three-acre farm

6. Caramel

7. Bourbon bacon chocolate

8. Brown butter-spiced pecan with chili spice

9. Raspberry rose sorbet

I can’t wait to try all of these amazing-sounding flavors, especially in treats made with local ingredients. I didn’t make it there yesterday, but I know two people who did, and they enjoyed a refreshing mint-cucumber soda float with melon sorbet and a decadent sundae with caramel ice cream, strawberries, almonds, and puff profiteroles. Other notes of interest: The coffee toffee ice cream includes Santa Cruz’s own Verve Coffee (site of a recent Slow Food Santa Cruz event – read details). Verve will also be used in “affogatos” and other coffee-related items, and Verve coffee drinks will be available for purchase in the future at Penny. Affogato, which means “drowned” in Italian, is a dessert that often consists of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with espresso.

Other local purveyors that Penny Creamery is using include Rebecca King at Garden Variety Cheese, Dirty Girl Farms, Tomatero Farms, Frog Hollow, Arthur’s Figs, and Route One Farms. Current and future rotating menu items include popsicles, bon bons, ice cream sandwiches, and toasted cinnamon meringues. All Penny Creamery paper products are 100% recycled and biocompostable, and the business is a member of Think Local First and Slow Food.

Baker’s first professional cooking gig was at Santa Cruz’s Gabriella Café, and she says “I’m excited to be back in Santa Cruz focusing on something I’m really passionate about.” Baker has top credentials including a degree from Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts in Rhode Island. As the opening pastry chef, she helped launch renowned San Francisco restaurant Bar Tartine, where she received acclaim from critics like esteemed San Francisco Chronicle writer Michael Bauer. She then worked with fellow Santa Cruzan David Kinch as executive pastry chef at Kinch’s two-Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos. Read my interview with David Kinch.  Baker has also worked with other world-famous chefs like Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma (a distinction shared by another Manresa alum now at the helm of his own kitchen in Santa Cruz, Cellar Door chef Charlie Parker). Unfamiliar with Redzepi? He’s a giant in the international food world; he’s visiting San Francisco’s Omnivore Books in October and the coinciding event – moved from the bookstore to a larger location due to demand – is already sold out. Noma was named the world’s best restaurant earlier this year.

Curious about the ice cream shop’s name? The owners were inspired by a story that in 1847 in London, Carlo Gatti was the first person to sell “penny ice” on the streets, making ice cream available to the everyday person whereas it was previously a luxury. Gatti did not use any preservatives or artificial flavors, a tradition that Penny Ice Creamery continues – along with presenting “luxurious” desserts to everyone. I’ll see you at Penny! If you’re on Twitter, please follow me @santacruzfoodie.

The Details:

The Penny Ice Creamery

913 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz 95060

(831) 204-2523

Hours: Tues-Wed and Sun 12-9pm, Thu-Sat 12-11pm

Credit cards accepted: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa