Get Your Ass to Berkeley for: Frozen Custard at Addie's Pizza Pie
A new series that urges SFoodie readers to get their butts out of the Mission. For a couple hours anyway.
John Birdsall Scoop of vanilla frozen custard ($3) at Addie's Pizza Pie in South Berkeley: The Bay Area's best frozen dessert?
Humphry's got the camp, Bi-Rite's got the lines, but Addie's Pizza Pie has what might be the best ice cream in the Bay Area. Okay so it's not ice cream, technically, but frozen custard, made in small batches and churned in a special machine that could set you back $40,000 if you bought one new.
If you've been exiled from upstate New York or certain swaths of the Midwest, you probably ache for frozen custard. It's smoother and tastes richer than ice cream, with a mid-fat, heavily-yolked base, frozen to minimize ice crystals. San Francisco baking blogger Irvin Lin, who grew up in St. Louis, says he misses frozen custard, especially from local legend Ted Drewes, a chain of St. Louis stands. "Pretty much EVERYONE knows about Ted Drewes if you are from St. Louis," Lin says. "It's like being a native Californian and not knowing what In-N-Out is. When the pope came to St. Louis, they took him to Ted Drewes. True story."
Though His Holiness may not have realized it at the time, the churning process for frozen custard differs from that for ice cream, which is made in what's known as a batch freezer. Here's how you work a frozen custard machine. "You pour the custard into a holding area," says Addie's co-owner Jennifer Millar, a pastry chef, "and then it goes down through a very small passageway into the barrel of the freezer. And the barrel is quite long ― it's probably 4 ½ feet long and maybe 8 inches wide. The custard comes through the drain area in a very thin stream and the blade of the dasher churns it off the walls of the freezing cylinder." It's frozen in small amounts, essentially, and at a warmer temperature than a batch freezer.
All well and good for ice cream geeks. For the rest of us, all that slow, localized, and relatively warm-temp freezing means only one thing: a texture as fine and silky as cold buttercream, and as lithe as panna cotta.
Unlike regular ice cream, which has to set up ― or cure ― in the freezer before you can scoop it, frozen custard is meant for immediate consumption (Addie's tries to make only as much as it can serve within a 3-hour window). The 10.5-percent butterfat content is halfway between soft serve (5 percent) and super-premium (16 percent), but because of the freezing method (and the fact that you eat it soft, pretty much from the machine) frozen custard registers as super-premium density on the tongue. Millar uses Clover milk and half-and-half and Straus cream, with its markedly grassy taste.
Cindy J./Yelp Addie's Pizza Pie opened in September 2010 in what was originally a bank.
The idea is to offer three or four flavors a day, says Millar, though frankly, business hasn't been that brisk to support much choice (best bet to find three flavors is on Thu. or Fri.). The kitchen's done tangerine, gianduja, coffee, chocolate ― SFoodie first tasted the frozen custard here in December (peppermint, with candy cane-pink smears through it). On a Friday earlier this month vanilla was the only flavor, but it was lovely vanilla. Just lovely.
As for Addie's pizza ― well, you sort of like it or you don't. Millar and business partner Tom Schnetz (Flora, Doña Tomás) are making the kind of unselfconscious East Coast pie cut into slices you can fold and stuff in your mouth. "We're not trying to do Pizzaiolo," Millar says. The frozen custard, however, might be good enough for a pope.
Addie's Pizza Pie: 3290 Adeline (at Alcatraz), 510-547-1100. BART stop: Ashby. Walking distance: Four blocks, south along Adeline.