Carmela Artisan Creamery: A Review


For months, my sister has been telling me about an ice cream shop she adores and wants me to try. Seeing as I’m not a huge lover of ice cream (yeah, sorry, so sue me) I didn’t make a concerted effort to get there. Feeling that this particular ice cream shop was “different from others”, she eventually took matters into her own hands and gave me for my birthday a date that included a trip to this particular ice cream shop: Carmela. Today was finally the day that we had planned to go.

As we were driving the 25 miles from her house to get there, she continuously talked it up, building my expectations higher and higher. Even after parking, as we walked toward the door she said, “You have no idea what you’re about to experience.” My continued thought was, “You’ve basically guaranteed this ice cream will be a letdown, because you talk about it like I’m going to ascend to heaven as I eat it, and there’s no way it could live up to these expectations.” I tried to be prepared for good, but not mind-blowing. I mean how good could a scoop of ice cream REALLY get?

As we breezed through the door and I surveyed the list of flavors artfully written on a chalk board, I immediately grew worried, because I knew I was going to want to try almost every one of them. The good-looking hipster working the shop read our minds and started offering us samples right off the bat. Samples on metal spoons, mind you, because apparently, the “flavors of the ice cream come through more clearly on metal”. After learning that their ice creams contain no dyes (nearly all of them are simply white) and use real herb infusions and seasonal produce straight from farmer’s markets, it was clear that these people were ice cream purists. I began going down the list trying samples, starting with the flavor that looked the most intriguing and was one of the main reasons we came to this shop in the first place – Earl Grey. Being an Earl Grey tea enthusiast, I attempt to try any and all Earl Grey flavored items available to me, and my sister brought me here specifically to try it. Even the half-a-bite on that little spoon was different from ANY ice cream I’d ever tasted in my life. The flavors were subtle and complex; yet the ice cream not overly saccharin. It was a creamy, perfectly sweetened cup of my favorite tea in the world. Perfection.

In the subsequent sample whirlwind, I tasted peaches n’ cream, real mint with cacao nibs, lemon verbena sorbet, lavender honey, and raspberry rose sorbet – each on its own brand new metal tasting spoon, each drastically different from its predecessor, and each astoundingly delicious. Uh-oh… It was happening. I was ascending to ice cream heaven. Since a line was building behind us, I embarked on this trip to flavor town as quickly as I considerately could, while every new bite left me reeling with fresh, herbaceous flavors. I simply don’t recall ever having tasted ice cream so refreshing and creative.

Feeling under the gun due to the line, I quickly decided upon Earl Grey and raspberry rose sorbet. As I spoke my order, Mr. Hipster narrowed his eyes and stared at me for a few seconds, deep in thought. Finally, he relaxed his face and nodded, “Yep. I think those two will be good together. I’m thinking Earl Grey on the bottom, Raspberry rose on the top. Sound good?” I suddenly understood what had just happened. After placing my order, this guy took a second to consider the potential of my chosen combination, moving forward only after agreeing that I’d enjoy those two items together, and then used his expert opinion to help me decide which belonged on the bottom and which belonged on the top. Talk about caring about your product! He artfully packed two scoops into a freshly baked and hand rolled waffle bowl, and handed it to me for a grand total of five dollars. A small price to pay for frozen art.

Poetically, Carmela has no seating whatsoever in their little shop. Only a small bench out front which was occupied at the moment we wished to indulge in our carefully prepared dessert creations. So we opted to sit ourselves down on the curb, overlook the bustling Washington Avenue, and savor every single second. Without a fancy table, our focus was 100% on the treat in our hands.


The raspberry-rose sorbet perfectly married tangy raspberry and essence of rose hips – not in a Crabtree & Evelyn rose lotion way – but in a floral, revitalizing type of way. My sister ordered lavender honey, which was infused with real lavender and was similarly fresh and aromatic. This was not ice cream for the typical Baskin Robbins enthusiast. Every single cup is a masterpiece and should be enjoyed accordingly. As we sat and proceeded to devour every last drop, my sister recounted to me other popular flavors that weren’t on the list today, such as lemon basil olive oil sorbet, Guiness, and Intelligentsia espresso. These people know what in the hell they’re doing, and have apparently decided to be the very best at it. It is hands down the most creative and special ice cream I’ve ever had the pleasure of partaking in. Against all odds, my sister’s constant chatter and praise of this shop was not at all overstated. It was right on the money, and now I have to join in the chorus.
If you live anywhere within driving distance of Pasadena, California, (or various parts of Los Angeles where their other stores are) go find a Carmela and treat yourself to a piece of edible art. My goal is for the line in their tiny, unassuming shop to grow so long, and their demand skyrocket so rapidly, that they are forced to open other stores – hopefully nearer to my hometown in Orange County. I need the phrase “Time for a Carmela run!” to be in my vocabulary soon. Bon Appetit!





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