Back in the day, an ice cream sandwich was a straightforward, even boring summer dessert. Two rectangular slabs of ersatz chocolate cookie encasing another slab of Neopolitan ice cream. Or perhaps just vanilla. It was okay, but it was no Sidewalk Sundae--my favorite Good Humor truck ice cream bar when I was a kid. (Yes, back in the day, ice cream came to you--with a song.)
Well, today ice cream sandwiches are the elevated stuff of food blogs, BuzzFeed videos, and food TV shows. And pretty much anything goes. One of my recent favorites was a Korean ice cream sandwich I found in the now departed First Korean Market on Convoy, where Dumpling Inn now does business. This was a fish-shaped crispy pastry enveloping red bean ice cream. I'm hoping to find that again somewhere else.
In San Diego, ice cream sandwiches have actually become a destination food. A few years ago two young guys, Rob Robbins and Shane Stanger came up with the idea of opening an ice cream sandwich shop, which they named The Baked Bear. Their first shop launched in May 2013 in Pacific Beach. They've since opened three more locations in town in La Costa, Petco Park, and at the end of June, in Carmel Valley. A fifth location in Carmel Mountain will come next.
I stopped by the PB shop a couple of weeks ago to get a fix. The idea is to customize your own sandwiches with the variety of house-made cookies--from chocolate chip and snickerdoodles to Red Velvet and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut--and a dozen ice cream flavors and then toppings like nuts, sprinkles, chips, fudge, mini M&Ms or (God help me) Fruity Pebbles.
Or (lots of "ors" here) you can make a brownie sandwich or a donut sandwich or a combo brownie/cookie sandwich. No, the donuts are not made by The Baked Bear. Nor is the ice cream.
You can also get a "Bear Bowl," which is a warm chocolate chip cookie bowl topped with ice cream.
You want to "heat" your ice cream sandwich? They use a press to warm it up. This is particularly wonderful with the donut version below. Then get it slathered in caramel sauce.
And, for the not-so-adventurous, you can simply get ice cream in a cup or cone--or get a root beer float. Or just buy some cookies.
Got kids? This is where you want to head over the summer. And you won't be the only one. The line at the PB shop often winds out the door and down the street. But it's worth it.
The Baked Bear is located at 4516 Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach, at 100 Park Blvd. in Petco Park, at 7610 Via Campanile in La Costa, and 5950 Village Center Loop Road in Carmel Valley. The next opening in Carmel Mountain will be at 11640 Carmel Mountain Road.