I am on a mission to find the best ice cream in Israel and it is a task that I do not take lightly, at least not around my waist. I have a confession to make: I am an ice cream snob and am not embarrassed to admit it.
Ice cream is in my blood. My earliest memory is eating peppermint ice cream at the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant on our way to the annual family vacation in Miami, Clearwater or Daytona Beach, Florida. Howard Johnson’s ice creams were the best and when I got older I graduated to eating their pistachio ice cream which was considered an exotic treat. In 1980, my father and my uncle opened a ice cream and game room shop, called the Cream Machine, in the neighboring university town where I grew up. I worked there on weekends making black pepper brownies for our hot fudge sundae brownies and selling ice cream. Our gimmick was our ice cream sundae bar. You could put as many toppings on as you like and you paid by the weight.
After living in a Swiss town on the Italian border and travelling around Europe, I can say that I have tasted some of the best gelato in Italy and France. I also like to experiment making ice cream and sorbets at home. So, when I moved to Israel over 10 years ago, I had to make sure I was moving to a country with some form of ice cream culture and I was happy to find out that there was one. There wasn’t as much experimentation in some of the older shops as there is now, but by 2007, the boutique ice cream shops started appearing. Now, I am happy to say, Israel can compete with the big boys and I am going to show you the best-of-the-best in this series.
Since Iceberg first opened in Tel Aviv, its shops have become known for some of the best boutique ice cream in the country. They have a variety of water-based and cream-based ice creams to choose from and are happy for you to try-before-you-buy. I went to the newly opened Iceberg and Vulcano Cafe in Hod Hasharon. This is a new concept cafe that has the ice cream shop on one side and a pizza and pinchos restaurant on the other.
Iceberg, which has been open since 1999, markets itself as “100% Low Tech Ice Cream”. It is a clever statement that really means they make all natural ice creams. According to Haaretz, whose restaurant reviews and articles on food and cooking have contributed considerably to the development of a more sophisticated food culture in Israel, “when Dalit and Ilan Bar decided to go into the ice cream business, they took it very seriously. The journey in search of the perfect ice cream included Italy, France and the United States. They took from here, they took from there, they adapted the percentages of fat, the flavor and the texture to the Israeli climate and character.”
What I like about Iceberg is that they are not afraid to experiment and even take ideas from others, such as their new chefs’ series. They also have Israeli-, Middle Eastern-, and Jewish-fusion flavors on offer. Along with their interesting home-grown offerings such as halva & pistachio, guava-mint, apricot-amaretto & almonds and lychee-ginger-pecan, they went to some of Israel’s well known chefs and asked them to come up with interesting flavor combinations:
Vanilla Ice Cream with Lavender and Lavender Honey – Israel Aharoni (chef, restaurant owner, TV personality, food writer, cookbook author, eyebrow style model, and part-time DJ)
Poppy Seed Yeast Cake with Crème Pâtissière Ice Cream – Aviv Moshe (chef of Messa Chef Restaurant)
Mascarpone Ice Cream with Caramelised Pistachios, Baharat and Rosewater – Ronen Skinzes (chef of Manta Ray)
Black Coffee with Cardamom and Date Honey – Chaim Cohen (chef, TV personality, owner of Dixie Grill Bar and consultant)
Cream Ice Cream with Forest Fruits, Nougatine and Meringue – Ayal Lavi (chef of Rokach 73)
My favorite of the chef ice creams were Israel Aharoni’s, Ronen Skinzes’ and Chaim Cohen’s. Iceberg will not disappoint you. Make sure you try their sorbets; the lychee-ginger-pecan is delicious.
Several locations in Tel Aviv: Ben Yehuda 108, Rothschild 31 and Ibn Gvirol 24
Iceberg Vulcano Cafe: Tel Aviv Port, Rishon Letzion, Ramat Hasharon and Hod Hasharon
Doro, who markets itself as “Chef’s Ice Cream”, is the creation of pastry chef Doron Fishel and his business partner Oshri Azulay, who manages the shop. Doron studied the pastry arts and learned his craft in France, was pastry chef at Chloelys, custom-made ice cream for Herbert Samuel restaurant, and was also a manager of Arlekino (it should be spelled Arlecchino (harlequin), but Israelis are famous for mangling foreign names and words) ice cream shop before opening Doro.
Doro was recommended to me by one of my blog fans, and now I have to thank her and hate her at the same time for introducing me to some of the best ice cream I have tasted so far in Israel. Run, do not walk to Doro and try EVERYTHING!! The owner/manager, Oshri Azulay, is passionate about what he sells. So much so, he let me taste a few flavors that were not on offer that day. What I really like about Doro is that they are not afraid to experiment, they use fresh, all natural ingredients, and they do not skimp on anything.
They make water-based and cream-based ice creams and rotate their flavors on a daily basis. So, you have to visit there more than once to really get a feel for all they have to offer. One of his regulars, who stops by three times a week, passed through while we were there.
Some of the most interesting flavors we tried were:
- Black sesame
- Apples in cream with kadayif
- Brazilian coffee with coffee beans and coconut
- Pears in Merlot
- Pear sorbet with arak and mint
- Finchi — vanilla ice cream with salted chocolate
I think their passionfruit sorbet is some of the best I have ever had. Frankly, everything I tried was delicious.
Doron and Oshri had the bad luck to open Doro a short while before a big building project (to build a large underground car park, much needed in Tel Aviv) started almost touching distance from their front door, and as a result you have to walk down a narrow and crowded pavement, with a big corrugated wall blocking off one side of it, to get there. The result, Oshri told me, was that business dropped drastically. Even so, he said, people are coming specially from towns outside Tel Aviv because the place’s reputation has spread so rapidly. They are also thinking about opening additional branches, but insist on having a limited number of branches under their own management rather than more branches under franchise in order to ensure that their quality isn’t compromised.
Doro – Chef’s Ice Cream
Rothschild Boulevard 8