Tin Pot Creamery, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Campbell, and San Mateo
Does ice cream qualify as takeout?
Oh, heck yes!
Especially when it’s from Tin Pot Creamery.
Founder Becky Sunseri has been obsessed with ice cream since she was a kid, when she’d even hunker down with a bowl of it in winter while sitting atop the heater in her family’s home in Illinois. At 15, she playfully wrote her first ice cream menu, too.
A former pastry cook at Facebook, Sunseri makes a point to use the best local ingredients in her ice creams and sorbets in creative yet highly accessible flavors.
Walk up to the window to order a cone or cup or pint to take home. Or order online ahead of time, then go to the “pick-up” window for speedier service.
I packed a cooler in the car to tote home four different pints ($13 each): Blue Jasmine Tea, Blackberry Jamble, Cookie Monster, and Salted Butterscotch.
They are all velvety creamy and made with a sure-hand so that they’re never overly sweet in order to let the star ingredients shine. Blue Jasmine is indeed strikingly blue colored, getting its natural hue from butterfly pea flowers. Infused with both jasmine and green teas, this ice cream is gently floral tasting with plenty of Asian tea flavor. In fact, if your mouth is aflame from an especially spicy dinner, this flavor will really hit the spot.
Blackberry Jamble is swirled with blackberries, and chunks of blackberry jam shortbread that’s made in-house. The cookie pieces add crunch and a dose of butteriness. The blackberry is so wonderfully summery tasting that I just wish there was a smidge more folded into the ice cream.
Tin Pot also makes its own egg-less cookie dough and chocolate cookie crumbles that get stirred into vanilla ice cream for the Cookie Monster. It’s the best of both worlds, with a purity of vanilla base accented by little bits of chocolate here and there.
Salted Butterscotch, not surprisingly, was the sweetest of the four with a deep butterscotch candy taste and a touch of salt to even it all out. It’s like concentrated butterscotch pudding in ice cream form.
Pro Tip: Those cute little eyes that give life to those scoops of ice cream shown on Tin Pot’s website? You can adorn your own scoops at home the same way (like I did in the topmost photo), by purchasing a sheet of candy eyes ($5). Tin Pot also sells jars of all-natural sprinkles ($12), handmade toffee ($12), chocolate chunk cookie dough ($19), and waffle cone packs ($9) to create your own ice cream sandwiches or sundaes at home.
Howie’s Artisan Pizza, Palo Alto
Howie’s Artisan Pizza has been a favorite of mine since it opened way back in 2008 in the Palo Alto Town & Country Village. Owner Howard Bulka is a veteran fine-dining chef who turned his deep attention to detail to pie-making, fastidiously crafting a dough that takes two days to mix and proof, that then gets baked in a 600-degree gas-fired brick oven.
The result is a crust with loads of developed flavor, that’s airy in some parts, chewy in others, and crisp at the edges.
My husband’s pick is always the Prosciutto and Arugula ($27.50), a classic with a base of milky-sweet Fior di Latte mozzarella and Parmesan. After pulled from the oven, the pizza gets draped with La Quercia prosciutto and baby arugula leaves, and gets a squirt of fresh lemon juice.
My go-to lately has been the Mexicali Rose ($24.75), a lip-tingling pie with thin slices of red Fresno chilies and dollops of chipotle crema all over the top. It’s inventively accented with smoked mozzarella, cotija, pieces of chicken, red onions, sweet red peppers, and cilantro. It’s quesadilla meets pizza.
If you need a little something to whet the appetite before the pizza, the Garlicky Prawns ($14.95) or the Spicy Meatballs ($13.95) will do the trick. Both get napped in tomato sauce with hot chilies. And both come with small pieces of buttery garlic bread to handily dunk into the sauce.
Wings ($9.25) are done in the oven here, not a deep-fryer. Glazed in a spicy buffalo sauce, they are very tender and have a good amount of heat, so you’ll be reaching for the house-made blue cheese dressing, for sure.
The Brutus Salad ($11) is a taste of autumn with slices of crisp red apple tumbled into crunchy romaine hearts showered with candied pecans. A tangy-sweet Dijon vinaigrette comes packaged separately. The salad was described as having Farmhouse cheddar in it, but mine just had a shower of Parmesan, which worked fine.
The Chopped Salad ($15) is practically a meal in itself. It overflows with cubes of salami, Swiss cheese, cucumber, chopped egg, peppers, green onion, and romaine, and comes with a rich ranch dressing.
Pro Tip: Howie’s is now selling to-go packages of biscotti, brownies, and gingerbread ($7.50 each), all baked by Bulka, himself. Additionally, Howie’s now often offers a special of a sausage and cheese calzone. Neither the desserts or the calzone are listed on the menu online, so either add the desserts separately when you pick up your order or call Howie’s directly to place your full order. Lastly, after picking up your pizza, make your takeout outing a twofer by strolling a short ways through Town & Country Village to Tin Pot Creamery for ice cream to take home.
Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
It used to be that you had to get there super early or time it just right to get your hands on exactly what you want at ever popular Tartine Bakery.
But now, with an expanded online ordering system, it’s far easier. Although Tartine has four locations now in San Francisco (if you count the one at SFO), the original Guerrero St. location is the one that offers the widest range of pastries and breads.
Order online at least a day or two ahead for pickup. That’s because, depending upon when you go onto the online menu, an item you covet may be marked “not available.” That may mean it’s just already sold out for that particular day. But since the bakery replenishes every day, just check back after 5 p.m. again when everything on the full menu is generally restocked for the next day.
No doubt, you’ll see a line out the door of the Mission District bakery when you actually go pick up your order. It is Tartine, after all — COVID time or no COVID time. But don’t fret. Because you already ordered and paid online, you can go to the other, shorter line for pickups instead.
I snagged a classic Levain loaf ($11.25). It’s huge with an imposing, burnished crust and tender, tangy crumb.
But what I was really there for was the banana cream tart. So many friends had long raved about how incredible this version of the old-time favorite was. Whenever I managed to make it to the bakery, though, it had already been sold out. This time, it was a cinch to reserve a 4-inch tart ($9) ahead of time. Just bring a cooler with you to transport it home if you live outside of San Francisco.
How good is this tart? In a word: magnificent. When you take your knife to it, you will hear a klunk as the blade cuts cleanly through the exceptionally crisp crust.
The crust is coated with a thin layer of dark chocolate, which helps it from getting soggy. That’s then topped with a layer of caramel sauce, which melds with the pastry cream filling to give it exponentially more interest and flavor. There are plenty of chunks of fresh banana in the middle. The crowning touch is a big cloud of whipped cream all over the top that’s adorned with shavings of dark chocolate.
It’s buttery pastry, plenty of chocolate, sweet caramel, bananas and whipped cream — all together in one dreamy bite.
My husband and I could have polished off the entire little pie in one night. But he made me cut it into teeny-sized fourths to save half the pie for the next night. (He obviously has more willpower than I do.) With the thoughtfulness put into this crust, the pie held up perfectly well into the next night, too.
Pro Tip: Even if there’s only two of you, consider supersizing to the 9-inch banana cream tart ($56) or at the very least, get two of the 4-inch ones. It’s just so good! Don’t be surprised if you practically shed a tear after the last bite.