Suddenly this summer, it has become possible to gain 3.2 pounds walking from Pine and 10th to Pike and 14th (3.4 pounds if you walk the same route downhill) if you're hitting the neighborhood's three new ice cream places on the way. Not only are Capitol HIll's ice cream shops fighting one another for the hearts of Seattlites, they're drafting local coffee roasters to serve as their seconds.
Molly Moon's ice cream, made with Vivace's standard espresso roast, contains big flecks of coffee, giving the cream a noticeable crunch, a hint of java bitterness in the finish, and a pointedly toasty, stick-your-nose-underneath-the-burr-grinder flavor. It doesn't taste like coffee ice cream. It tastes like espresso milk.
Bluebird grinds Stumptown coffee (I'll identify the coffee as soon as I hear back from them) finer than Molly Moon's does, and steeps it longer in the custard before churning. Its scoop, walnut-hued compared to the cookies-and-cream appearance of its competitor, hits you with the same just-brewed aroma when you put spoon to mouth. But then, it segues into a more mellow, caramelly, classic coffee flavor. Not only is the flavor richer, but the ice cream has a richer mouthfeel, too, creamier, thicker, with smaller-grained ice crystals. Bluebird's still tinkering with its formulas, the counter guy has told me, and I've noticed some variation in the other flavors I've tasted a couple times in a row, so I don't know yet if the ice cream is going to be as consistently good.
But for this week, Bluebird and Stumptown win, hands down.