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I just returned from a quick tour of the Heartland (Michigan, to be precise) and I am here to tell you that this lovely state, where one is never more than 6 miles from a glorious body of fresh water, is a really nice place to visit in August. Michiganders are just as nice (and as blond and blue-eyed) as you may have imagined, Lake Michigan is really just like a salt- and shark-free ocean, complete with tides and waves and sand beaches, and there are farm stands everywhere.

One could eat only cherry pie, corn-on-the-cob and tomatoes all month long and be completely happy. And while tart cherry pie may well be the state’s most compelling regional treat, there’s something else that defines summer there: Soft-serve ice cream. Wherever you turn you’ll encounter a stand offering a creamy twirl of frozen deliciousness piled high on a wafer cone. The limited flavor options (generally just vanilla, chocolate or a combo of the two) keep the hemming and hawing to a minimum—if you want to get all fancy, you can get the cone “dipped” in a chocolate shell, which hardens on contact with the cold soft serve, or you can ask to have it rolled in chocolate sprinkles (what we East coasters know as jimmies). It may well be the ideal summer snack.

Despite the fact that San Francisco has many fine ice cream establishments (with another, the soon-to-open Humphry Slocombe, to come) we have a dirth of soft serve. The only place I can think to recommend is Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, which has Straus dairy soft serve in two flavors, vanilla bean and Scharffen Berger chocolate. In keeping with tradition, they will also dip your cone in the chocolate shell—but instead of the waxy original, it’s made with El Rey chocolate. But since this is the Bay Area, not the Heartland, there’s also the option of topping your vanilla soft serve at Picco with Da Vero olive oil and sea salt because, well, when in Rome…

Anyone have another place to recommend?


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