We're not denying the allure of a refreshingly unhip scoop of vanilla ice cream, or the siren song of a scoop of Bi-Rite's impeccable salted caramel ice cream. But there are times when it's hot out, and you don't want ice cream. Enter an arresting coconut shaved ice "sundae" from Namu Gaji—topped with pinenut crunch, caramel drizzle and coconut brittle, no less. Here are the hottest new cold desserts in town. Sorry, plain old ice cream, you didn't make the cut.
1) Namu Gaji: Chef owner Dennis Lee is stoked on his new hand cranked, vintage style shaved ice maker. With it, he and MaryKate McGoldrick are coming up with some staggering "composed" selections for the evening dessert menu, including the coconut concoction mentioned above. During the day, DIY takes hold: customers can choose from flavors like strawberry, kumquat, coconut, Four Barrel coffee and chocolate, topped with everything from caramel and condensed milk to ginger cookie crunch and candied peanuts. $5 for a small and $7 for a large from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily.
2) Chile Pies: Both Castro and Nopa locations are launching ice cream pies tomorrow(!). Think "the grasshopper" with mint chip ice cream and chocolate ganache icing nestled into a chocolate cookie crust, or a "banana split," with strawberries, bananas, vanilla ice cream and chocolate ganache in a waffle cone crust. We'll wipe the drool off the computer to screen to add that a mini 5" pie is just $6. We're rather call it a personal pie. Since Chili Pies is also the home of the pie shake, we'll tell you the seasonal option: "berry spice," made with mixed berry pie and cardamom ice cream.
3) Smitten: Hayes Valley's reigning made-to-order ice cream queen, Smitten is debuting a root beer float this weekend, made with Boylan's Bottling Co. root beer, vanilla ice cream and housemade sesame brittle. If that's not your thing, try out the new spring sundae made with poached rhubarb, orange clove caramel, toasted almonds and whipped cream.
4) Pop Nation: A totally local operation run by husband-and-wife Anne and Mark McGinty and brother-and-sister Tim and Sarah Stewart, Pop Nation pushes paletas-style push carts all over the Bay Area, vending fruit from local farms and other organic ingredients in handmade popsicle form. Flavors could go anywhere from avocado lime to strawberries n' cream with basil to sea salted Guittard dark chocolate, and all of them are sweetened naturally with coconut palm sugar and the like. Look for the push cart today through Sunday at Castro and Market from noon until 4 p.m., and at Public Bikes on Valencia on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Check Twitter and Facebook for future locations.