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This post appears in the Personal Touches in the Kitchen challenge.

My very first post, 4 1/2 years ago, nearly to the day, was about Carmela Artisan Ice Cream in Altadena, California. They were a brand new shop, and I, a blogger with exactly one post under my belt. This post is about a local company in my hometown, but the message is the same no matter where you live. There are craftsmen in all of our towns, who place personal service and attention to quality above all else. I hope you will seek them out in your town as well. I was compensated by Epicurious, to write this article about a local purveyor, but as you can tell, the high regard I have for this company, and my opinions are my own.


Pomegranate sherbet, one of Carmela’s many seasonal ice cream flavors.

Don’t visit Carmela Artisan Creamy in Northeast Pasadena, in November in search of two of their most popular flavors, strawberry buttermilk or cucumber sorbet. That’s because Jessica Mortarotti and her partner, Zachary Cox, only use the finest quality, seasonal and locally sourced produce, herbs, and flowers to make their small-batch ice cream and sorbets. And well, strawberries and cucumbers just aren’t in season.


Zachary Cox and Jessica Mortarotti, owners of Carmela Artisan Creamery, Altadena, California.

You will, however, find candied pecan, pomegranate sherbet, salted caramel, and cardamom, to name a few of their luscious autumn flavors. With the exception of vanilla and chocolate, which they import, all the other ingredients are from local farmers with whom they’ve built a relationship over the last eight years. Jessica is passionate about her ice cream, and strives to obtain only the highest quality ingredients. In the spring, Jessica will taste her favorite vendors’ strawberries, waiting until they are just perfectly ripe. For while the strawberries might look beautiful, they may have not reached their peak flavor, and therefore are not quite Carmela material, yet.


Founded in 2007, Jessica and Zachary had a vision for Carmela to be an ice cream shop like no other, a high-quality, small batch artisanal ice cream shop with unusual flavors. Having never made ice cream before, Jessica attended a two-week ice cream course at U Penn, where she learned the science behind ice cream making, but received very little hands on experience. It was only back at home in her kitchen, where she really began creating her signature flavors, and taught herself the basics of ice cream making.


Carmela’s makes their own waffle cones in house.

The farmer’s market is the source of much of her inspiration and flavor combinations, like honey lavender, or rose petal. When a vendor asked her to come up with a sorbet using his cucumbers, Jessica created one of their most popular summer flavors, cucumber sorbet. While they strive to use organic ingredients as much as possible, (all of their dairy is local and organic) often times their locally sourced ingredients are “above organic, meaning that they go above and beyond the government recommendations, but are just missing the official (and costly) organic label. Their commitment to quality isn’t just limited to their ice cream, it is part of the Carmela philosophy. Jessica says she focuses on three things: quality of her ingredients, a great experience, and fun. Go to Carmela anytime day or night, year-round, and you might find a line, 20 deep, winding out the tiny store and out onto the pavement. Don’t be in a hurry when you come either, because part of the experience is the excellent customer service.


This was taken in 2011, when Carmela’s had just opened, it was my then 10 year old daughter, Sophie, (right) who told me that I “HAD to try Carmela”.

No matter how busy the store is, we never feel rushed. In fact, Carmela allows, no encourages, customers to sample as many flavors as they like. I never would have discovered my personal favorite, Guinness, had I not been able to sample it first! There’s definitely a party atmosphere outside as patrons mingle, and share tips in the queue, about which flavors to try. Jessica believes that even if a customer doesn’t actually purchase that visit, they’ll remember the experience and flavors, and will possibly tell their friends, or come back later. It’s that kind of attention to detail, quality of ingredients, and respect for both customers and suppliers, that makes Carmela Artisan Creamery one of the top rated ice shops in Southern California.


Jessica and Zachary serving up quality ice cream, one scoop at a time.


Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’ s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.

Read the original on: what a girl eats

what a girl eats, Cynthia Woodman

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Classical trained chef, world traveler, dishing up healthy food with a global spin.