July 15, 2007

Icepan [Santa Ana]

Icepan follows in the wake of gimmicky frozen treats for summer with its takeover of the old Golden Spoon on Bristol. The concept is simple: custom-made ice cream, frozen, and mixed without preservatives right before you eyes.

Okay. So I guess it's not that simple.

My mom tried to entice me with the above description, which I thought sounded pretty similar to Cold Stone's. When she said that no it wasn't, I was left no choice to visit and capture my own frame of reference.

An order at Icepan happens in four steps:

1. Pick your size. 7 ounces at $4.75 or 9 ounces at $5.75
2. Choose your flavor: Vanilla, chocolate, green tea, yogurt, strawberry, banana, mango, or kiwi
3. Figure out how creamy you want your frozen treat: soy milk, nonfat milk, low-fat milk, whole milk
4. Decide on mix-ins: various fresh fruits and dry toppings, which you can have stirred in or on the side

The servers then perform their magic and proceed to create your made-to-order ice cream by concocting a milk-based juice and setting aside your toppings. The liquid mixture is then tossed onto something that looks like a crepe pan and using the motion you often see at Cold Stone's, your ice cream begins to freeze right in front of your eyes! After it starts to solidify, toppings are chopped up and mixed in. The drawback to getting exactly what you want is the 5-minute wait it takes to get your order ready for eating.

Pictured is the owner (whose name I didn't catch), who was very interested in our photo taking and who took a minute to explain the concept to us. The entire operation is meant to be very natural without chemicals, preservatives, or added sugars. Because the ice cream's are custom, this means that diabet, lactose-intolerant, or others with dietary restrictions can still have their ice cream and eat it too. If you bring in your own fruit or Lactaid milk, they'll mix those in for you as well.

Though I don't tend to like banana ice cream, our sample of whole-milk banana was probably the best flavor we tried all day. We also had nonfat strawberry with kiwi, banana, and granola, as well as the soy yogurt with kiwi, strawberries, and mango.

The ice creams themselves were less sweet than normal, but almost to the point of blandness. Dont get me wrong. I'm a proponent of whole foods just as much as the next tree hugger you'll find poring over ingredient lists. It's just that when you rely on nature to provide flavor, you better be damn sure that nature is ripe and at the height of picking. And as original as the concept is, you're still looking at a franchise that is receiving its ingredients from headquarters. A little agave nectar or honey might have compensated for the lack of flavor.

I'd suggest ordering the toppings on the side, since they freeze on the pan when mixed in--it kinda defeats the purpose of having fresh fruit. Across the board, the ice creams have a slightly smoother texture, since there isn't any air being whipped into them.

Our bill came out to $14 for two smalls with three toppings each, which is pretty steep for ice cream. We did, however, manage to nab ourselves a "magic" calculator, a grand-opening gift courtesy of Icepan.

3930 S Bristol St
Santa Ana, CA, 92704
(714) 662-3800

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