Friday, August 24, 2012

Opening Today: Sketch Ice Cream ‘3.0’

By Luke Tsai
Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Three years ago, fans of Berkeley’s Sketch Ice Cream were heartbroken to hear that the shop would be closing, as husband-and-wife owners Eric Shelton and Ruthie Planar-Shelton shut down their retail operation to focus on raising their soon-to-be-born daughter, Audrey.

Now, Audrey’s off to preschool, and the Sheltons decided they were finally ready to turn their attention back to their “first baby”: Sketch reopens today, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. — at a new, larger store at 2080 Fourth Street (down the street from the old location, which now houses Chocolatier Blue).

Shelton explained that this is actually the third iteration of the ice cream shop — Sketch 3.0, if you will. He and his wife, both former San Francisco pastry chefs, first opened Sketch in 2004 and were among the area’s early trailblazers in terms of retail stores that were making small batches of organic ice cream fresh daily, with flavors that changed with the seasons.

Then in 2007, feeling that the texture of their product was changing too much during the day, the Sheltons started serving their ice cream out of soft-serve machines (which also necessitated scaling back the number of flavors they offered each day from fourteen to six). They also rolled out a line of house-made toppings — things like cocoa nibs and candied almonds. And they started making a Belgian waffle that folks on Chowhound went crazy for.

Burnt caramel soft-serve ice cream at Sketch.
  • Burnt caramel soft-serve ice cream at Sketch.

For Sketch 3.0, the larger location offers a little bit more seating, though it’s still not going to feel like a big cafe. While the new shop is further away from Fourth Street’s heaviest foot traffic, it’s close to a number of architectural and design firms, so Shelton said the shop will focus on offering coffee and baked goods in the mornings, as well as some grab-and-go savory items.

Of particular note are their Filipino-style empanadas (Planar-Shelton is Filipino), which have a firmer, flakier dough than some of the Latin-American versions — Sketch will offer one with a traditional Filipino filling of chicken, potatoes, and currants; an al pastor version with pork and caramelized pineapple; and a vegetarian version with wild mushrooms.

Shelton said they’ll also continue selling a variety of sauces, toffees, cakes, and other baked goods online — a part of the business they launched after they closed their original retail store in 2009.

For those of you who, like me, never had a chance to try the ice cream at the last iteration of Sketch, a quick primer: As noted, it’s soft-serve ice cream, with a base that’s made from scratch using organic Straus milk. Almost every other artisan ice cream or gelato shop in the Bay Area uses a pre-made Straus ice cream base — in the East Bay, Lush Gelato and Scream Sorbet (with its non-dairy product) are two notable exceptions.

Because Sketch’s product is made from milk (not cream), and because it contains no egg yolks, the ice cream is very light even compared to other soft-serves — Shelton describes the texture as “velvety smooth” and “elasticky.” The flavors are meant to be bright and clean, like a sketch: “the purest form of any idea.”

It’s because Sketch’s ice cream is so different that Shelton feels confident the shop will be able to stand out from the crowd — even as the competition in the local frozen confection market has gotten markedly stiffer even in the past three years.

The Sketch Ice Cream family
  • The Sketch Ice Cream family

As for the youngest member of the Sketch family, Audrey loves ice cream — her favorite flavors are burnt caramel and vanilla bean. But Shelton said the almost-three-year-old is still wrapping her head around the fact that she’ll now be running around her very own ice cream shop. “Oh stop it. You’re being silly,” she’d say, when her parents would try to tell her.

But today, Sketch Ice Cream becomes a reality once more.

“It’ll be a pure delight for her,” Shelton said.

Note: The hours mentioned above are for today’s grand opening event only. According to Shelton, the tentative regular hours will be Mon.-Fri., 7:45 a.m to 3:45 p.m., and either 11-7 or 12-8 on Saturdays. Sketch will be closed on Sundays.

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