Ken Harrison 11:30 a.m., Dec. 26
Cow-A-Bunga Ice Cream
It's actually harder than one might think to find sincere, small-batch ice cream. Even good shops often buy theirs from elsewhere. The primary reason being that ice cream is difficult and time-consuming to make. I've made plenty and getting the overrun (the amount of air in the final product) right is a pain in the neck--never mind getting the flavor on point!
But Cow-A-Bunga in Imperial Beach serves up scoops and sundaes of locally made, gourmet ice cream.
A little while back I heard from a friend that the guy who opened up Cow-A-Bunga had been successful in the San Diego restaurant industry but that he'd basically thrown up his hands in disgust and opened up a really good ice cream shop instead of dealing with the full-time hustle and bustle of restaurant ownership. Considering how many restaurants have put me in similar straits, I can't say that I blame him!
The ice cream is actually priced reasonably, too. Scoops start at $2 and sundaes and banana splits are in the $4-$6 range. That's not too bad at all, considering the quality of the ice cream. It's velvety smooth and richly flavored. It even has the chewy texture of a really good sorbet or gelato that contains a lot of invert sugar (i.e. sugar that's been cooked in a way that splits the sucrose molecule), which prevents water from forming ice crystals. In short: this is some seriously good ice cream.
And the espressi aren't half bad, either. Shots start at $1.35 and there's even an option to get the coffee served over ice cream.
Cow-A-Bunga is interesting because it maintains a low-key, almost goofy beach atmosphere and still manages to turn out a high quality product. In a lot of ways, it's much like a hip gelato shop, but it couldn't be more different in appearance. For example, it's wholly un-Euro to have stuffed cows and signed surfboards on the walls, but Cow-A-Bunga pulls it off. Probably because the ice cream is so damn good!
10 Evergreen Ave