Cappuccino Crunch with a special crunch: Scharffen Berger cacao nibs. Photo by Roberto Montoya.
KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE™, and an ice cream critic who has been churning her own for 25 years. Her first flavor was Grand Marnier®.
Updated July 2009
Dr. Bob’s HandCrafted Ice Cream
Handcrafted By A Modern Professor For The Classic Palate
CAPSULE REPORT: This California artisanal brand deserves national prominence, especially among chocolate ice cream lovers. Using Scharffen Berger chocolate, Dr. Bob crafts some of the best chocolate ice creams around. The vanilla is pretty terrific, too.
Some professors who teach wine might make wine on the side. Dr. Bob Small, who teaches wine, food and beverage management at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, makes ice cream on the side. In fact, Dr. Bob’s HandCrafted Ice Creams are a cult favorite in The Golden State, and with reason. In a world of fusion and fashion, Dr. Bob’s is delivering on what never goes out of style: all-American goodness.
Founded in 1999, Dr. Bob’s has become a perpetual award-winner at the Los Angeles County Fair, and maintains a permanent dipping shop on the Pomona Fairgrounds in Uplands. In the second year of operations, Dr. Bob’s scooped sixteen flavors; in another four years later the company built a wholesale business comprising sixty flavors of ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt, available in specialty stores and served in fine restaurants.
Dr. Bob himself has been quoted as saying that high butterfat content (16 percent) is his point of differentiation. He cites costly ingredients, like Tahitian vanilla and Scharffen Berger chocolate. Yet most boutique ice creams have high butterfat content and use top ingredients, and some use an egg custard recipe for even greater richness. What distinguishes Dr. Bob’s from other superpremium ice creams we regularly enjoy is his style.
If other superpremiums are rich, lush, sensual, and seductive, Dr. Bob’s is....wholesome. Rather than focus on the nouvelle and the creative, he has chosen to perfect the basics: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee (called cappuccino, which at this point is as all-American as Starbuck’s), pistachio, pecan, black raspberry, etc.
Dr. Bob, the formulator (as opposed to Dr. Bob’s, the brand), might be the Norman Rockwell of twenty-first century ice cream. Understanding that more Americans prefer good old chocolate to Thai Coconut Milk or Keffir Lime, he has paid extra attention to providing chocolate lovers with quality riffs: Dark Chocolate, Really Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, “The Works” (Dark Chocolate with mix-ins); plus with several non-chocolate flavors accented with chocolate chips or cacao nibs.
Given everything going on in the world of superpremium ice cream—the lavenders, lemongrasses and pumpkin brandies, which we do seek out and enjoy—it took a little adjustment as we weaned ourselves away from the from flash and fashion to focus on Dr. Bob’s basics. But once there, we became eager students of Dr. Bob’s, enjoying these selections:
- Tahitian Vanilla. The collection begins with a fine, rich, all-American vanilla, made with vanilla bean (of course), in a style reminiscent of the age before anyone ever thought to use vanilla extract. This vanilla is so refreshing, it makes us understand why vanilla can still be the number one-selling flavor in America, even though we personally know nobody who buys or orders it.
- Scharffen Berger Really Dark Chocolate. We don’t generally choose chocolate ice cream because there are so many more interesting flavors to pursue. Dr. Bob’s has made chocolate interesting again—in fact, this is one of the best chocolate ice creams we have ever tasted. You can almost taste Scharffen Berger’s 82% Cacao Extra Dark chocolate bar melted into it, so solid and chewy is this ice cream. Another way to describe it is fudgy, as if fudge were converted into ice cream. We think that Scharffen Berger’s characteristically fruity chocolate is perfection as an ice cream ingredient. If you’re a chocolate ice cream lover, put this one on your list of must-trys.
- Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolate. This is less intense than Really Dark Chocolate, more like Scharffen Berger’s semisweet 62% cacao; but also deep and masterful. Stop for a moment and notice that you can actually taste the cream apart from the chocolate. A really nifty chocolate dessert is a coupe of one scoop each of Really Dark, Dark, and “The Works” (below); plus a bit of crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream.
- Scharffen Berger “The Works.” “The Works” is Dark Chocolate ice cream with bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chunks and roasted cocoa nibs. For those who want some texture and crunch in their ice cream, this is the one.
As a sidebar, one wonders whether Dr. Bob’s is getting a discount on the Scharffen Berger chocolate (or even a separate advertising fee) for serving as a walking billboard for the chocolatier. If not, they should! Based on the limited geographical distribution of the ice cream, we wager that more people purchase their first Scharffen Berger chocolate bar as a result of eating Dr. Bob’s, than search out Dr. Bob’s ice cream as a result of being Scharffen Berger chocolate buyers. Surely, people would buy these excellent chocolate ice creams if no brand name were mentioned—we don’t need the name of the strawberry farm or the coffee to buy the rest of the line.
- Cappuccino Crunch. A light coffee ice cream laden with crunchy cacao nibs. We are not one of those nib-happy people: We recognize that they are the current fashion ingredient in the world of chocolate. But nibs are savory, not sweet: It’s no different from having crushed coffee beans mixed into your ice cream, which no one has been racing to do over the past 20 years of nouvelle ice cream. Why not? Because you’re left with a mouthful of unsweet hard stuff to chomp on and swallow. We find the nib thing gimmicky, and would rather have had sweet chocolate chips in this otherwise excellent coffee ice cream. (We do, however, think that nibs make an excellent crunch addition to salads.)
- Strawberries, Sour Cream & Brown Sugar. If Dr. Bob’s is the all-American team, this flavor is the saucy cheerleader. A different twist on strawberry, so subtle at first you might not take notice of the brown sugar and sour cream. Then, you become the cheerleader, urging others to make strawberry ice cream this way.
|Scharffen Berger cacao nibs—the heart of the cacao bean that is crushed and manufactured into chocolate itself—are used to add crunch and subtle flavor in several of Dr. Bob’s flavors. Nibs aren’t sweet, however; they’re the equivalent of adding crushed coffee beans with a cacao rather than a coffee flavor.
At $5.49 retail, the cost per pint is similar to some perfectly fine (though not superpremium) quarts. At these prices and with its breadth of operation, it’s time that Dr. Bob’s consider evolving to a more upscale package design. Any designers reading this might consider trading services for weekly shipments of ice cream.
If you live out of Dr. Bob’s retail range (largely California), there is even more of a premium to have the ice cream shipped to you; but if you, like us, pursue the finest ice creams in America and don’t mind the small FedEx bill that comes along with the hobby, Dr. Bob’s is definitely on the tour. For chocolate ice cream lovers, the suite of Scharffen Bergers (Scharffen Berger 6-Pack I) should not be missed.
DR. BOB’S HANDCRAFTED ICE CREAM
Superpremium Ice Cream
- Six-Pint Assortments—Choice
of Six Assortments
(Only three are shown below—see
the website for others)
$65 for California Delivery
$85 Outside California
- Dr. Bob’s Favorites
Scharffen Berger Really Dark
Chocolate Caramel (Dulce de
Scharffen Berger Black Raspberry
Brown Sugar Pecan
- Scharffen Berger 6-Pack I
Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolate
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Chip
Scharffen Berger Chocolate
Scharffen Berger Vanilla with Nibs
Scharffen Berger Black Raspberry
Scharffen Berger Scharffen Berger
“Works” (Dark Chocolate Ice
Cream with Bittersweet &
Semisweet Chocolate Chunks &
Roasted Ground Cocoa Beans)
- Fruit & Nuts 6-Pack
Scharffen Berger Black Raspberry
Brown Sugar Pecan
Strawberries, Sour Cream & Brown
Vanilla Peanut Butter Chunk
It’s summer all year around with Dr. Bob’s ice cream.
Purchase online at Dr.BobsIceCream.com.
Books About Ice Cream
Everybody Loves Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop on America’s Favorite Treat, by Shannon Jackson Arnold, is a travel book, a cookbook, and a pop culture history all in one. Whether you’re looking for a great ice cream stand nearby, a recipe for rocky road, or what makes an ice cream "superpremium," you’ll find it here. Click here to purchase or for more information.
The Banana Split Book: Everything There Is To Know About America’s Favorite Dessert, by Michael Turback. A tribute to the 100-year-old ice cream concoction in this collection of trivia, recipes, quotes and photos. Despite Turback’s lighthearted tone and subject matter, this is actually a well-researched and fact-filled reference. Click here to purchase or for more information.
|A Month of Sundaes, by Michael Turback. A historical book about ice cream, with sundae lore and recipes spread throughout. Follow the history of ice cream in America, from Thomas Jefferson to today’s titans like Ben & Jerry’s. A book for the ice cream obsessed. Click here to purchase or for more information.
Enjoy Ice Cream At Home
|Glass Waffle-Pattern Dish, for sundaes or to serve designer ice cream cones. In Amber, blue & purple, it’s 6-1/2" tall and comes with an extra-long stainless steel ice cream spoon. Click here to purchase or for more information.
| Ice Cream Sandwich Maker. Take your favorite cookies, your favorite ice cream, and create...heaven. Click here to purchase or for more information.
|Cuisinart Supreme Ice Cream Maker ICE 50BC. Unless you want to spring for the Musso 4080 Lussino Dessert Maker at twice the price, this is the best ice cream maker you can buy. Click here to purchase or for more information.