I put myself on assignment for the final full day of my vacation in Southern California last Monday: eat as much ice cream as I could stomach. So I ate ice cream three times at three different places over the span of a day.
That rate of consumption would get me disowned by the employees at my Planet Fitness if they ever found about this, but vacations are made for craziness like this ice cream challenge; carpe diem is Latin for “YOLO.” (The kids still say “YOLO,” right?)
So at 11:15 am — just after finishing a double-double meal at In-N-Out Burger for breakfast — I set out from Burbank on an hour-long drive to Brea in Orange County. My destination: Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, whose famous sundaes I heard about through the KTLA Morning News, which promoted the Brea restaurant’s annual ice cream eating contest.
Farrell’s took me back to the nineteenth century. A general store at the front was stocked with candy, toys, and Farrell’s-branded items available. The wait staff wore straw hats and black and white striped shirts, akin to Dick van Dyke’s garb in the animated/live-action portion of Mary Poppins, while the bar/ice cream staff donned blue and white striped shirts. Most telling, however, is that the menu is designed and printed as a newspaper.
[My date night consisted of me sitting solo in the Farrell's bar. At noon. On a Monday. Romance is not dead.]
I zipped straight to the desserts on the menu, which featured a combined 11 flavors of ice cream and sorbet and 17 different sundaes to choose from. Farrell’s Rocky Road Sundae. Triple Chocolate Brownie Sundae. Black and White Sundae. Gold Rush Sundae. Nutty Nutty Hot Caramel Sundae. The number of choices was overwhelming; in the 10 minutes I spent in First World indecision, the wait staff of three made two birthday sundaes, marched to the birthday tables, sang a personalized birthday song for each celebrant, and delivered those birthday sundaes.
In the spirit of going all in, I selected the Triple Chocolate Brownie Sundae: three scoops of vanilla ice cream served with three Ghirardelli brownies, sandwiched by hot fudge on the bottom and whipped cream and a cherry on top. I stepped away from my seat at the bar for five minutes to walk around; the sundae in a Farrell’s glass sat pretty in front of my seat when I returned.
After basking in the joy at this mountain of sugar in front of me, reality set in: how do I eat this without creating a mess? The three brownies and two scoops of ice cream packed into the glass slightly spilled off the lip, which reminded me of those bros who cram their torso into a size small t-shirt instead of going for an appropriate large. The third scoop of ice cream on top looked impossible to pick apart without it toppling onto the countertop. My waitress, Hannah, saved the day by providing an extra cup to dump that scoop in; my conundrum is so common among customers that the staff suggests the extra cup.
This sundae was clearly made for two people, but through perseverance and taking my sweet time, I finished the $10.25 dessert with no shame. The brownies were obviously delicious because they were from Ghirardelli; the ice cream was churned so well that melting wasn’t a pressing issue as I slowly ate my way through the sundae. The only part where I disappointed myself was forgetting to move some of the excess chocolate syrup collected on the bottom of the glass to the ice cream sitting inside my extra cup — it would have been like I had two sundaes instead of one. On the bright side, this is something to look forward to the next time I visit Southern California.
After the taping of the Late Late Show, I drove the seven blocks east along Beverly Boulevard for Milk, the site of my next ice cream escapade. My sister recommended Milk, a tiny ice cream shop and restaurant, last year after one of the foodie Instagram accounts she follows posted a picture of the restaurant’s signature macaron ice cream sandwiches. Because Milk uses macarons, the ice cream sandwiches circles; I eyeballed the diameter of the sandwich to be about four inches and the depth to be three inches.
Like at Farrell’s, the sheer number of options forced me to step aside and think about what to get. Red velvet? Vanilla (crammed between black and white macarons)? Green tea? Get creative and create my own ice cream sandwich for the same $5 price?!
Confronted with too many viable options, I went conservative: a cookies and cream ice cream sandwich with chocolate macarons and a chocolate milk on the side. The best part about the sandwich was that it wasn’t teeth-crushing hard when I first bit into it. The macarons were light and fluffy and the ice cream was soft; I could taste the flavors easily. Yes, the sandwich was also delicious — you could infer that from the photo — and, because of its modest size, didn’t make me feel guilty after I finished it. That makes it a winner in my book.
My last stop was the BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, best known for its pizookie, the personal pan baked cookie topped with three scoops of ice cream. I arrived at the Burbank restaurant only two hours after my stop at Milk, but I again invoked “the last day of vacation” to justify getting the spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and then a peanut butter cookie pizookie for dessert. I already knew ahead of time that all of that plus whatever I had at Milk would take over the edge.
It was a struggle to finish the pizookie, even though I persevered and took my time, just like at Farrell’s. The tower of vanilla ice cream atop the cookie melted a little too fast for me; the soft ice cream provided relief while I struggled to chew the solid cookie. It was delicious, but the pizookie broke me physically when I was down to the final bites. Only stubbornness propelled me to finish it.
I returned to my hotel at 10 pm and set my alarm for 3 am before crashing to sleep. As part of my atonement for my ice cream adventure, I would run the treadmill before I drove to LAX for my flight. What a great way to get me to exercise for the first time on this vacation.