Perhaps in the spirit of the holiday weekend, the sun was shining, and the picnicking at Dolores Park was in full swing today. Strolling by the park, my destination was an old childhood favorite of mine: Bi-Rite Creamery. 

After being faced with indecision during my last ice cream expedition, I called in a ringer. My colleague is a fellow ice cream enthusiast and promised to pick differently from me and describe her choices.

And the timing was good; they began serving scoops again this week.

As a Bi-Rite regular, I’m accustomed to long lines of people snaking around the corner restaurant that is the ice cream shop’s neighbor, regardless of the weather. So I was surprised to find only a handful of happy patrons waiting in front of the brightly painted shop

The queue was set opposite of its normal direction, yellow footprints painted six feet apart on the sidewalk.

With my colleague in tow, we entered the shop. The front is typically where all the magic happens – tastings, selection, and payment all happen at the clear, plastic display of frozen treats. 

But, to manage distancing, all the inside seating is now cordoned off, becoming the payment area. 

Only slightly discombobulated by the shift in the interior, I focused on the familiar, pleasing array of the shop’s seasonal and well-known regular flavors. Scrawled in white marker was the now-expected rule: Sorry, no samples.

My colleague jumped in, unabashed, and ordered a medium size – two scoops of salted caramel and one cookies and cream, three scoops total, on a sugar cone. 

I consulted with my Bi-Rite guru behind the counter. He rose to the occasion and pointed out the popular flavors, the usual suspects, like salted caramel, and the seasonal loves, like balsamic strawberry.

Basil was very refreshing, he encouraged. And his favorite at the moment was the vegan pina colada, asserting that it was “on point,” right now, made with roasted pineapple and coconut milk. 

And it has a splash of rum, he added.

It only took a couple of seconds after that to mull, and I decided to honor the holiday with two adaptations of popular summertime desserts. 

Two scoops: blueberry crisp and peach cobbler, please. 

Inspired by my colleague, I also got a sugar cone. Outside Bi-Rite, we slid our masks down. 

I was transported. Maybe it was the sugar cone, the melting ice cream, or the sunshine, but suddenly I was a little kid again in my parents’ backyard, eating dessert after a barbecue. 

The tart blueberry balanced out the sweet peach, and the oat crunch melded with the cobbler chunks. Buttermilk and sweet cream were the base of each, and they complimented each other well. 

A three scoop cone and a two scoop cone from Bi-Rite.

While I savored mine, my colleague inhaled hers. She polished off the tail of the cone long before I was at that stage. “This is good, but it’s not changing my life,” she said. 

She lamented how long it had been since she’d gotten ice cream. Usually, her summers involve more excursions out, but this year, with the pandemic, that hadn’t been the case. 

But, standing there in front of the shop with other customers seated or standing safely distanced apart, enjoying the day and their ice cream, things felt almost normal. 

Almost. 

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