Cookies and Cream on Fair Oaks Avenue, south of Mission Street and north of Oxley, owned by Mr. Cheng Lui, has opened its doors in South Pasadena. Mr. Cheng Lui’s concept is simple: made-to-order ice cream sandwiches. This becomes a bit of a tangle as the choices of cookie alone feels quite endless (in actuality, 17). Along with the ice cream flavors, Fosselman’s or Thrify, there is a lot to take into consideration.
Offerings go from traditional flavors like chocolate chip, rocky road, cookie dough and double trouble (chocolate cookie with chocolate chips) to the imaginable like lemon bar, nutella, red velvet, walnut sandy and Georgia (peanut butter), then descend into flavors that need a translator, like Maui and Jakarta. Here’s a breakdown of the choices we faced the day we dropped in:
Maui – fruits and coconut
Tototaro – taro root
Jakarta – mild, using Pandan leaves
Ginza – green tea
Angel Island – white chocolate and cream cheese
It’s apparent Mr. Cheng Lui enjoys making new flavors, too, like BBQ and this week’s bacon and chocolate chip cookie. One of our teenage tasters said it was “weirdly delicious.” To us, the cookie tasted of bacon as though it had been overrun by syrup—we’d have preferred it on a breakfast plate next to eggs-over-medium and home fries.
The cookies in the picture above are:
- Red velvet cookie with nutella ice cream – a teenage tester commented that “the ice cream is fantabulous and the cookie is soft and perfect, though you need water to drink with it, sadly.”
- Jarkarta cookie with Fosselman’s torotaro ice cream – the cookie’s pandan flavor is so subtle that to us it taste simply like a sugar cookie. The taro filling is quite lovely if you enjoy offbeat flavors—a flavor like slightly, almost unsweetened coconut, is the initial impression, followed by the earthy, starchy corm that we remember eating as a roasted savory (like potatoes) in Fiji two and a half decades ago. Several stars for tototaro.
- Chocolate chip cookie with Fosselman’s espresso ice cream – the chocolate chip cookie was not awful, but not especially delicious, either. A touch too much salt or baking soda, perhaps, and the chocolate chips weren’t bold enough in flavor. The Fosselman’s espresso ice cream, though, was divine.
Note: two different kinds of cookies may be used for one sandwich.
Two young taste testers enjoyed their ice cream sandwiches without reserve, though they agreed with us ol’ folks that the stores presentation needed a bit more finesse. Samples of cookies can be had, but they are merely crumpled cookies in a small clear plastic cup with the name of the cookie written in sharpie. A sample spoon is available that one uses to lift a piece of cookie out while the other hand tries to pick up with one’s fingers the crumbled cookie piece as it’s continuing to crumble, and without touching the community spoon. We appreciate being able to test the product, but it feels a bit like the kids next door’s lemonade stand, bare bones, make do with what one has, etc.
The cookies can be viewed on their cooking trays as the whole rack is rolled out and stands next to the ice cream bar. The names of the cookies are written in grease pencil on the glass down the front of the rack, which is helpful, but still the presentation feels rough around the edges. On the other hand, this judgment could be flipped and all these quirks could be interpreted as unpretentious, fun and funky.
Art adorns the walls, some by a Los Angeles artist and the rest by members of the Southern California Illustrators. They are diverse in medium and subject. Mr. Cheng Lui likes the idea of helping local artists, having their works been seen, which will hopefully translate into a sales (we did see one “sold” sign). He’s hoping to get local kids involved, too, so they can know the feeling of seeing their artwork exhibited. Though the idea is admirable and welcome, the walls have an odd bit of yellow-green here and there, not enough to appear deliberate, but looking as if they didn’t paint at all, in which case they should.
One of the window front nooks has books, little games, a chalkboard, and a rug perhaps to entice kids to eat, relax and have fun, though the options of chairs for adults are eclectic and few. The other front nook has more books, a skateboard, and a tire pump (which we assume is for the groovy retro bike hanging out on the sidewalk next the large cow face cutout—a cute setup to attract attention).
Mr. Cheng Lui’s young employee (apologies for not securing your name, Miss) was quite knowledgable, polite, and patient as we had to consider all the choices and decide what cookie to put with what ice cream. Mr. Chang came out in time to hear our choices and praised us for our contemplation. He’s soft spoken, engaging, and seems passionate about this undertaking.
We wonder if being so close to Fosselman’s in Alhambra and Thrifty’s ice cream available at all the Rite Aids will be a disadvantage for Cookies and Cream. Both of those manufacturers are well known and established. But, people may be pleased to see their favorite brands (something familiar in an unfamiliar setting) and be willing to let the ingenuity—and wild card—of this experiment be Mr. Cheng Lui’s ever-broadening concoction of cookie flavors.
Cookies and Cream, 1010 ½ S. Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena 91030. Open Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 626.789.1177. Cash only.