My friend Anne recently sent me an e-mail with the following simple subject line: "MALLARD!" We both knew of the legendary Mallard Ice Cream, located 90 miles north of Seattle in Bellingham, Washington, and since neither of us had actually been there, we decided that a road trip was in order.
But before we got to Bellingham there would be doughnuts. Mill Creek is just a half-hour north of Seattle and home to FROST Doughnuts. Some pretty spectacular doughnuts hail from Seattle, but FROST is definitely worth the detour.
FROST Doughnuts opened in July 2009 and quickly developed a devoted fanbase with their "Classic," "Premium," and "Evolved" creations like Banana Split Fritters and Bourbon Caramel Pecan, Marcona Almond & Tart Cherry Bismarck, and Southern Red Velvet doughnuts. We ordered a half-dozen to sample, taking just one bite of each as we had a day of serious eating ahead of us.
The Salted Caramel, flaked with crunchy salt crystals, was my favorite, followed by the candy bar-doughnut mash-up, Butterfinger Blast. Anne kept it old-school, praising the Raised Glazed as a classic. The Caramel Apple Fritter would make my must-order list any day and the Malted Milk Chocolate Mousse was decadent, but the malt profile wasn't strong enough for my taste.
We both wished we had skipped the Smokey Bacon Maple Bar. Maple Bars are one of my favorite doughnuts, and, as Portland's Voodoo Doughnut has demonstrated, putting bacon atop a doughnut can be a genius move, but the bacon at FROST wasn't crisp enough and cast a greasy, unappetizing mood over the whole affair. With a box of half-eaten doughnuts in the backseat, we got back on I-5 with ice cream on our mind.
Just under 25 miles from the Canadian border, Bellingham, home to Western Washington University, is a scenic port town with a rich history dating back to the Gold Rush. We quickly spotted Mallard on the main business strip in town but before making the pilgrimage we walked around the booths of the Saturday farmers' market, where I picked up a killer nibble in the form of a salami and cream cheese sandwich on a chewy pretzel roll from Ralf's Bavarian Bakery.
We stopped in for a schooner of IPA at the Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro and then a quick turkey club and patty melt lunch at the appropriately atmospheric Horseshoe Cafe (first opened in 1886 and billed as "one of the oldest continuously operating restaurants in the United States").
And then it was finally time for ice cream. Earlier in the week when I e-mailed Mallard to ask what their current flavors were they replied that it wasn't possible as their flavors are constantly changing. Mallard has a menu of over 500 ice creams and sorbets in rotation, and you never really know which ones will be one of the nearly 30 featured flavors up on the board until you walk through the doors. Their ice cream starts with a custom custard base created by Oregon's Lochmead Dairy that's then hand-processed with as many fresh, locally-sourced, organic ingredients as possible, and slow-churned using an ice-and-salt method that results in a creamier ice cream.
I was making myself dizzy staring up at the flavor board when I told the super-nice server Liana that it was my first time here. "Well, then let's try some ice cream," was her answer.
The samples were generous and delivered on an actual metal spoon. The first one I tried was Cinnamon Crazy and I was immediately taken by the warm, natural cinnamon notes. "Wait for it," Liana advised, and at that very second I was hit with a fiery Atomic Fire Ball finish.
More spoons were passed around—Blueberry, Banana, Cardamom, Mint Mocha Choco-Chunk, and The Notorious F.I.G.—as Anne and I flip-flopped on finalizing our flavors. Mallard even offers an Indecision Scoop—one scoop made up of two different flavors—for such dilemmas. Realizing that the line behind us wasn't getting any shorter I went with a dish of Strawberry Cheesecake and Coconut Chocolate Chunk with Almonds and Anne ordered a dish of Cardamom and Mocha Breve, a unique twist on the classic chocolate and vanilla.
We worked our spoons in silence for a few minutes, just taking in the rich flavors before trading dishes. I had planned ahead and packed a cooler for some take-home pints. While you could get any available flavor on the board hand-packed to go, Liana pointed out that many of the pre-packed pints in the cooler were flavors no longer on the board—a Flavor Purgatory, of sorts.
I asked her which one I had to try and she said "Banana Chocolate Chunk." Going on her word alone I picked up two pints, along with Mint Oreo and the Coconut Choco-Chunk with Almonds I had tried earlier. As they rang up my second order of the day, they handed me a complimentary bag of ice along with my pints to keep them nice and cool on the ride back to Seattle.