Oasis Ice Cream Parlor1832 Coronado Ave.South San Diego619-429-8980
When I lived in Ocean Beach, my roommate and I would frequently stop for a post-meal treat at the Lighthouse Ice Cream parlor. I don't know how many times I lingered over the freezer case full of frozen fruit and ice cream bars before finally trying one, but once I did, those bars became my favorite cheap dessert. The flavors were so intense-the walnut bar densely packed with nuts, and the watermelon tasting just like fresh fruit. The label on the package said they were made by a place called Oasis, in South San Diego near Imperial Beach, and I just assumed they were widely available throughout San Diego.
Not so. Turns out I was exceedingly fortunate to have such ready access to this delicacy, as Oasis only sells its fruit bars to the Lighthouse and the North Island commissary-and, of course, at its shop in the South Bay. When my girlfriend asked me if I'd ever heard of Oasis Ice Cream Parlor, I knew it sounded familiar, but it was some time before I made the connection with the fruit bars I'd been such a fiend for. Once I did, I couldn't wait to check the place out.
Oasis Ice Cream is owned and operated by husband and wife Juan and Juanita Andrade. Juan has been making ice cream for more than 40 years, beginning his training with the family business in Mexico City in 1959.
"My mom gave me money for one store for me," he said. "And then I put in my store, and then I put in another one, and then another one in Mexico City. And then I come to see my cousin in San Marcos, and I love California, and then I say no more Mexico, I'm here... for seven years. And then I go back and open another store in Tijuana. I work in Tijuana about three or four years, and then I moved to here and open this store in 1978."
Unlike commercial ice creams that boast "all natural" on their labels while containing ingredients like carrageenan, locust bean gum or soy lecithin, Andrade uses just cream and sugar, or fruit and sugar in the case of the frutas. Sure, carrageenan is a natural product, but how many homemade ice cream recipes have you seen with that on the ingredients list? Rather than adulterate his products with stabilizers, Andrade makes his ice creams the old-fashioned way, inspiring such fierce loyalty that Oasis has customers who travel from as far away as Los Angeles, Arizona and New Mexico, bringing coolers and dry ice to transport the treats back home.
Oasis' range of flavors is impressive. The ice creams include old standards like chocolate and vanilla, with real pleasures awaiting discovery in flavors like Mexican chocolate chip, peanut butter, banana, walnut, rice pudding, and coconut-the last two being among the most amazing ice cream I've eaten. The rice pudding is rich with rice, cinnamon and vanilla, and the coconut is dense with shredded coconut and coconut milk. Another great flavor is the mixed nut, with pineapple, walnuts, dates, papaya, coconut, raisins and peanuts. These ice creams are incredibly rich, especially since they don't have air whipped into them to increase the volume, making the to-go price of $7.50 per quart more than reasonable.
While the ice cream is outstanding, don't miss the frutas. Made solely from frozen fruit and sugar, these put any commercially produced sorbet to shame. Flavors include watermelon, lime, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberry, mango, tamarindo and guava-the latter prepared from guavas harvested from the Andrade's trees in their own backyard. How's that for homemade?
Unlike many sorbets, the frutas are not overly sweet, making them extremely refreshing-so refreshing that a former La Valencia head chef ordered them for use in mixed drinks, and Coronado soccer teams routinely buy $70 worth for post-game refreshment. As Juan explains, "I make the flavors just in the season, from fresh fruit. I go to pick it up in the fields-the strawberries-and in half an hour, you can have the bars."
The bars are what Oasis is best known for, since they travel so well, and they are available in almost every variety, making them an ideal way to get acquainted with Oasis' range of flavors. Of special note is the banana bar, dipped in chocolate and coated with coconut and peanuts. Take a cooler with you when you go, because you'll want to bring some home.