Friday, August 24, 2007

Icepan - Santa Ana

Lookout Pinkberry. Duck Yogurtland. Here comes another new, trendy dessert: Custom-made organic ice cream -- a concept that takes the Cold Stone Creamery idea and nudges it to the next logical level.

To be honest, I didn't know what "custom-made ice cream" meant until I ordered one.

The first clue should've been the fact that I didn't see any freezers. There's just a menu printed with these flavors:

Green Tea

In front of me, behind a glass display case, were small covered troughs filled with fresh fruit and a smiling gal ready to take my order. My first thought before I timidly said that I wanted green tea ice cream was "Where's the ice cream?"

But what threw me in for a loop was when she asked what kind of milk I'd like. She said I had a choice between non-fat, low-fat, whole, or soy milk.

I was confused. I ordered ice cream, not a milkshake.

Then it dawned on me.

"You mean you're going to make the ice cream? Like right now?"

"Yes," she said brightly, amused at my amusement.

"Oh! Well, um, low-fat then."

What happened next was not unlike seeing a magic trick for the first time. Into a beaker she poured the milk, squeezed a stream of sweetener, and plopped a few scoops of matcha powder. Then a stick blender turned the whole mixture frothy. She walked over to a shiny metal pan and poured the liquid into it. Two putty knives then spread the milk thinly over the surface.

Within seconds the layer froze into sheets which she scraped up, chopped with the knives, and folded over like dough to form a solid, rectangular patty. Then she started flipping, slapping and smacking the now rigid mass onto the pan like a short-order cook would a hamburger on a griddle.

Finally, she took an ice-cream scoop, gathered the finished frozen treat with it, and deposited into a cup.

I paid $4.75 for my 7 ouncer, and took it outside to eat.

It was cold. Ice cold. So cold in fact, it sent a chill up my spine and created a cocoon of shiver that enveloped my entire body. Its consistency was airy, and the taste of it was slightly sweet with a bitter finish; the strongest and truest green tea ice cream I've ever had.

Later I went back and tried vanilla with strawberries. The process is the same, except they work in the topping ($0.75) after the ice cream has solidified. (Watch the video above to see for yourself.)

It tasted exactly like the ice cream I make at home with my Cuisinart before it hardens in the freezer, except with more berries per bite. In other words, I loved it!

But it was at that moment I realized I just witnessed Icepan's most daring magic trick; they got me to pay $5.50 for a cup of ice cream I could've made myself.

3930 S. Bristol Sr. #110
Santa Ana, CA 92704

* Special Thanks to Monster Munching reader Jesus for this tip.
UPDATE: This location of Ice Pan has closed


At 12:36 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I'm so busted!

At 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They've newly introduced coffee flavor as well.

At 3:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's very cool! But, $5.5 is outrageous. What kinda toppings to they offer?

At 3:48 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Neat concept! It is expensive, and you could make it yourself, but I doubt many people would be willing to take the initiative to do that, and would rather just pay the money to have someone else make it for them. *shrugs*

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a very novel idea. I'm assuming they have more than one icepan there, otherwise the lines would take forever right? From your vid, it also doesn't look like much air is whipped into the ice cream with those paddles they use, but the end texture does look pretty good.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

that was rad! could you bring in your own ingredients and make a custom ice cream? squid ink and chunks of squid come to mind. thanks for the big "scoop"!!

At 6:35 PM, Blogger V said...

sounds yummy, and can't wait to try it.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Oh my! Elmo, that's sooooo awesome! Darn it. Why is Santa Ana so far away?

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

lol! Watch the "How to Make an Ice Cream" video on their website. Making ice cream sure does build muscle!

At 1:29 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Whoa! The girlfriend speaks up! Maybe I'll finally get to meet her one of these days. =)

Handmade ice cream. Interesting concept. I might try it. But, I just don't see how a human can duplicate the great mouth feel you get from an ice cream machine. Can the crystals be scraped fine enough?

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the tipster, all I have to say is, "Jesus! This looks de-lish!" I hope this favorable report generates some business for them...Icepan is in that dusty retail plaza that faces inward, away from Bristol + Sunflower. What's worse, the windows are tinted to shield the interior from the brutal Western sun. I always walk past it 'cause you can't see inside, and from the outside it looks more like a massage parlor than a cheery ice creamery. Anyhoo, I am sooo there!

At 9:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I saw that! Except, I had to question why they would say it's a new product when the Icepan itself is new. Well, I guess it's newer!


Here's their full list of toppings:

Strawberry, Banana, Kiwi, Mango, Pineapple, Walnut, Choco Chip, Coconut, Almond, Granola.

Also, I think the smarter way to order what I did (Vanilla with Strawberry) is to just order the Strawberry Ice Cream. They start out with the same amount of fruit mixed into the ice cream rather than folded in at the end...So you end up saving $0.75.


You got me, I haven't made ice cream myself in ages, and cringe at all the clean up (the machine, the mixer, the bowls). And I usually have the ingredients all accounted for too!


You're right! They have about three icepans. But it still takes them a while (approx. 5 minutes from start to finish). If this place gets more popular, the waits will be ridiculous.

The texture isn't as dense as regular ice cream, fluffier too. And it melts fast!


Hey, the owner/CEO is Korean (I think), so that wouldn't be far off. But guess what they got as one of their weekly specials (per their website): cabbage ice cream! You heard it! CABBAGE!


Be sure to read my tip to Henry above about how to save a bit of change when ordering!

Wandering Chopsticks,

Well, Santa Ana is a lot closer than their other locations in Redondo Beach and WeHo.

It's actually across from South Coast Plaza, in the same lot as Red Robin and takes the place of Golden Spoon, which used to occupy their store.


I saw that vid too! Hilarious. I never new ice cream could build muscle but apparently the secret is that you need to be in a bikini top too!


I dared her to write that! And she did!

As for the ice cream, it's definitely not Haagen Dazs. I'd say it tastes a lot like Breyers, except even lighter than that.


Pardon the pun, but praise Jesus for this find, not me. Although I'm sure it's pronounced "heh-SUS"

And as far as the tinted window goes, yeah, what gives? Maybe too much sun makes the freezing process take longer.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger food makes me happy said...

this really is a new concept for a creamery, but I wonder if enough people are willing to pay that much for a scoop of sweetness.

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Dancing Munchkin said...

oh my!
what an amazing idea! I soooo wanna try it now, but $5.5 is crazy! and travelling hundreds of miles to try ridiculously high priced ice cream is even crazier..

sigh. haha I do love your entries so much. I have a whole bucket of drool next to my desk thanks to you :P

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm so excited for this! thanks so much for posting about it. i've semi-recently discovered that i am allergic to cows milk and so i haven't been able to eat ice cream. i've especially been craving green tea ice-cream and since they can make it with soy, I CAN EAT IT!! yaaay!

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Rasa Malaysia said...

Well, what's going on with the trend of yogurt/ice cream? Maybe it's the new cup cakes? ;)

At 2:43 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


That remains to be seen. But even a cheapskate like me went for the third time in a week (last night). We were the only ones in there though. The employees (fun people by the way) were so bored they started experimenting with their own flavors for prospective customers to try.

Dancing Munchkin,

It's steep alright. But I have an alternative for travelling hundreds of miles: watch my YouTube video while you eat a bowl of Breyers (not as good, but almost similar!).


Beware! Their green tea ice cream is powerful!

Rasa Malaysia,

If yogurt is the new cupcake, and this one is the new yogurt, what's next?! Can't wait to see.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger jesusHAX said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger jesusHAX said...

Nope, It's Jesus [jee-zuhs], So far my favorite is Chocolate w/whole milk (yes whole milk) with strawberry toppings, it's amazing.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - All these places just keep popping up, luckily we have you to help us keep up.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

You have to love a place that useds putty knives for cooking :D

$5.50 is crazy, tho

At 9:11 PM, Blogger V said...

Have been on a strict diet recently, so am eating vicariously through you! Can't wait to see your next expedition.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Nguyen Duong said...

my wife dragged me to icepan last month. kiwi was awesome. they used fresh chunks of real fruit. perfect for warm summer day in the OC. neat concept, but kinda spendy for ice cream. i'd rather spend my money on a plate of bun cha hanoi at the vietnamese restaurant next door. been addicted to it lately. any recommendations on other places that serve bun cha hanoi?

At 3:10 PM, Blogger polar said...

oh man, that looks so good. i am going to hit it up soon. thanks for the find, Jesus and Elmo.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I was there again Saturday night and I tried the chocolate with strawberries. You are absolutely right...Awesome. It's like Chocolate Covered Strawberries in an ice cream!


I can only thank my tipsters. So far I've got leads that will take me to a few new places in the coming weeks. Can't wait to try 'em all.


$5.50 is steep. My bank account dies a little every time I go here.


Aaaw. Well, I'm glad to provide the vicarious feast!


Actually Vien Dong has a good bun cha hanoi. I've got to make it back there and do a proper review.


Icepan will be straight up your alley, judging by your cute polar bear cub avatar.

At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this place is sooo perfect ... if you don't like ice cream. but if you love ice cream, you'll be as mad as i was. the place sucks, it smells like sewage outside and there's no indoor seating. i see where it's good and a cool concept but the ice cream lacked the most important ingredient in ice cream (even natural ice cream)...sugar. Ice cream should be sweet, shouldn't it? The texture was creamy which was good, but I wasn't expecting such a bitter green tea ice cream...and I've had that flavor hundreds of times and have never had such a disgusted reaction. So for those who are as excited to try this place as I was...if you're a true ice cream lover, then you'll want to ask them to add some sugar.

At 4:31 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You're spot on with the green tea ice cream. It's exceedingly bitter. It's an unabashed rendition that will put off some people (I found the bitterness refreshing). But if you try their more conventional flavors, like strawberry or even vanilla, it's just like regular ice cream. Sweet. Creamy. But expensive.

At 5:44 AM, Blogger Shinae said...

Hiya elmo!

I used to comment on your blog as bottomlesspit, but then moved out of state for a while and didn't blog local for that time.

At any rate, am back in Irvine, and since we seem to kinda belong to the same demographic, thought I'd ask your opinion on my blog:

Any comments would be most appreciated, and if you think it's at all useful, please forward to your friends. :)

Hope to hear from you soon.



At 5:53 AM, Blogger Shinae said...

Btw, I hate to say it, but I don't think Icepan's gonna make it. Took my kids there a few weeks ago, were the only ones there, and waited while they spent almost 10 minutes making the custom concoctions. Imagine if there were a line out the door. AND, my kids didn't even finish the ice cream...

Owner and staff were so very nice, though.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Julian Hsu said...

Hi Elmo,

Went last night, and tried the green tea, because, well, that's the gold standard in ice cream as far as I'm concerned. I gotta say, I'm puzzled to the point where I'm wondering if they've changed the formula. The green tea I had was exceedingly sweet, not at all bitter, and very mild. It was no Fubuki.

It's a very interesting concept, with lots of choices, as well as being entertaining, but the final product was a bit underwhelming. The whole process is neat, the ice cream taken by itself isn't outstanding enough for me to make the trek again.

(And yes, man, they've got to renovate that center quick, starting with the plumbing, which is clearly backed up somewhere. For those with small children ordering large ice creams, there are no restrooms nearby. An employee at Icepan shrugged and suggested the nearby McD's)

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Charlie Fu said...

Kirk: didn't read my blog about icepan did ya =P

I like this place, just a lil expensive for what they serve =(

At 8:56 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Shinae, Julian, and Charlie,

I had the same impression too (although I do like their ice cream, ridiculously high as the prices may be). This is a lose-lose situation for them. Their distinguishing characteristic and main competitive advantage is also their Achilles heel. The operating model isn't sustainable if they get popular. It's too long a turnaround time.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Elmo! I went to IcePan today and was pretty impressed with the store (though it is hard to find now that it is hidden behind white plastic sheets). Thanks for the review, otherwise I wouldn't have even known it was next to South Coast Plaza. From now on, every time I go to the mall, I'm going to get some IcePan ice cream too!

At 1:33 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I'm glad you found it! I drove by yesterday and nothing in that complex has any signs anymore.

At 11:13 PM, Blogger Chai Tea said...

Thanks for the recommendation of this place elmo, it was worth the trip.

I had sooo much trouble finding the place though, since there were noo signs of it whatsoever until we actually decided to get out of my car and explore. Oh well, hopefully they'll get that center remodeled soon. =)

It was pretty cool to see them make it live, I got the green tea... it wasn't amazing, but still a different texture than I'm used to.

I will probably still stick to places like Yogurtland, Mochilato, or Genki Living for desserts, but this place is still an interesting find. =P

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ICEPAN is very poor in my opinion--terible texture. They are also very expensive.

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the concept is neat, but the ice cream is overrated for the price they charge. i ordered green tea , and although the flavor is not bad (but not great either), the texture is ...not what i'm used to. not exactly creamy, not exactly icy, but somewhere in between. what would you call that? i dont know.

in any case, the place is hard to find and i never would have known it was there had it not been for the new banner they just posted on bristol (because of all the remodel construction). for you girls who thread your eyebrows and are familiar with ziba by south coast plaza, its in the same center, way back in the corner.

in summary: overpriced and overrated. next time, i think ill use my 5 bucks for a box of green tea mochi icecream.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger jane said...

why did i NOt find your blog before!! sigh..

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no eggs in the ice cream??


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