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Some like it cold

Seasonal treats for the sweet tooth

OMG: Pacific Grill's new fruit crisp with sage whip cream. Photography by Jennifer Johnson

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Once enough days of full sun have graced the Pacific Northwest, my sweet tooth cravings change from desiring warm brownie à la mode to tart fruit sorbet. Typically, this shift goes down right about the Fourth of July, as summer (and hopefully some heat) rolls into town. Last summer found me in the desert heat of Utah in July. Laying in the shade one late afternoon, I was momentarily paralyzed by dueling sensations - the hot, dry breeze playing on my skin while a cold, sweet popsicle melted in my mouth. It was awesome.

From a neighborhood-cruising ice cream man to places where you can spoon up creamy goodness in the comfort of air conditioning, the following are some favorite local ways to create a sweet summer moment.

After three years, Jeff Smeed, aka Jeff's Ice Cream, is a recognizable figure around town - thanks to a classic bike-drawn freezer stocked with standard cold treat goodies and some surprising additions. A personal favorite is the Latin American paletas made by Paleteria La Michoacana in Quincy, Wash. Unexpected exotic flavors like lime, rice pudding, coconut and mango with chili pepper knock the socks off a red, white and blue Rocket Pop any day. FYI: Dorky's Arcade stocks paletas for when Jeff (or one of his team of ice cream peddlers) aren't cruising through your neighborhood.

There's a reason Olympic Mountain Ice Cream is served at more and more restaurants around the Sound Sound ... it's amazing. Primo Grill, Ramblin Jacks and Adriatic Grill are but a few to carry the delectable treat. Asado steakhouse currently has light and refreshing basil lemon, passion-fruit-orange-guava and marionberry sorbet. Snoqualmie Ice Cream, preferred by Northeast Tacoma resident Kelly Goodnight, is a serious locally made contender, with small-batch, handcrafted custard, gelato, ice cream and sorbet in flavors like French lavender, pumpkin, caramel ginger snap and honey cinnamon. Find it in Pierce County at Top Foods, QFC and Metropolitan Market.

A trip to the tiny, picturesque waterfront town of Steilacoom makes for a pleasing day-cation. The historic Bair Drug & Hardware that many remember fondly is now home to the Bair Bistro, which offers hand-dipped, real fruit milkshakes and malts, topped with real whipped cream. Served the right way in tall old-fashioned ice cream parlor-style glasses, what won't fit in the glass is served on the side in a stainless steel container. 

Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland is a fan of Gelatiamo pistachio gelato, a brand out of Seattle sold locally at Metropolitan Market's gelato counter. Also, check out two new flavors at the Met Market gelato counter as of last Friday: Bellini sorbet, featuring peach and prosecco, and Cioccovino, spliced with chocolate and Chianti. On Pacific Avenue, Indochine's gelato counter carries rotating flavors like coconut, orange-cranberry and dark cherry cheesecake.

Food blogger and Tacoma's sexiest bartender Emily Larberg Cook swears by Matador's Banana Crown, a golden, fried pastry stuffed with banana and topped with coconut ice cream and a sure-to-add-pounds-to-your-hips caramel sauce made sassy with pineapple and rum. Cheryl Gorsuch of Sanford & Son Antiques digs Pacific Grill's rich-as-billionaires sundae. Look for new desserts from this downtown Tacoma staple of deliciousness soon; Pacific Grill's summer menu launched this week and features semi-freddo floats with vanilla bean ice cream and root beer or cream soda. Decadent dark chocolate brûlée has the subtlest of Kahlua. And extraordinary sage whipped cream tops a peach fruit crisp.

A whole lot of flavor depth is achieved at the Harmon Tap Room with the genius addition of Harmon Puget Sound Porter to a specially made chocolate sauce drizzled on a peanut-crowned vanilla ice cream sundae.

And, of course, the RAM's ice cream cupcakes, Cold Stone Creamery and Frisco Freeze are all good bets.

For a new sugar fix, my vote goes to Gibson's Frozen Yogurt in Tacoma's Stadium District. Eight rotating flavors and a crazy variety of toppings floats my boat down the river and back. Grab some fro yo to go and walk it off while you eat it in Wright Park. Brilliant!

And, finally, check out fruit slushies, snow cones, giant waffle cones, push-up pops and other carnival-type treats are Freedom Fair this weekend.

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