July is National Ice Cream month, and there's no shortage of places to celebrate it in Petaluma, whether it's with a scoop of old-fashioned vanilla, a taste of artisan rose petal, or an adventurous sampling of chocolate goat's milk.
An array of ice cream shops and manufacturers have sprung up in town in recent years, echoing similar explosions in cheese, beer and wine production.
Perhaps it's only natural that, in an area known for its dairy, ice cream-making would follow.
"I eat ice cream every day, although not as much now as before," said Albert Straus, owner of Straus Family Creamery, a local milk producer that also makes ice cream. "It's why I started the creamery."
He believes that the taste of the milk from local dairies is unique, and he offers up flavors ranging from Dutch Chocolate to Brown Sugar Banana.
Straus Family Creamery got started in 1994 in Marshall and was the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi. They use only milk, cream, organic cane sugar, and organic flavorings, sourcing all milk and cream from eight local dairies in the Sonoma Marin area. While they presently manufacture their ice cream in Marshall, the distribution center is in Petaluma and they will be moving all operations to Petaluma some time in the next year.
The granddaddy of ice cream production in Petaluma is the family-owned-and-operated Clover Stornetta Farms, which started making ice cream in 1915 as the Clover Co-op.
While there once was a company-operated Clo's ice cream parlor in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, they now concentrate on making 14 flavors of packaged ice cream for distribution throughout Northern California, all with milk and cream from local dairies.
Three Twins Ice Cream, meanwhile, is the newest local manufacturer of the frozen treat. Neil Gottlieb founded the company in 2005 with a scoop shop in Terra Linda and in 2010 opened a factory in Petaluma.
Three Twins now packages 10 flavors of certified organic ice cream, including lemon cookie and sea salted caramel, using only milk and cream sourced from Sonoma and Marin dairies. Three Twins uses no artificial colors, flavors or stabilizers, producing 16,000 pints a day.
But it's not only cow's milk ice cream that comes from Petaluma. Laloo's Goat's Milk Ice Cream also got its start here, when owner Laura Howard and her family moved to the area in 2005, leased a farm on Middle Two Rock Road, and acquired a goat herd for personal milk consumption. Realizing that she was using goat's milk for all of her family's other dairy needs, she decided to make her own goat milk ice cream.
She develops recipes with a sophisticated taste, eschewing cookie and candy flavors for in-season fruits. Laloo's is now available nationwide at Whole Foods and other specialty markets. It was recently acquired by a holding company to consolidate operating and marketing costs, although Howard still creates and tests all of the recipes on her farm in Petaluma. She plans to remain in Petaluma, where she says " there is something for everyone in terms of food" and a population that "takes food seriously."
Petaluma also has its share of ice cream parlors, and at least three of them make their own ice creams.