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Artisanal Ice Cream – A Visit to La Ibense in Salou on the Costa Daurada in the Catalunya (Catalonia) Region of Spain

by Suzanne Fluhr on June 22, 2015 · 29 comments

Ice Cream is Happiness Condensed

Ice Cream is Happiness Condensed

Ice Cream is Happiness Condensed

It’s not only about ham in Spain—although heaven knows, they do like love their ham there. When I visited Salou, a sea side resort town on the Costa Daurada (Costa Dorada in Spanish; Gold Coast) in the Catalunya (Catalonia) region of Spain, it was all about ice cream. (Yes! High five AND a fist bump).

Confession: In addition to being addicted to travel and Zentangle, I’m also addicted to ice cream. Zentangle is infinitely less fattening. I cope with my ice cream addiction by staying away from the stuff as much as possible. Although I’m now past the age when drug dealers on the street furtively ask me if I want to score some weed, crack or meth, the purveyors of creamy, cold, sweet ice cream are everywhere. Supermarkets and free standing ice cream emporia abound. They even brazenly sell the stuff in school zones!

Another confession: When we invite people for dinner, my go to dessert is always ever popular “adult” sundaes. I provide vanilla ice cream, amaretto and Kahlua, chopped walnuts and sometimes even whipped cream. Our guests make their own sundaes. The problem is that invariably there is leftover ice cream.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, every time you think about wasting food, you can still hear your mother’s voice invoking images of starving children in poor countries. Consequently, throwing out leftover ice cream is not an option. So, there it sits. In our freezer. Singing its siren song. I can usually resist it for a few days. But sooner or later, it’s just me and my night owl self. I think I must be hungry. After all, I haven’t eaten anything for a whole four hours. Around midnight, I survey the contents of the refrigerator. Nothing in there is calling my name. And then it happens, even though I know self-loathing is sure to follow. I open the freezer door…..

La Ibense Artesanal Ice Cream Shop in Salou, Catalunya

La Ibense, a family owned purveyor of frozen goodness in Salou, Catalunya

Salou, Catalonia, Cataluna, Spain villas

Salou boasts some lovely villas in addition to the usual tourist apartments.

You can imagine my delight when on a travel blogger tour of the Costa Daurada (Gold Coast) region in Catalunya, Spain, I saw that a visit to an artisanal ice cream maker in the sea side town of Salou was on the itinerary. If you visit an artisanal cheese maker, you get tastes of cheese. If you visit a winery, they want you to taste their wine. I figured it was a good bet we’d get to eat taste some ice cream.

We were ushered into La Ibense’s small and spotless ice cream production area. This ice creamery has been operated by the same family in Salou since 1958 and prides itself on having earned the loyalty of long time employees and customers. Raquel, a 5th generation ice cream maker, is now in charge of production. She animatedly explained the entire, technical process of producing the highest quality ice cream. Just about when I’d absorbed my limit of information about temperature, aerating, stabilizers, natural ingredients, freezers, transportation and ice cream marketing, we were given small spoons and were invited to sample the batch of delicate, light chocolate ice cream Raquel prepared while educating us.

Making granizado in La Ibense Artesanal Ice Cream shop in Salou, Cataluna

One of La Ibense’s long time employees whipped up a batch of lemon granizado for us.

There was a vegan in our group. So she could have a taste, Raquel’s assistant whipped up some all natural lemon, dairy free granizado for us. (BTW, I’m from Philly. I know about water ice. I could sell La Ibense granizado at a South Philly water ice stand with a straight face.)

I didn’t want to feel ungrateful, but I was thinking that my ice cream lust had been piqued, but not sated. That was soon remedied. We were accompanied to La Ibense’s flag ship retail shop and were offered our pick of about 20 flavors—cup, cone, whatever. Not wanting to fulfill any American stereotype, I requested only a medium size cup with a scoop each of flan and After Eight chocolate mint flavors. Our Aussie photo-journalist, Travis, was less restrained and had an extra large helping and then the leftovers of another misguided group member who was saving room for lunch. And our vegan? She betrayed a few cows (and probably some chickens), by scarfing down a chocolate dipped cone with rich chocolate dairy ice cream.

As much as I have fond memories of eating ice cream in Salou, other than perhaps an tiny addition to my waist circumference, my real take away from our visit was Raquel’s obvious passion for her family’s ice cream and for life. On a black board in her ice cream production room, Raquel firmly wrote: “Y porque no sabia que era imposible, lo hizo” – And because she didn’t know it was impossible, she did it.

sign in artesanal ice cream production r

Raquel explained that she and her family don’t just produce and sell ice cream. They produce and sell emotions, like those on the faces of grandfathers who arrive with their small grandchildren, looking to introduce them to the same flavor that was their favorite when their own parents brought them there many years before.

[Gràcies to the Salou Tourism Board and to La Ibense for hosting us.]

Do you share my addiction to fondness for ice cream? Have you ever visited a place to see how they make one of your favorite foods or drink? Tell us about your experience. 

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sue Reddel June 22, 2015 at 11:05 pm

ICE CREAM!!!! I love it. I love it even more in summer. I find myself actually craving it for no good reason. Thanks for taking us along on your tasty visit.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 22, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Darn. Now I want some and I happen to know where I can find it.

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avatar Cathy Sweeney June 23, 2015 at 12:59 am

I think many of us can relate to an extreme fondness for ice cream. I’m OK if it’s not in the house or being offered to me somewhere, but once I get started, I can’t stop! Fun story about your visit to the ice cream maker — and a family-owned one, too! I’m trying to remember if I had any ice cream at all when I was in Catalonia, but I do remember plenty of great food (ham & cheese) and wine!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 23, 2015 at 2:16 am

It’s hard to miss the ham—-and the octopus too for that matter. Washing it down with ice cream—-priceless.

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avatar Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru June 23, 2015 at 1:17 am

I am highly suspicious of those who profess not to care for ice cream. Philistines! How fortunate you were to visit La Ibense. We would love to see more of Catalunya, and it would seem Costa Daurada might be the place to start. Between this post and Paula’s on the entire ice cream menu in Madrid, my love affair with Spain is cemented,

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 23, 2015 at 2:17 am

I’d actually be happy in Spain even if I could only have flan for dessert. Having flan ice cream? —-heaven in Catalunya.

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place To Go June 23, 2015 at 3:04 am

I’m not sure when artisanal ice cream snuck/sneaked in to the ice cream family when an A & W rootbeer float used to be as close to heaven as I could get but … BRING IT ON! Loved your final paragraph when Raquel compared ice cream and emotions – I remember a lot of happy times as a kid with an ice cream cone in hand and, later, making our own homemade ice cream with our son each summer.

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avatar Josie June 23, 2015 at 7:28 am

Hi Suzanne,
Happiness food. Happiness country. You hit the jackpot!
Josie

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avatar Jacqueline Gum June 23, 2015 at 11:19 am

How interesting! I’ve never heard of Artisanal Ice Cream! What a treat! Confession – my first job was at Dairy Queen when I was 14 years old. I rarely eat ice cream anymore…only because I really ate myself sick on the stuff back then! But this looks like an experience I would savor. That Raquel is something… if her goal is to bring joy to all who experience her ice cream, that’s a pretty good soul in my book:)

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 24, 2015 at 2:03 am

It’s hard for me to imagine actually eating enough ice cream to lose my ice cream craving for years. I’m with Raquel—ice cream is emotional. I think I also remember reading that George Washington was a big fan of ice cream—back when making it was a major deal.

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avatar Patti June 23, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Life is short… eat dessert first! When we were walking the Camino we most often ordered what is known as pilgrim meals, 3 courses for a set price. I almost always ordered ice cream for dessert because I loved the surprise of not knowing what I was going to get… anything from an ice cream bar, a drumstick, a cup, etc. etc.

It’s ice cream, embrace it!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 24, 2015 at 2:05 am

One good thing about walking the Camino (among many things) must be that you can pretty much chuck calorie counting.

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avatar Paula McInerney June 23, 2015 at 7:12 pm

I have only recently joined the world of ice cream, i didn’t previously eat sweets for no reason other than I preferred savoury . Now I a little like a child in a playground and with the new versions of savoury and sweet ice cream, I am having a great time

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 24, 2015 at 2:05 am

Paula, I read your piece about the ice cream feast in Madrid. That seemed awesome.

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avatar roz warren June 24, 2015 at 9:31 am

as addictions go, ice cream seems an excellent choice. i used to work in an ice cream parlor, which i highly recommend if you’re addicted to the stuff. we sampled continuously, one tiny plastic spoonful at a time. bliss!

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avatar Shelley June 24, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I’m also addicted to ice cream, so the way I cope is by never bring it into our house. Thankfully there is a great ice cream shop within walking distance! La Ibense in Salou looks like an ideal place for an ice cream fix. I love artisanal shops like this where people have a passion for what they’re making.

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avatar santafetravelers June 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Sadly, I don’t usually eat dairy, so ice cream is off the table, so to speak though this morning I was fantasizing about a chocolate hot fudge sundae. I’m going to splurge and have one some day. The tour through the family ice cream maker sounds great. BTW- the vegan stuff leaves a lot to be desired- at least so far in my experience. Maybe there’s was the exception.

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avatar Irene S. Levine, PhD June 24, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Gee, I’m an ice cream lover, too, and this artisanal ice cream looks wonderful~
I don’t think the Edy’s in my freezer can compare to this.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 26, 2015 at 2:59 am

The other thing that made the ice cream wonderful was that I was eating it in Spain!

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avatar Lois Alter Mark June 25, 2015 at 8:28 pm

I totally share your addiction and could happily eat ice cream every day. I drooled through this whole post!

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avatar The Gypsynesters June 25, 2015 at 10:10 pm

I don’t remember ice cream ever being a problem with the starving kids in wherever lecture. It sure isn’t now.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 26, 2015 at 3:02 am

My point is that if we have ice cream for company, but don’t finish the carton, I cannot in good conscience throw it out – because of the starving children. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😉

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avatar alison abbott June 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm

You must have been delighted to see the flan flavor! I have no will power when it comes to the dreamy combinations of flavors they are making these days. Salted caramel is a current favorite, absolutely no will power when it is in the house!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 29, 2015 at 6:39 am

How about a cup of 2 scoops: flan and salted caramel? Yes!

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avatar Maddy Resendes June 29, 2015 at 11:36 am

What about Frozen Yoghurt, a la Yoghurtland? (Perhaps sacrilegious to mention it in an ice cream post) I am not a huge ice cream fan – more of a moderate one – more of a chocolate fan. However, I love your build-a-sundae adult dessert practice. I do love hot fudge sundaes made with regular ‘ole vanilla ice cream and really good hot fudge (do NOT try and pass off chocolate syrup for hot fudge, please!) Caramel topping is pleasing as well – on frozen yoghurt or ice cream. If I am eating ice cream straight up – pretty much any flavor of chocolate’ll do me. (and any brand, street grade to designer) As I age, however, due to receding gums – a result of the genetic crap shoot, I’m afraid – my teeth ache after I scarf down a cold sweet treat – particularly frozen yoghurt. When eating it I try to bypass my teeth altogether – but that is a tricky, generally unsuccessful maneuver! Plus you risk missing most of your taste buds, as well as yer teeth, which kind of defeats the purpose!! Sigh…..I will soldier on, gingerly enjoying the occasional ice cream or frozen yoghurt treat….gingerly traversing that thin line between pleasure and pain!

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avatar Jo June 29, 2015 at 6:48 pm

I would love to go to Catalunya and EAT ALL the Ice Cream! It sounds delicious. I love your recipe for a grown-up Sundae at home, what a great idea. I’m going to steal it and add to it for our next dinner party 😉 Thank you x

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avatar Carolann July 4, 2015 at 11:28 am

Wow sounds like heaven! I too love ice cream and it looks like you found the best of both!

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