There is a downside to living in a healthy paradise. And that is lack of ice cream parlors

Mountain biking in Marin
Mountain biking in Marin

I live in Marin County, arguably one of the most health conscious (self conscious?) places on Earth (or at least in California). This is the home of mountain biking, mountain hiking (Mt. Tam), sailing on the bay, windsurfing, sailboarding and just about every other sweat-making sport you can imagine. Tennis courts are always full as are upscale (and not so upscale) gyms. There are yoga studios in every mall and pilates courses by the bucketful. You can get rolfed and reiki-ed, qigonged and tai chi’d. If someone thinks it is good for you, you will find it in Marin. I love living here.

Marinites have personal trainers, vegan cooks, and in-home massage therapists. We don’t smoke regular cigarettes and we mainly drink wine, particularly red wine for its purported health benefits. We shun the yolks and watch our carbs. Sugared coke—no way! We be good—so very very good.

Just about everybody sports a FitBit or some other type of accelerometer and many of us have an electronic scale, a home blood pressure cuff, and all sorts of other sensors to make sure our parameters are within normal limits. We measure our food and watch our portion sizes. In my house, we never use actual dinner plates, rather we eat every meal off of salad plates…pat me on the back, please.

Marin Civic Center Sunday Farmer's Market
Marin Civic Center Sunday Farmer’s Market

There are farmer’s markets 6 days a week that are loaded with fresh, ripe, luscious organic fruits and vegetables, glistening gorgeous fresh-caught fish, and gluten-free, but yummy nevertheless, desserts, such as mini-cupcakes or fresh baked cookies. I can find a farmer’s market only minutes from my home every day of the week except Monday. They are usually packed.

We Marin types are fit and most of us are not fat (sorry, overweight or obese). And we love to brag about it. Remember, we are the same people who bored you to tears talking about our 10K personal best and the time of our last marathon—that was before we switched from running to walking to preserve our precious knees.

Marin, I think, is a role model for the rest of the country struggling to find solutions to the twin epidemics of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Nevermind that the weather is mild enough to allow outdoor sports most days of the year and, for many, resources are not constrained.

But there is a downside to living in a healthy paradise. And that is lack of ice cream parlors (do they still call them parlors?).

Both of our local Baskin Robbins ice cream stores closed down a year or so ago. Although I mourn the loss of Jamoca Almond Chocolate, I wasn’t too worried as there was, of course, a gourmet Italian ice cream shop in my local shopping mall. It is called Ciao Bella Gelato and it is only a 10 minute drive away.

Ciao Bella Gelato - Yum!
Ciao Bella Gelato – Yum!called Ciao Bella Gelato located about 2 miles from my house.

Now, I only eat ice cream about once or twice a year, but, you know, when you want an ice cream, you want an ice cream. Today was such a day. Eighty degrees, light breeze—a perfect day to cool off with a small cup of half chocolate/half coffee Italian Gelato. Yum.

So, I toodled down to the local mall looking forward to scooping tiny spoonfuls of the thick, dark stuff into my mouth. As I scurried past the shops in the Town Center Mall in Corte Madera, I was dismayed to find that Ciao Bella was gone…gone…gone. A sign in the shop window announced an Orchid Shop was soon to take its place. Oh no!

Wondering if they had just moved to a different location, I popped into one of the other stores to ask. “Closed six months ago,” I was told. Really? “So where can I get an ice cream?” I inquired. The answer: “You can try the Walgreen’s or maybe Rite Aid. They are the only stores in this area still selling ice cream cones.” Dismay…Rite Aid for ice cream?

Bill Cosby, doing standup, back in the day...
Bill Cosby, doing standup, back in the day…

Remember, the Bill Cosby standup routine (way before Fat Albert) about getting his tonsils out. He ended the story with a refrain that resonates with me now. “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” But it won’t do any good to scream for ice cream if you live in Marin. Downtown, tourist laden Sausalito or the busy streets of San Francisco are just too much trouble to get to when you are in Larkspur and have a hankering for something creamy, cold and decadent.

It’s a good thing you can still buy daily-made chocolate frosted vanilla mini-cupcakes from Teacake Cupcakes in my neighborhood…sometimes you just have to eat what you have to eat.

Featured photo credit: Mount Tamalpaid | Nelso (Transferred by DimiTalen) | via Wikipedia


  1. TG that I don’t live in Marin County. I can go hiking, hot air ballooning, white water rafting, skiing, snow shoeing, cliff climbing and I can eat ice cream-American ice cream, enchiladas. I’m free, man!

  2. I loved reading your article. I lived in Larkspur for 13 years and was sad to see Baskin Robins close too. Rulli Cafe became my go to for gelato. They make their own fresh gelato during spring, summer and into the fall. You won’t find it there during the holidays because they say, people don’t buy it when it’s cold outside. They are known for making the best gelato in the Bay Area! A short walk from Rulli you will find Pico Pizarria. They have soft serve ice cream by Straus family creamery with unusual Marin toppings like olive oil and sea salt. It’s delicious. I hope this help the next time you have a craving.

  3. Very entertaining Pat. Fitness of course is tied into educational, social and economic levels of being. We have an ice cream shop or two left here in Butte County, but most of that market is controled by the super markets. Raleys now carries some terrific gelato. I had some mint chocolate chip the other day that was incredible. Now, eating ice cream only once or twice a year? That’s what I call real discipline.


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