Kinrose Creamery Gets the Scoop on Valentine’s Day

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If love can make us feel forever young, then the exquisitely fresh ice creams created at Kinrose Creamery, newly opened in the winding, souk-like Mills Alley, are the Valentine’s Day indulgence that not only may spark a youthful flirtation but also fan the embers of an older, deeper love back to a last, radiant glow.

Just to Recap

Sometime during the 1300s CE, the Persian mystic-poet named Hafez wrote:

Though I am old, hold me tightly in your arms at night
So at dawn I will rise beside you as a young man.”

Literary scholars today pretty much agree that poems like this one, achingly tender, lyrical, and subtly erotic, made their way along the trade routes from India, China, Persia and the Arabian peninsula across the Mediterranean into Europe. They came as yet another priceless import like the pearls, turquoise, saffron, tamarind, anise, sesame seeds, sumac, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, caraway, cloves, turmeric, nutmeg, almonds, apricots, pomegranates, pistachios, silk-wool rugs, velvet invented and mastered in Cairo, damasked textiles, finely Damascened (hair-thin wires of precious metals, hammered into incised, blackened steel) swords, armor and jewelry that eventually landed in Florence, Venice, Cordoba, Paris and beyond.

Vendors would often play their stringed instruments (immediately copied by European luthiers) and sing the vernacular love songs of their homelands alongside their luxurious and aromatic wares to lure prospective buyers. And locals in Italy, Spain, and France, listened, learned, translated, and followed their lead. The anonymous love song as we know it – think “Greensleeves”– was brought by roving troubadours into the European countryside, inspired by traditional Middle Eastern songs of longing, bliss and separation by the hard, white light of an unwelcome dawn. It is impossible for us to imagine our world without these sensuous but refined influences. (Well, wait—we can imagine such a place. But we’d rather not.)

Friends and Lovers

And love is where the story of Kinrose Creamery begins, with the meeting and courtship of owners Maria Oveysi and Moe Kamal. Maria, of Iranian descent, grew up in Northern Virginia, where her parents owned Café Rose, famous for its lush saffron ice cream, where the name persists in their daughter’s creamery enterprise (“Kin” as in family, “rose,” self-explanatory). Moe, who is of Egyptian descent, grew up in Baltimore and New York. The pair met through mutual friends as graduate students while Maria managed Amoo’s Restaurant, the later incarnation of her family enterprise. Their budding romance and mutual entrepreneurial spirit brought them to California during the pandemic. They opened Kinrose Creamery on January 13, 2024, following several successful catering and pop-up teasers (including a birthday bash for Selena Gomez).

“We were drawn to Pasadena for our business venture because it’s so charming, so homey and family-oriented. And, it’s at least 5 to 10 degrees warmer than Weho, where we currently live,” says Maria, eying the rain.

Moe adds, “And we love California, period, because it’s such a welcoming ecosystem of innovation. In northern Cal, you have tech. And here in Southern California, the business culture is so collaborative and creative. Global trends in art, fashion, and pop culture often begin right here.”

Maria’s parents frequently return to Iran, where they stock up on the pricey saffron that Kinrose uses to replicate the recipe perfected by Maria’s mother, as well as lavashak, the delightfully tart, thin fruit leather that Persians have joyfully brought into the culinary mainstream. Notably, the menu and interior avoid the familiar trappings of stereotypic Middle Eastern ethnicity. The pastel walls are painted with the classic arch in sherbet colors set with cane work inserts, and the furniture is funky, vintage, mid-century-modern-meets-Middle East, with an airy feel and freewheeling retro vibe.

A Fresh Take on Decor

“We curated and thrifted all of the furniture from FB Marketplace and private parties,” explains Maria, settling into an angular chair of glossy, butter-yellow vinyl originally on the set of “The Fugitive.”

Original paintings by Ali Sabet flank one wall, and Maria blushes when I tell her that one of the women, raven-tressed and sloe-eyed (sloes are black plums), looks like her portrait. Another canvas depicts Jasmin Moghbeli, mission commander for SpaceX’s Crew-7 and flight engineer aboard the International Space Station. A black-and-white-checkered bench lends a shag-a-delic Austin Powers touch, while Moe’s favorite Pac-Man machine awaits game boys on a sugar high.

In keeping with their contemporary style profile, Maria and Moe haven’t rushed to introduce their ice cream to Persian and Armenian eateries around town. Instead, they want their creations, so unlike the synthetic, overpoweringly sugary ice cream Americans are used to, to find their way onto the tongues of Pasadenans from all backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, East Indian and Latinx customers gravitate instantly to vibrant flavors like tamarind and pomegranate. And the sheer berenj, or roz bel laban, a sublime elevation of rice pudding in ice cream form, will naturally please lovers of horchata.

No Dyes, Just Deliciousness

For those who care, Maria says that the fat content of a Kinrose scoop is typically 12-14%, at 275 to 310 calories per serving. Although no further details are shared as we go to press, the couple is discussing plans for expansion and broader product distribution.

Kinrose Creamery makes everything on-site utilizing state-of-the-art Italian gelateria equipment. The several current flavors surprise and delight, starting with the fact that they aren’t blazing with color. You know why? Ben and Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, Baskin-Robbins and everything else mass-produced currently in your freezer is pumped full of dyes, primarily to appeal to children.

Moe shrugs. “We don’t use food coloring. We don’t need to. The silky mouthfeel, the aroma, the flavor. It’s enough.”

And he’s right. When your eyes are squeezed shut in pleasure, you don’t see much at all.

The menu is small and currently limited to several flavors. A single scoop is $7.50, and a split scoop is $9.50. Add a cone for $1. The scoops are appropriately cream-colored, flecked with green pistachio, crushed walnuts, a crunch of baklava bits, and a sprinkling of dried rose petals. Just as these ice creams challenge the American fixation on technicolor desserts, the flavors are layered and discreet, teasing the tastebuds the way a sinuous ribbon of music or smoky perfume may waft through the maze of the medina, daring you to follow it to its source.

A Silk Road of Flavor

Moe explains that they created the Egyptian Mint Chip flavor for his father. Here’s where we start to get weak in the knees: this flavor gets its unique, stretchy texture from salep, made from the crushed tubers of orchids. (ORCHIDS, okay?) Maria explains they prefer this fabled and foxy ingredient instead of the more common mastic, a tree resin, “because mastic is too aromatic, and it changes the flavor.” Kids who try the Egyptian Mint Chip call the bouncy mouthfeel “marshmallow-y,” an accurately tactile description.

The education continues with Ishta, orange flower and pistachio. It’s definitely not Caltrans orange in hue (thankfully). And the flavor is not High C-citrusy at all. Instead, it’s like taking a breath in the chilly morning air of a California orange grove of a century ago.

The showstopper is sour cherry topped with cotton candy that some call fairy floss. To fully appreciate this flavor, I get a dual language lesson regarding the fluffy tuft that tops the scoop like a kooky Andy Warhol toupee.

“In Farsi, we call it pashmak,” says Maria. “It means ‘fur coat’!”

But here’s where it ends: ghazal banat. Kamal explains the meaning in Arabic: “sweet-talking a girl.” The featherweight wisp of spun sugar melts on my palate, and now I’m the one who’s blushing. My darling husband catches me as I swoon.

Kinrose Creamery Pasadena
140 Mills Place
Pasadena, CA 91105
Closed Mondays
Open Tues. – Sun., 1 – 9 PM

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Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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