ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Among the many things Los Angeles is known for, add strange ice cream. L.A. has become a melting pot - well, a freezer chest - for exotic ice creams that blend flavors from around the world. Some have ingredients we weren't even sure would freeze.

NPR's Amy Walters went looking for odd flavors, and boy did she find some.

AMY WALTERS reporting:

Cruise down Hollywood Boulevard, take a sharp down at a run down liquor store and there next to a tiki bar under a big sign with shamrock you'll find the granddaddy's of L.A.'s exotic ice cream shops. Welcome to Mashti Malone's.

Mr. MESHTI SHARONI (Owner, Mashti Malone's): I'm Meshti Sharoni, one of the brothers of Mashti Malone's.

Mr. MASHTI SHARONI (Owner, Mashti Malone's): And I'm Mashti Sharoni, the older brother.

WALTERS: The Sharoni's are the Lewis and Clark of eclectic frozen delicacies. Back when the two trailblazers moved here from Iran, adventurous ice cream lovers could only dream of something more than 31 familiar flavors.

Mashti Sharoni set up shop in what had been an old Irish ice cream store. To save money, he just added his name to the existing sign and that's old Mashti Malone's was born.

Mr. MASHTI SHARONI: The creamy rosewater and saffron rosewater, the beginning I started with that. Then after that I invent the orange blossom, the ginger one, lavender. Every year I invent new flavor.

WALTERS: Some flavors take getting used to, like Falloudah. A sorbet with squiggly rice starch noodles.

Mr. MASHTI SHARONI: Usually you pick the ice cream combined with the sorbet.

WALTERS: So it looks like you're putting little hairs on my ice cream.

Mr. MASHTI SHARONI: Yeah. First, they are not sure, but then as soon as they taste, everybody almost, they say wow.

WALTERS: Heading Sunset Boulevard, the shops get hipper by the mile. And so does the ice cream or gelato. Mark Geldman is the head chef at Pazzo Gelato, Italian for crazy ice cream.

Mr. MARK GELDMAN (Pazzo Gelato): In this part of the world people are very, very adventurous. They want us to push it.

WALTERS: Geldman's menu includes mango with chili, pineapple cardamom, and one adult favorite he whips up for special occasions.

Mr. GELDMAN: The chocolate martini is a really high-grade Venezuelan chocolate - very, very rich. And then we spice it up and infuse it with Grey Goose vodka. When it reaches a certain freezing point, the flavor just explodes.

WALTERS: But not all of Geldman's customers are all bold as his gelato. Matt Simmons was slightly stunned that his friend, Kelsey Collins(ph) picked out Strawberry Basil for him.

Mr. MATT SIMMONS (Pazzo Gelato customer): You serious, it says basil on the thing?

Ms. KELSEY COLLINS (Pazzo Gelato customer): You have a preconceived notion that basil is supposed to go with spaghetti.

Mr. SIMMONS: I have a preconceived notion that basil tastes like basil and not strawberry.

WALTERS: Simmons tongue might have real meltdown if he visits Scoops. Tai Kim is the owner.

Mr. TAI KIM (Owner, Scoops): People got to know my place as most interesting flavor they ever seen in their life. There are only two regular flavors: pistachio and brown bread. On rotation are avocado with banana, cheesecake with dill, and walnut, raisin, gorgonzola.

Ms. ANNMARIE CARMELI(ph) (Scoops patron): Mm, so good.

WALTERS: Annemarie Carmeli and Joey Lopez walk to Tai's shop just to taste what's new.

Ms. CARMELI: Can I try the wasabi too. Joey you have to try that one. Wow.

WALTERS: That's right. She said wasabi. As in, really, really hot Japanese wasabi mustard mixed with chocolate. It's painfully sweet.

Ms. CARMELI: I'm going to cry soon. Oh my.

(Soundbite of music)

WALTERS: And of course the ice cream lady. When Hollywood's bars and clubs start to close, Leyla Safai drives up in her pink ice cream party truck. It's a glowing beacon for tired out partiers.

Ms. LEYLA SAFAI (Owner, HeartsChallenger): You have bad breath and you're like dehydrated. Come and have a big stick.

WALTERS: She also sells fluffy white Russian ice cream bears, whipped vanilla bars from Armenia, Italian spumoni wedges, and her newest treat, bulging white hearts filled with raspberry sorbet.

Ms. SAFAI: We carry ice cream candy and toys from all around the world. It's like something you didn't normally expect to see or hear or taste or touch or believe could happen because it can't.

WALTERS: Safai says challenges of the heart are the greatest challenges. Challenges of the taste buds aren't so bad either. Amy Walters, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Here's the thing about online, there is no way you can taste this ice cream at npr.org, but there some very sweet ice cream pictures.

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