Hutton Marshall | Uptown Editor
The sunny San Diego summer has started, and the heat is here with it, as the broken air conditioning of one particular newspaper editor’s Honda Civic never fails to remind. With a California drought worsening throughout the state, unusually high temperatures and an ominous number of wildfires in San Diego County, summer appears to be feeling boisterous this year.
Luckily, three shops within our coverage area offer consolation for the dismaying temperature gauge. Without further ado:
Liquid Eden is a three-month-old water store based in Normal Heights, and its slogan is “liquefy your soul.” Yes, you read that correctly, but proceed with an open mind.
While plain on the outside, Liquid Eden’s interior quickly lowers eyebrows raised by its namesake. A delightfully, almost suspiciously friendly couple, Chris and Trisha, greet their customers inside a temple to the purity and holistic nature of water. Plants grow artfully out of the walls. Delicate bulbs and ornaments hang from the ceiling. Despite their lush interior, Liquid Eden sells just two things: water and things to put it in—namely, jugs.
Liquid Eden sells two different types of water both for about fifty cents a gallon. They’ve got the good-old-fashioned purified water, which goes through their “12-step commercial grade reverse osmosis filtration system.” They also sell a “re-mineralized” version of this, since, ironically, really pure water can taste much dryer than people are used to.
However, the couple’s dedication to their product doesn’t stop there. While it’s clear they care about the quality of their water, there’s something a bit more esoteric that goes into it, too. Chris will meditate next to the large barrels of water in the morning. Positive words like “love” and “happiness” are printed out on small slips of paper and taped to the jugs. One may quickly assume that such practices have no scientifically provable benefit, but Chris would disagree. He cites a researcher by the name of Dr. Masaru Emoto, who spent time studying water molecules under the microscope, positing that water can be empirically improved by positive energy. Emoto concludes, and Chris agreed, that doing things like playing peaceful music in front of water — or even arguing in front of it — can change the crystal structure of water. This is the basis for much of what Liquid Eden does. A statement on their website says it well:
“Liquid Eden is more than about good water; It’s about positive energy. It is a peaceful sanctuary where you will leave feeling better than when you came in. Everything right down to the music played in the store is intentional, and in service to having a peaceful and positive space.”
But even on the merits of the store’s spiritual benefits, Chris and Trisha are characteristically open minded. Chris said that not all their customers view water – or life, for that matter – in the same holistic way he and his wife do. Everyone gets something different out of every experience, especially experiences of a spiritual nature.
Still, he said, his water is a lot cheaper than buying a jug of Arrowhead at Vons.
In early June, North Park finally got an ice cream shop.
Granted, there haven’t been any riots in recent memory calling for a North Park ice cream shop, but it was notable that an area notorious for mass consumption of food and drink didn’t have a store solely devoted to ice cream, a firmly established staple of gluttony.
Hammond’s Ice Cream goes further than just filling a void though, it also caters to North Park’s sweet tooth for sustainability as well. Hammond’s sources their ice cream from Tropical Dream, a large ice-cream producer in Hawaii known for their dedication to sourcing local ingredients and hand crafting their “super premium” ice cream.
And admittedly, the company’s dedication to sourcing ingredients locally loses some of its flavor when it travels 2,500 miles to get in front of North Park customers, but Tropical Dream and Hammond’s both make considerable efforts to mitigate the impacts of their business. Tropical Dream is the only Hawaiian ice cream producer that has more than 50 percent of its ingredients coming from the island state.
The owners, Trang and Ryan Hammond and Daniel Szpak, have also taken care when crafting their brick and mortar location on University Avenue. All the wood furniture found in their store is crafted in North Park out of reclaimed materials, including a felled eucalyptus tree in the neighborhood. Their chandelier made of old-fashioned ice cream cones and interesting display of drought-friendly succulent arrangements.
Their product is nothing to balk at either. With 18 percent butter fat, it’s much richer and creamier than what one finds at a Baskin Robbins, and the 32 flavors include some Hawaiian rarities not often found either, such as Tahitian vanilla, white chocolate ginger and Jamocha almond fudge. Their offering of a flight of six mini-cones is perfect for the adventurous or indecisive.
Hammond’s appears to be the ice cream shop North Park never knew it always wanted, and its here just in time for summer.
As the premiere gourmet popsicle maker in Normal Heights – a populated and competitive field, to be sure – Viva Pops is a mainstay during the heated summer months when locals want to snack on something frozen and refreshing, but want to retain their dignity abandoned when chasing down an ice cream truck.
In all seriousness, Viva Pops treats the idea of popsicles with the upmost dignity. This is apparent in both their process and their final product. Housed in a small store on Adams Avenue, Viva Pops outsources to local organic grocery stores and appears at several local farmer’s markets throughout the week.
It’s committed to keeping all of its ’sicles priced at $3, which sounds a bit cumbersome for something your kid might wolf down in 30 seconds, but one also must consider what goes into these things. Viva Pops carries a strong aversion to common processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup (a.k.a. the elixir of The Man), choosing instead to sweeten their pops with agave.
But much more than that, Viva Pops creates all their popsicles on-site, making them out of fresh fruits and other natural ingredients. Their goat cheese popsicles were particularly intriguing (although too adventurous for this meek journalist).
Their salty caramel popsicle, however, blended salty and sweet with considerable culinary deft. It didn’t evoke the sugar high and subsequent unpleasantness common in their competitors. Think fruit-smoothie-on-a-stick rather than a frozen dessert.
If you want to see Viva Pops in action, they’ll be selling at the Alex’s Lemonade Stand event in Normal Heights on July 30. See Uptown Briefs on Page 7 for more details on that.
Stay cool, San Diego!