I scream, you scream, we all scream for -- ice cream sandwiches, actually.

We're not talking the ersatz faux-nilla between chocolate-ish wafers. No, we are yearning for handcrafted, small-batch, roll-your-eyeballs-back-in-your-head yumminess. And we found it at three terrific little ice cream shops around the Bay Area -- Pacific Cookie Co., Cookiebar and Cream.

Pardon the pun, but here's the scoop.

Cookiebar

Address: 1606 Webster St., Alameda

Contact: 510-521-1544, www.cookiebarshop.com

Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until 10 p.m. Saturdays, and until 8 p.m. Sundays.

Rachael Medina pulls out a batch of warm cookies at CREAM in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Saturday, April 5, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)
Rachael Medina pulls out a batch of warm cookies at CREAM in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Saturday, April 5, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group) ( DAN ROSENSTRAUCH )

Ice cream sandwich tab: $3.50

They had us at Circus Animal ice cream.

Walking into Alameda's adorable little Cookiebar is like being invited to unleash your inner child. Not only are you encouraged to taste everything before choosing -- neon Cotton Candy swirl? Yes, please! -- but they sandwich the ice cream between still-warm cookies. I felt a sudden urge to don bobby socks and put my hair in pigtails.

The ice cream itself is rich and creamy, in vivid flavors that range from yes-it-really-tastes-like-cotton-candy to Mango, Green Tea, Birthday Cake and a Three Musketeers-like Medieval Madness. The ice cream comes from Mitchell's and nostalgic fave Thrifty, so you could be perfectly happy with a simple scoop ($2.50) -- or even happier with a double ($3.50). But the Pacific Cookie Co. cookies for the ice cream sandwiches ($3.50) are killer.


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It's a good thing the staff offers suggestions, or you could dither over all the possible combinations forever. A Green Tea scoop between Lemon Drop cookies? Or Birthday Cake with Cahootz (macadamia nut with white chocolate chips) cookies?

We eventually settled on a minty Grasshopper Pie ice cream nestled between a pair of triple chocolate Dr. Midnights -- every bit as decadent as that sounds -- and pink Circus Animal ice cream with colorful sprinkles tucked between warm Snickerdoodles. Happy sigh.

And unlike some of its more famous confectionary cousins, such as Cream and Smitten, there's no line wrapping around the block, just friendly people, counter seating and immediate gratification. Cookiebar specializes in iconic childhood flavors, but foodies take note: They're introducing a Macaron ice cream sandwich soon. Meanwhile, keep tabs on the flavors of the day at Twitter.com/cookiebarshop.

-- J. Burrell

Cream (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me)

Address: 1372 N. Main St., Walnut Creek (Locations in Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Jose and San Mateo)

Two chocolate chip cookies and a scoop of ice cream awaits delivery to a customer at CREAM in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Saturday, April 5, 2014. (Dan
Two chocolate chip cookies and a scoop of ice cream awaits delivery to a customer at CREAM in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Saturday, April 5, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group) ( DAN ROSENSTRAUCH )

Contact: 925-891-4041, www.creamnation.com

Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; open until midnight Friday and Saturday

Ice cream sandwich tab: $2.99 ($2.50 cash discount; $4 for vegan or gluten-free sandwich)

It's easy to be put off by the sight of the line that stretches out the door at Walnut Creek's Cream during peak hours, but it's difficult to walk away once the smell of fresh-baked cookies hits you. Fear not: The friendly crew at Cream keeps the queue moving -- and the few minutes you spend in line will give you enough time to select from a dizzying array of choices.

With 20 ice cream flavors and 10 cookies to pick from, it's going to take you a moment to decide. Will you go traditional -- a chocolate chip cookie and a scoop of vanilla -- or maybe get a caffeine boost, pairing Cup of Joe ice cream with a Cappucino cookie?

On my first visit, I paired a soft, chewy snickerdoodle with Cinnamon Chill ice cream for a delicious blast of cinnamon flavor; on a return trip, a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie paired well with Peanut Butter Twist, a vanilla ice cream with a soft peanut butter swirl and hard chunks of dark chocolate.

The staff will likely ask if you want your cookie warmed before they build your sandwich -- and of course, you should. The cookies' soft, buttery texture really comes through when they're warm. But be careful with toppings; a traditionally made cookie and a scoop of ice cream may already satisfy your sweet tooth, so piling on sprinkles, chocolate sauce or marshmallows may a bit too much.

If you're looking for something on the lighter side of the sugar scale, go for more subtle ice cream flavors like the Matcha Green Tea, Coconut or Pistachio. Cream also offers vegan cookies and ice cream, gluten-free cookies, cones, cups, brownies, fruit bars and a "waffle taco" sundae. Take that, Taco Bell.

Finally, if you're at Cream on a warm spring or summer afternoon or evening, you've got one more choice to make. You can go froufrou with your frozen treat and take your ice cream sandwich in a bowl to minimize the mess, or you can take your chances and get it in a paper sleeve.

Look for me next time you're at Cream. I'll be the guy with ice cream all over his shirt and the big grin on his face.

-- D. Jimenez

Pacific Cookie Co.

Address: 2309 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley (with another location at 303 Potrero St., Suite 40A, Santa Cruz)

Contact: 510-649-6905, www.pacificcookie.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; until midnight Fridays through Saturdays

Ice cream tab: Sandwich, $3; Mom's Special (2 cookies and milk), $2.80

Pacific Cookie Co.'s flagship store near UC Santa Cruz is the stuff of campus lore, and the legend recently spread to Cal. Late night study sessions have never been sweeter.

The new bakery-ice cream shop took up residence next to American Apparel on the busy intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft. We walked inside and were immediately thrilled -- like kids in a cookie store -- by the whopping 13 varieties of cookies made with high-quality ingredients, like Guittard chocolate and creamery butter. The cookies were thick, chunky and, according to our server, baked fresh daily.

So it was surprising that two of the three cookies we tried were dry and hard instead of warm and gooey, which is what we were hoping for. But there was no denying the traditional, spot-on flavors, from the hand-forked Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip to Dr. Midnight, made with semisweet chocolate, chocolate syrup and cocoa powder. Mint lovers have to try the Mint Condition -- it's Dr. Midnight but with Guittard green mint chips.

As for ice cream, on our visit, there were eight flavors of Marianne's (a 70-year Santa Cruz tradition), from Green Tea and Vanilla Bean to Coffee Almond Fudge and the aptly-named Heaven, vanilla ice cream laced with brownie chunks, fudge and peanut butter. If you like to get your mouth around your sandwich, be aware that Pacific Cookie Co.'s sandwiches are huge and the ratio of ice cream to cookie is purposefully off: They say their customers like getting extra ice cream (two big scoops between their cookies). That's why they serve the sandwiches in to-go bowls with spoons.

Without doubt, our favorite combination was the creamy Coffee Almond Fudge between two warm, slightly thinner Almond Joe cookies, a tantalizing salute to the Almond Joy candy bar, with toasted almonds and coconut flakes. While the Santa Cruz location offers Red House Bakery's gluten-free cookies ($1.75 each) in flavors like Chocolate Chip With Sea Salt and Cardamom Sugar, they are not available in Berkeley at this time. But, with quick service and those handy spoons, you can grab the coveted counter spot and enjoy your generous scoop. Studying can wait.

-- J. Yadegaran