I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream when it gets this hot in Malibu—and now, even vegans and the lactose intolerant can say “Yes!” to an ice cream cone. Bernard and Sophie Benita, who opened Le Cafe de la Plage in Point Dume Plaza two years ago, offer their artisanal, hand-crafted ice creams in both classic and vegan versions.
In fact, Le Cafe de la Plage was named one of ”LA’s 27 Best Vegan Ice Cream Spots” by LAist earlier this summer, meaning it definitely passes the taste test.
Fans of vegan ice cream will also be in for a surprise if they haven’t been in the shop recently—the couple just secretly unveiled their new vegan soft-serve ice cream last weekend, an option for those with a hankering for a swirly cone with the curl on top.
The first vegan soft serve flavors might be pineapple coco or date almond orange, but “It’s a secret,” Bernard kidded when he wrote about it to The Malibu Times before the official flavor reveal.
Bernard and Sophie arrived in LA from Provence in southern France about two-and-a-half years ago, after years of dreaming and planning to open an ice cream shop together in the U.S. Five months after their arrival, they chose Malibu as their first location, and opened their café in Point Dume Plaza.
Bernard wrote in an email that they chose Malibu after looking at other locations in the area because “Malibu is very unique and the vibes are so special. We’re in love with this area, and the people are so wonderful.” Bernard, of course a native French speaker, preferred to communicate in English via email.
The name, Le Cafe de la Plage, is French for “coffee of the beach,” but it also happens to be the name of a 2001 French film.
The ice cream—both classic and vegan—is made by hand at a small kitchen in downtown LA in small, five-gallon batches with mostly organic ingredients. Bernard and Sophie are very hands-on throughout the entire process, and develop their own recipes and flavors.
“We choose our ingredients without GMOs, and we know the origin of the food is essential,” Bernard wrote. “For example, the vanilla beans come from Tahiti (a little part of France in the middle of the sea), which have the most beautiful and rich taste.”
He and Sophie have been working on their ice cream recipes for nearly 14 years and there’s been a lot of trial and error in that time. Bernard said he couldn’t even count the number of times they have tested and retested their recipes before finally arriving at a current total of 40 recipes that satisfy them.
“It’s a long process to figure out what ingredients to combine, and to do specific calculations and tests. Every ingredient has different gustative and technical specifications and the assemblies must be good and mechanically compatible,” he wrote.
“And we plan to continue our research. We will have a number of additional innovative flavors to offer soon,” he shared.
The couple decided to make a line of vegan ice creams in addition to classic ice cream because “We want each of our customers to feel comfortable with what we make, and it is possible to make tasty and unique vegan ice cream.”
The popular ice cream flavor lemon/ginger/mint was actually inspired by Malibu. Bernard wrote that they came up with this flavor after spending a particularly wonderful day and evening in Malibu.
Both Bernard and Sophie were greatly influenced by their mothers’ cooking and careful selection of ingredients when they were growing up. “Sophie and I have this in common—we get our inspirations in all these childhood remembrances,” he wrote.
Flavors are rotated three times a month or more, depending on the season, and the shop typically stocks an equal number of vegan and dairy flavors in the case (usually six to eight of each). Classic ice cream flavors can include black vanilla (truffle infused), mint chocolate, blueberry lavender, choco dream and salted caramel; while vegan flavors can include rose raspberry lychee, passion fruit, strawberry oat milk almond, chocolate and pineapple basil.
Kitchen chef Leslie Fenton said the classic and vegan ice creams are now being packaged and sold in local grocery stores, including in Malibu at Whole Foods and PC Greens.
The café also serves gourmet coffees, teas, sandwiches, salads, omelets and baked goods. It opens at 7 a.m. every day, closes at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 7:30 p.m. all other nights.
Le Cafe de la Plage, 29169 Heathercliff Rd., Ste 112, Malibu