Just off the main drag of Grand Avenue in Escondido, Suzanne Schaffner transformed a former photography studio into a destination-worthy cafe and gelateria where seasonal San Diego County ingredients are the starring act.

She makes good use of the cozy space, with the bakery operations on the second floor and the ground floor housing the gelato-making area and a counter-service cafe where guests can ogle an array of house-made baked goods (with an impressive number of gluten-free options), watch paninis and salads being made, or try samples of the 18 rotating flavors of gelato that are made fresh on-site each day.

After living and working abroad, Suzanne Schaffner returned to her hometown where she fulfilled a dream of opening a small storefront and creating a menu based on local relationships and seasonality.

At EscoGelato, she sources as much as she can from county farms and artisans.

Citrus fruit is gleaned from neighbors throughout Escondido, while coffee (for both drinking and use in the espresso gelato) comes from Zumbar Coffee in Sorrento Valley, with the lavender for the lavender lattes supplied by Keys Creek Lavender.

House-baked goods like gluten-free muffins, biscotti and cakes make use of eggs from Flugee Egg Ranch in Escondido.

Salads are prepared with greens and carrots from Be Wise Ranch in San Pasqual Valley, and cucumber and tomato from Dassi Family Farm.  

The signature panini, aptly named the Deedo, is a melty combination of thin-sliced chicken, provolone, pesto made with basil from Archis Acres and Dassi Family Farm, roasted red peppers, avocado from Stehly Farms in Valley Center, and mayo pressed on fresh-baked rosemary olive oil bread from Bread & Cie in Hillcrest.

With strawberry season in full swing, berries are coming in from a number of farms, including BeWise, Valdivia in Carlsbad and Kawano in Vista. They’re used to make strawberry jam to top tangy yoghurt, sorbet so creamy you’ll swear there’s dairy in it, and rich strawberry gelato.

The gelato is the heart and soul of the shop with 18 rotating seasonal flavors made each day. The menu changes often, but some recent flavors included the likes of passionfruit sorbet, apricot goat cheese, pistachio, and raspberry sorbet. Along with a few local flavors that stood out from the pack.

Figs are picked fresh each summer and reconstituted throughout the year with orange juice and port wine for use in the sophisticated mascarpone and fig gelato.

Espresso gelato is made with Zumbar coffee, which yields a complex flavor that combines with the cream and sugar for an almost Kalua-esque rendition of the classic.

Sheets of fresh-baked granola bars are crumbled and mixed with vanilla ice cream and macerated blueberries for what tastes like a cold version of a berry crumble.

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