Foote’s – Salisbury MA

31 07 2008

At the end of a long day of consumption, even being motivated to try a fourth cone is a real challenge. It probably helped a lot to be disappointed, and thus Sam and I were looking for redemption. As we drove away from the shore, there was a billboard proclaiming that an ice cream joint was just up the road. It was an Orange Pineapple cone that brought my day to a close.

A lighted sign proclaiming “Wow” atop this building was just greater motivation for getting us to stop. With signs that show that Foote’s had been here for ages, and cartoon paintings of a hot dog, hamburger, cone, and clam, we opted to eat here in addition to getting a final scoop. Sam got fried clams, and I had the cheesesteak. Mine was a few thin medallions of steak on a hamburger bun with a slice of cheese, the clams looked great.

Despite the fact this place seemed to have been in existence longer than either of us had been alive, there was a ramshackle nature to the way things here were run. I asked the guy making our sandwiches what the hours for this place were. Instead of pointing me to a sign or telling me anything outright, he hemmed and hawed before revealing that there weren’t any concrete hours. It really depended on when folks showed up and when they wanted to leave.

The food and ice cream took up opposite halves of the building and they seemed to operate independent of each other with a different staff handling the day’s duties. There weren’t any seasonal or special flavors here and so it took some looking for me to come up with something to have that wasn’t a repeat and would finish off the day the right way. While Sam opted for a pistachio, I went with a flavor that is often the most difficult to do successfully, orange pineapple.

Citrus and cream aren’t always the best combination. In a creamsicle they are separated and only combine inside the mouth, but an orange pineapple cone has to carry the citrus flavor into the cream and not make it seem rancid like that time you mixed orange juice and milk back in second grade. This was the right mix, a refreshing blend of citrus and cream that didn’t seem like a collapsed creamsicle. Instead there were pieces of fruit held in suspension and a light refreshing ice cream that made an easy cone to get to the bottom of at the end of the day.

Sam didn’t have quite the same luck with the pistachio and he ditched the last half a scoop, though maybe the clams had more to do with it than the ice cream did. There’s a great seated area here with picnic benches covered from the sun by the branches of trees. It’s a perfect site to get a cone if you’re leaving after a day at Salisbury Beach and the shade will keep you from extending that sunburn.

Cone – small $2.50 medium $3 large $3.50

Sundae $5

Frappe $4.25

Foote’s

159 Beach Rd, Salisbury, MA 01952

978-462-7376

Open seasonally

the guy said the hours were when they got there… usually 11:30a-noon until 9:30-10p

Foote’s online





Aloha – Hampton Beach NH

31 07 2008

Sometimes ice cream has only one purpose, and that’s to cool folks down and bring a smile. In such cases we ignore some of the other indiscretions, because we feel better just by eating ice cream and not because the stuff is any good, just because it is there. Beachside parlors are certainly like this, and we were suckers. I went for a Butter Pecan cone, Sam had a Peppermint Stick.

If you look on the internet, this place doesn’t seem to exist. Sam and I didn’t use his GPS to steer us here either. It was all a matter of heading to the beach so we could play catch and the fact that our parking spot was right across the street from this spot. If we hadn’t been in the midst of a day of mad consumption this wouldn’t have fared so poorly, but even the sand between our toes couldn’t save it.

Red flag #1 was parked out front. While the signs declared this was Aloha Homemade Ice Cream, the Rosev (nee Hood) truck was parked right out front and was loading things in. Maybe Hood was only supplying the soft-serve as there was one of those obnoxious pink flags with 40 different flavors that took up an entire wall of the store. Even the name Aloha just seems out of place in New Hampshire.

Red flag #2 was our exquisite customer service. “I’d like butter pecan in a sugar cone.” Almost a minute later the girl looked up at me with a wafer cone in her hand and asked if I wanted a twist. I think I was lost for a moment since I couldn’t figure out how you would twist hard ice cream and change the cellular matter of the cone.

The ice cream wasn’t anything to write home about. In fact, Sam asked if I just skipped over the places that weren’t good, but I feel as obligated to steer folks away from bad ice cream as I do to alert them to great stuff. There wasn’t much flavor here at all…. neither the cream, butter, nor pecan did anything. Despite the benefit of the beach this seemed old and stale with soft pecans and lots of refreeze. If you’re in New Hampshire swimming, look around for other options.

Somehow all of these problems are sort of swept under the carpet. Even if a quarter only gets you ten minutes of parking, the chance to spend time on the beach erases any indiscretions. Thankfully those indiscretions didn’t carry over to Sam and I reciprocating the flirting we were getting from some girls nearby (because when they got near we realized that they were younger than his little sister). A few jumps through the waves after diving in the sand for some errant throws makes whatever seemed bad disappear.

Cone – kids $2.75 small $3.75 medium $4.25 large $4.75

Sundae – small $4.75 medium $5.75 large $6.75

Frappe/shake $5.25

Aloha Homemade Ice Cream

Ocean Blvd, Hampton Beach NH

Phone?

Open seasonally

Hours #a-#p?

no web mentions?





Strawberry Alley – Portsmouth NH

30 07 2008

While technology can be great at times, it doesn’t know everything. Sometimes the human memory wins out. None of the locals we asked even knew this place existed. I knew that I found ice cream in that spot before, so I put on my most confident strut and was relieved when we saw a bunch of folks with cones. In honor of the name, I had a Strawberry cone. Sam got Grapenut.

There is a reason that none of the locals know that this place exists. It is really meant to serve the tourist portion of town as Strawberry Alley is located in the Jefferson House – part of the Strawberry Bank Museum. It also conveniently caters to the crowds that gather for all of the summer events in Prescott Park, just across the street. The museum is a Colonial-themed historical re-enactment with most of the homes in their original site right near the harbor. Think Williamsburg without the rollercoasters or fair food… maybe just think Sturbridge Village by the sea.

For some reason, I always thought that the ice cream parlor didn’t  come about until the 1950’s, but the museum has been running this through Portsmouth summers for years. They don’t require these employees to wear period garb, so it really is a moment out of time. I’ll forgive these transgressions for the sake of ice cream, though ideally, I would make the ice cream using colonial methods and make that an interactive exhibit (we could use freezers for storage).

My dreams of antiquely homemade ice cream are dashed as soon as I see the Annabelle’s sign. They don’t even make the ice cream here. Annabelle’s delivers it to them from just down the street. The options here are limited to around a dozen, and most of the flavors are pretty conventional. The realization of where I am makes me remember an edict that I issued to myself that when I go somewhere that has got something special in their name, that I should just go for that. Strawberry calling.

The ice cream was off though. Maybe the fact that this ice cream doesn’t sell at the clip it does at Annabelle’s itself and thus wasn’t as fresh was the whole of the issue. However, it seemed off. The cream had bitten the tang of strawberry off, and the results were a pinkish cream. The strawberry pieces showed the effect of refreeze as well. Leads me to another of those get it where they make it decrees that I need to adhere to more.

This place is really a scoop shop. All that is offered are three sizes of cones, with the option to upgrade to a waffle cone or add sprinkles. There’s nowhere to sit, but as long as the weather allows, the gardens of Prescott Park are right across the street or you can walk all the way to the water’s edge.

Cone – kiddie $2.25 regular $2.60 large $3.25

Strawberry Alley – The Strawberry Bank Museum Ice Cream Shop

Marcy St, Portsmouth NH 03802-0300

603 433-1100

Open seasonally

Hours #a-#p

http://www.strawberybanke.org/





Schoolhouse – Burlington MA

30 07 2008

Technology can be a truly amazing thing. Generally, I’m really good with my geography, and I have a great sense of direction (as long as the sun is out). When my friend Sam brought his GPS along with us on a trip to New Hampshire, finding shoppes was as easy as typing “ice cream.” In honor of our first stop, I got a Burlington Heath Bar cone.

Schoolhouse is tucked in the middle of a non-descript strip mall along Route 3A. I guess the big benefit is they get the entire parking lot at night, when they do most of their business and everyone else is closed. Plus they can use that lot for their Sunday night Cruise Night and show off old cars. We parked far away, but only because it was in the shade.

Founded in 2003 by Rob and Betty Stanley, Schoolhouse was born to fill a void of good homemade ice cream in Burlington. That Rob’s mom Susan had been running Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Harwichport, didn’t hurt either as she could provide advice and was able to donate some older equipment to the fledgling business. Including recipes.

The information that led us here contained none of it. All I knew is that it was in a town we’d be heading through soon and I hadn’t been there yet. It had all of the charm of a 1950s ice cream parlor, and even some weathered signs that gave this place a truly classic feel. Of course that was disrupted by the fact that all of the people in the booths this early in the day were people who would have been there every day since the 1950s and that all were intently watching Project Runway on the HDTV. In honor of the place we were, I picked the most locally themed flavor with Burlington Heath Bar.

The results were pretty great. Toffee often gets into an ice cream as a final step. Usually you get a lot of pieces of toffee that carry all of the taste around in clusters in a vanilla ice cream. Here they start with a base that seems to be a toffee flavored ice cream (it may be a dulce le leche), and add pieces of candy ranging in size from dusty crumbles to the kind you need to stop and eat. It’s blended in with a strong cream that all makes this worthy of the hometown title.

Despite my forewarnings that maybe he should go for a kid’s cone, Sam was aghast when confronted with the amount of ice cream that was in his Mudpie cone. It was here as we sat inside at a booth that I confirmed the need to work on an essay about taming the cone. It’s an issue that confronts every cone eater, and it changes every approach to a cone when you need to eat with speed in order to prevent ice cream from melting all the way down your forearms. Any comments on how you attack a cone are welcome…

Cone – kid’s $2.85 small $3.55 medium $4.25 large $5.25

Sundae – small $4.45 medium $5.25 large $5.95

Frappe $4.75 malted frappe $5.25

Schoolhouse Ice Cream & Yogurt of Cape Cod

216 Cambridge St, Burlington, MA 01803

781 221-0338

Open year round

Tuesday-Saturday 11a-10:30p Sunday, Monday noon-10:30p

http://www.schoolhouseicecream.com/





Big Daddy’s – Wells ME

29 07 2008

Knowing I was heading to Maine, I asked my friend Joel if there were any good ice cream parlors along the shore that were worth a stop. Having grown up in the area, he was quick to point me toward this simple barn right along Route 1 in Wells. Here at the end of July, it seemed right to pretend it was October, and I went for a Pumpkin cone.

I approached this place from the front and it seemed like a simple classic roadside ice cream stand. The only food they offer are hot dogs and the gravel lot seemed like it could house all of the vacationers on these beaches. I think it was the size of the lot that first gave me pause. There were a lot more cars here already then there were people mulling about.

That’s when I walked around the side and realized there was also indoor seating and windows inside to order from. The character of Big Daddy’s came out inside here. There were plenty of benches around with people seated at, and a line that was twice as long as the one outside. It was the adornments on the walls where things came into focus. The ancient saws and hand tools that were mounted on the wall made you think this barn used to be a real old barn. The deer head mounted above where I sat seemed to confirm that.

Pumpkin as an ice cream flavor is usually a seasonal thing that never starts showing up until September. Here it seems like a regular part of the menu. With the cooler Maine air, it works as a glimpse into where things will be when the fall does come.

The flavor is more subtle than the pie that you’ll get at Thanksgiving. In July, that’s a very good thing as the spices that help carry the pumpkin flavor don’t land quite so heavy in your stomach. The ice cream is rich but light and the fear I had of it all sinking to the pit of my stomach like a brick proves wholly unfounded. This is a great ice cream stand, and I only wish that I had gone right from here to the beach.

From here, it’s a quick turn down Route 9 to get to Kennebunk. After eating this cone, I half expected to see a fleet of Secret Service cars shuttle the first Bush in for a banana split. Instead there were just a few families that knew the right place to go. All I had to do was heed the advice of a Death Vessel.

Cone – kids $1.70 small $2.85 medium $4 doubledip $4.90

Sundae – kids $2.45 small $3.80 large $5.85

Frappe $4.60 banana frappe $4.80

Big Daddy’s

2165 Post Rd, Wells, ME 04090

207 646-5454

Open year round

Daily 11:30a-10:30p

Big Daddy’s online





HenBorg’s – Georgetown MA

28 07 2008

Summer in New England is really the only time that things are really ever green. Sure there are pine trees that dot every forest (and even dominate in some areas), but it’s only in the summer that even the ground is green. Maybe it’s because there was so much green around this place that I decided to go with the wonderful artificialness of an Oreo cone.

HenBorg’s is a weird little spot. With a name that sounds like a lost fowl-man species from Star Trek, how can you expect anything but a bit weird. The place is tucked into a corner at Nunan’s Nursery & Greenhouses, and there are parts of the nursery all around this place. In front of it is a raised bed that you’d assume was full of plants, but instead seems to be strewn with picnic tables for HenBorg’s customers.

It really is the setting that makes this place, whether you take your cone and walk through the vegetation or sit on a bench and watch workers erect a new batch of greenhouses. I can’t determine how long this place has been here, but it really seems as though it may have begun at the same time as the nursery, with the nursery being wildly successful and taking over the rest of the lot. It seems like the house that can’t be leveled when a new development springs up all around it.

HenBorg’s is actually a full service diner on one side with an affordable menu of good looking fare if you head to the other counter. Today, we weren’t after food so much as a good cone to help propel the trip up to Maine. With the ice cream supplied by Richardson’s in neighboring Middleton, the quality here was going to be pretty strong, and the choice was Oreo for my cone.

The ice cream was great with the flavor of the stuffing between the cookies also being the flavor of the ice cream… it wasn’t sweet cream or vanilla, it was really an Oreo flavored ice cream, tinted to a brownish gray by some crushed cookies and then filled with a lot of cookie pieces. This would have been even better had I got it at Richardson’s since HenBorg’s doesn’t do quite the same business and this tasted as though the ice cream had been here for a while with the cookies seeming a bit saturated by staleness as is the case with any parlor that isn’t where the ice cream is made.

In addition to all of the lush vegetation and flowers that are all around, there is also a playground area for little kids with swings and a slide. They also offer free cones to kids who have a report card showing they made the honor roll. For older kids, every Monday night is a Cruise Night featuring classic cars on display.

Cone – small $2.57 medium $2.99 large $3.99

Sundae – small $3.99 large $4.99

Frappe $4.09

HenBorg’s Ice Cream & Food

269 Central St, Georgetown, MA 01833

978 352-8908

Open seasonally

Monday-Thursday 11a-9p Friday-Satruday 11a-9:30p Sunday 11:30a-8:30 p

HenBorg’s on MySpace





Emack & Bolio’s‎ – Brookline MA

26 07 2008

Ice cream is generally the perfect way to end a great meal. While there are certainly times when a cake (birthday) or pie (Thanksgiving) is more appropriate, ice cream fits nearly every undefined niche. The only times that things get problematic is when the ice cream disappoints. Unwittingly, both Marissa and I ordered a White Pistachio cone.

Emack & Bolio’s has been a landmark in Boston since they began in 1975 in Coolidge Corner. It was founded by rock lawyer Bob Rook initially as a place where folks could hang out all night long (liquor laws of the time meant that any place that sold had to close early). What was once a glorified hootenanny has become a fixture in town and has opened stores as far afield as Missouri and Florida.

What’s too bad about this history is that aside from a psychedelically painted cow in the front window, there is noting very rock and roll about this place. Tucked in a posh corner of Washington Square, there is not the music or attitude of rock present even vestigially. It’s just a parlor with a few cramped seats and little ventilation, so there’s no need to linger especially on a nice night like this.

Maybe it was bad timing, because the group that walked in behind us featured the girl that our scooper had a crush on, so his focus was clearly not on our order. He seemed put out by the fact that I asked for a sample of the pomegranate. When I got my cone it was the most precarious plop that you could imagine. Had I not caught the scoop with my teeth, I would have been left with an empty cone mere feet from the entrance.

The weather in the midst of summer can really mess with ice cream, but this had enough issues going on that it’s tough to blame the elements. Firstly, there was a terrible case of refreeze going on; the ice cream was laden with crystals that are out of place anywhere. Secondly, the actual pistachio nuts had turned the corner as well; while they were more than plentiful, they were soft and stale, and nearly always whole so that the flavor of the inside of the nut had no chance to get into the ice cream. Thirdly, and most importantly the ice cream itself was unimpressive. The flavor was lost. There was no creamy density to the cone to make it stand out and the ice cream was more of a bland vanilla with a hint of pistachio flavoring. They were really relying on the nuts to carry this cone and they past the opportunity for that to matter at all.

This wasn’t such a bad thing that I dumped it into a trash can as I walked, but it was worth some speculation as to what was up. Maybe it was the distracted employee base who seemed burdened by the counter work and they stopped paying attention to anything. We even contemplated referring to this place as “Emack and Blow-lios,” but realized that was probably too harsh, but they’ve got a lot to redeem themselves for next time I give ‘em a try.

Cone – 1scoop $3.48 2scoops $4.35 3scoops $4.70

Sundae – 1scoop $5.25 regular $5.94 ridiculous $6.95

Frappe $5.05 extra thick $5.90 malted $5.40

Emack & Bolio’s‎

1663 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 02445

617 492-1907

Open year round

Hours ?a-?p (not posted)

http://www.emackandbolios.com/





Cedar Hill Dairy Joy – Weston MA

24 07 2008

When the noontime news gets extended by an hour to cover tornadoes that touched down in New Hampshire, you know it’s not the best day for ice cream. I spied a location I’d never been to before, but couldn’t find parking close enough to ignore the fact that my umbrella is MIA. The best option on a day like this was to go soft and I scored a Javaberry cone.

When you look at the menu board at this place, it quickly reminds you that despite the font and look of this place, that you are in Weston and it’s not the 1950s. Sure the font and design seems as though it’s from a bygone era, but then you see the numbers that are next to the items and stare blankly into your wallet. If I’m going to pay $20 for a lobster roll, I had better see the traps being pulled up from the ocean.

Thankfully, it’s not the dinner options that we’re concerned about. As an ice cream shop, this is the epitome of an old-style soft serve place. With picnic benches on either side and some of them thankfully covered by an awning on this dreary day, Dairy Joy does feel like a trip back in time. And maybe my feelings about the pricing schemes were a universal complaint because in the time I sat there there were lots of cones made, but the two employees working the food side never wavered from their game of rummy.

While most places do a chocolate and vanilla twist and then sometimes default to whatever else is in their machines at the moment, Dairy Joy has actually made an art of their combinations. They offer a creamsicle cone, and what I went for: the javaberry. It’s a swirl of coffee ice cream and black raspberry sherbet. Three of the next four customers all ordered a javaberry cone as well.

While there are some textural collisions since the two components are kept at different temperatures, the collision of flavor between these two is far more than a happy accident. I’m not a coffee drinker so it’s tough to give this worthy descriptors, but it’s a nice smooth coffee flavor without an overburdened aftertaste, and the sherbet brings in a secondary flavor that offers a complementary counterpoint. They both retain their own qualities while supporting the other. This is great soft serve ice cream.

This place seems like it is a whole universe away, whether it be the vintage aspects or the Weston pricing scheme. In reality it’s just a couple miles from Waltham’s highlights. If you head west from here, you’re not far from the DeCordova Museum or Concord. If you’re not out for making a day trip out of it, this has got a parking lot made for those that come here as a destination. Just make sure you get here before their early close.

Cone – small $2.80 medium $3.75 large $5.37

Sundae – pixie $3.65 small $4.76 large $5.71

Frappe $4.62 extra thick $5.24 (add malt +$.50)

Cedar Hill Dairy Joy

331 North Ave, 117, Weston, MA 02493

(781) 894-7144

Open seasonally

Hours 11a-8p

Dairy Joy online





Bedford Farms – Concord MA

23 07 2008

A rainy cool July afternoon is an anomaly even in Massachusetts. Usually the heat gets oppressive and clogs the roads that lead to Cape Cod. The water at any beach to the North will certainly cool anyone off. When the wet and cool spills from the sky, people are less likely to think about ice cream. Heading away from the shore, I found a Sweet Cream cone not far from Walden.

This Concord location is actually a recent addition to the Bedford Farms family having come into being in 2001. The home location in Bedford began as a dairy back in 1880, and they began producing ice cream in the late 1940s. They ditched the milk back in the 1960s and sold the ice cream business to current owner Joe Venuti back in 1984.

It seems as though opening an ice cream shop in Massachusetts has the same sort of prospects as someone opening a bar in Memphis. You’d really have to be doing something wrong not to be able to make it when there is such a voracious consumer base. Despite torrential rains, I stepped inside and found all of the tables full. The only problem I had here was the fact that once I found a seat, that chair collapsed underneath me and sent me flying across the room. Thankfully not until the moment I finished my cone so there was no mess.

I went with the sweet cream cone so I could eat deliberately. It’s tough to judge this as a flavor since it revels in the fact that there is no flavor, instead the cream and sugar need to carry all of the weight without even a pinch of vanilla.  Gauging by what is available, the cream is rich and smooth, churned to an airy consistency. It’s remarkable how right the flavor is without anything there to provide flavor, but this cone is dense and delectable.

It’s also the downfall of sweet cream. Ultimately it seems like a base from which everything works, and that isn’t ideal for the contents of a cone. If you were using this in a sundae drenched in toppings this would be amazing. Instead, I keep wanting to have a flavor working as a counterpoint to the cream to make both better than they could be individually. It’s definitely a tease when the starting point is great, but ultimately this is a palate cleanser of a flavor, which is probably a good thing after a month of cones.

While many cones are only accessible to those with a car, this Bedford Farms location in Concord is right next to the commuter rail stop. When the train pulled to a stop at the station here, the cars were all visible right outside the window. There’s actually a back door that leads right onto the train platform.

Cone – kid’s $3.25 small $3.50 large $4.10

Sundae – kid’s $4.25 regular $4.95

Frappe $4.50 malted $5.25

Bedford Farms Ice Cream

68 Thoreau St, Concord, MA 01742

Open year round

Monday-Friday 11a-9:30p, Saturday & Sunday noon-9:30p

http://www.bedfordfarmsicecream.com





Rancatore’s – Belmont MA

22 07 2008

After a three cone Sunday, I took a day off from nearly anything cold. Something felt missing today until the moment when I nearly stopped short in the street as I spied Rancatore’s. Usually I eat lots of chocolate, but after an incident in my car with a bar of dark chocolate and a pile of clothes on a hot afternoon, this Summer I had been opting for random fruit candy choices. That’s what led me to a Bittersweet Chocolate cone.

rancatore's

The first assumption that most people have about Rancatore’s is that it is just Toscanini West. With that same Helvetica font on the windows and in neon, it’s obvious that they are related. Related is exactly the right term as it is owned by Joe Rancatore, brother of Gus. There’s also another Rancatore’s shop in Lexington.

Differences run from the menu to the whole attitude of the shop itself. In Belmont, there was a conservative flavor palate with the fruits only appearing in sorbet. Even the kids flavor – Candyland – looked like someone spilled all of the potential toppings into a vat of vanilla, it wasn’t the color of cotton candy. There are also vestiges of a much older Rancatore’s shop, signs carved in wood like the one seen from the street.

I got a taste of the butter almond, but as I reported previously, my body seemed to be experiencing a need for chocolate. I made the commitment and went for the most chocolate I could get in a cone with the bittersweet chocolate. It’s a rich chocolate that was well blended with the cream giving it a uniform texture and a robust dark flavor.

Ultimately my complaint with this set up is one I have whenever encountering dark chocolates in ice cream. Once you combine a chocolate with cream it’s becoming a milk chocolate, I want a scoop that is actually as dark as the name implies. Usually it has a bolder taste than a regular chocolate, but I’d love to see someone commit and make something that replicates a great 70% bar. In reality, I think that is most likely to come as a great dark sorbet – which appeals to the same segment of the population that eats dark chocolate.

bittersweet chocolate - rancatore's

With a black and red checkerboard floor and a red counter wrapping around the front of the store, Rancatore’s seems like a 90s revival of 50s style. There are plenty of tables as well to eat at but the busy street doesn’t provide many places to wander with a cone.  This seems the province of the young part of the Belmont population while the Brigham’s up the street is where the white hairs congregate.

Cone – micro $2.60 small $3.75 medium $4.60 large $5.20

Sundae – micro $4.25 small $5.50 medium $6.00 large $7.50

Frappe – small $3.60 large $5 extra thick $6.25 malt $5.75

other review: Rancatore’s in Lexington

Rancatore’s Ice Cream

283 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

617 489-5090‎

Open year round

Hours ?a-11p

Rancatore’s online








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