Today we say thanks for all our friends – near and far, long ago and still to come.
And for the glory of what you can capture in a cone…
My sense of geography has improved greatly since I began searching for ice cream everywhere I go. It’s always an amazing thing to tie together pieces of maps when you drive the length of a road. At this end of Waltham Street, I found a Cinnamon Nutmeg cone as my pot of gold.
Rancatore’s is the sister store of the Belmont shoppe. Owned by Joe Rancatore, this is prime real estate in downtown Lexington. With three coffee shops close enough to throw a cone at, the clientele includes a lot more kids – be it friends of employees or moms with families.
Much like the Belmont store, the inside is an explosion of red and black checkerboards that serve as a great contrast to the ice cream and other treats that they serve. There’s a freezer case full of pints and half gallons for dads on the run. With lots of tables, a bathroom roomy enough to change a baby in, and even a water fountain with napkins right next to it, they really do make for a clean and friendly environment (though they were having a problem with the paper towel dispenser, and it seems that no one had wiped down my table since the last customer left).
I made it through an array of samples before I settled on the cinnamon nutmeg. It seems like the sort of flavor that may not have much longevity, whereas the others I was contemplating had food reviews about them painted on the walls. Sometimes the chance to try something takes precedence (though truth be told I didn’t even contemplate a taste of their pumpkin – will someone do something fun with this? add chips? oatmeal cookie pieces? pie crust?).
The nutmeg here has a very wierd presence. Instead of providing the kick that it does to an eggnog, the extremes of both spices are blunted a bit in the mix. At the same time the flavors are the ideal bridge from the apple pies of September and October until we hit that yule drink. The spices provide a texture within the cream which helps make this a constantly surprising cone. The subtlety of the flavors was enough to carry the cream on their own, without any bells or whistles at all.
Walking around in the cold, I made it up to the Flick to see what was showing and discovered a new Mike Leigh film in theaters now. My brother and I went the next day to see Happy-Go-Lucky. Whereas Naked followed the life of a nihilist in a cold world, this tracks an ebullient grade school teacher smiling at that world around her. A marvelous film that mirrors Chekhov’s collision of humor and horror in the spirit of a driving school instructor.
other review: Rancatore’s in Belmont
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
Rancatore’s Ice Cream
Open year round
I didn’t get an iPod until this past summer when my brother gave me my sister-in-law’s old one. It’s a four gig Nano so I stuff it with Podcasts and new stuff that can rotate quickly. It was pretty amazing walking around a chilly Harvard Square listening to someone read “The Lottery” and then landing a Mocha Chocolate Lace cone in the midst of it all.
“New Yorker: Fiction” is a monthly Podcast with a modern author reading a favorite story that first ran in The New Yorker, and this month it was A.M. Homes that read Shirley Jackson’s classic. For some reason it seemed a more apt soundtrack to the day and the ice cream than the bootlegged Guns N’ Roses record that I can’t motivate myself to actually listen to.
This Lizzy’s is the same as the place on Moody Street in Waltham. As a matter of fact this place is really not much more than a storefront space tucked between other stores in Harvard Square. The ice cream is delivered to the store from Waltham. The narrow space barely has room for its freezers, and just fits the three seats that are tucked into the bar at the front of the store.
Some of the more complicated flavors on the Lizzy’s menu are broken out in descriptive sheets that seem to have been drawn by bored workers tired of reciting the same spiel every time customers asked. My first sample was a Coffee Fudge Avalanche, and I think the spoon missed any ice cream and came up with only fudge and walnuts. While I do like walnut fudge, I was after a cone.
That’s what led me to the mocha fudge lace. Snowflake-like pieces of crystallized sugar are covered in chocolate and then mixed into a bold mocha ice cream. It has an oddly grainy quality that could be attributed to the sugar or coffee grit. The texture serves to enhance the flavors as it seems to roll them very unevenly across the tongue giving each element its own opportunity, and different sensations striking adjacent taste buds. The only detraction was that the cream was soft and warm, which was pretty ironic given outdoor temperatures peaking near freezing.
This Lizzy’s shop is somewhat overshadowed by their next door neighbor (not naming names, but there’s a reason that they don’t serve any hot beverages here) and friends who are regular pedestrians in this territory didn’t realize this tiny spot was actually an ice cream shop. It is tiny without much room to loiter inside, but usually you can find something outdoors in the square to watch. Maybe there’ll even be a stoning.
other review: Lizzy’s in Waltham
Cone – kiddie $3 regular $3.62 2scoop $4.19 3scoop $5.15
Sundae – regular $4.86 2scoop $5.53 3scoop $6.19
Thick Frappe – small $4.10 medium $4.81 large $5.24
Lizzy’s Homemade Ice Cream
Open year round
When a flavor has a lot of different elements, a taste can be a very inaccurate portrait of an ice cream. Today I was wishy washy. So unsure on what to get that it took three samples to come to a decision. I wound up with a cone full of the seasonal Carrot Cake ice cream.
My sample had a mere fragment of raisin. The cone on the other hand was overflowing with them. Raisins were in every bite of the cone and they were plump and juicy, which only made them more difficult to chew in their frozen suspension. They burdened the carrot cake ice cream, because your primary efforts were in dealing with how to deal with this chewy mass in your mouth rather than stop to parse all of the elements.
I’m still not certain what the base ice cream flavor was here, it may be one of the spices that augment the carrots. Their taste is subtle and they are more apparent in the texture with grated carrots mingling with the walnuts and raisins. Despite this hodge podge of ingredients, the flavors are muted within the cone. Only the raisins want to step up and take your attention, and none of the other flavors linger beyond that.
original title: Cohen – Greenfield for Prez
If only Ben & Jerry hadn’t sold off their company to Unilever, the idea that two people can work together to create something is the basis for the American dream, right? Imagine turning a $12,000 investment into a multinational ice cream conglomerate. The biggest problem would be which of them is Prez and which takes the Vice.
The line stretched around the corner and wound around a few times. A lot of people were ready to translate their vote into a cone and I was among those. Thankfully there were five people working the counter trying to keep up with all the scoops. Plus there was the benefit that none of them had to worry about making change when everything was free.
In honor of who I placed my vote for, I selected a Butter Pecan cone. It’s the flavor that Obama has stated is his favorite, and some places that were a bit more fervent in their political punnery on the menu board started referring to it as “Yes, Pecan.”
With the tops up on the coolers, the ice cream was a bit warm, but even a mild day in November wasn’t enough to make it melt. There were boxes of cups and cones at the ready and people were slipping through the line quickly. Bodies were filling Harvard Square with people meandering around not paying attention to their destination, but focusing on this free afternoon treat.
Marissa went for a Mint Chocolate Chip cone and was advocating it’s greatness the whole walk, she definitely preferred it to some of the green mints that we’ve seen. The butter pecan almost looked like there was a purple raspberry ripple running through the cone, but that was really just an odd reaction between the husk of the nut and the fluorescent lighting. The cone was a great clean ice cream that had really fresh nuts held in suspension. There’s a reason this ice cream has made it so far from it’s Vermont origins.
There’s not really much of any place to sit here, but in Harvard Square that’s not really the point. The Garage is a great central location, and you can find anywhere to go. We just ate as we walked back so I could drive down to the radio station and tell people about what’s been going on in the world today, and to play some music.
Cone – small $4.19 large $5.15
Sundae – regular $4.86 2scoop $5.53 3scoop $6.19
Shakes & Smoothies – small $4.50 large $5.25
Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop
Daily 10a-10p, Sunday 11a-8p
Open year round
For all of the elements of city life that Boston has, the truth is, it is often just a glorified college town. If you’re looking for something that is open late hours, the best bet is often to check near camps centers. Here on Chestnut Hill, I found a Mocha Fudge Chip cone.
With headquarters in Wellesley, you might expect that this shop would call over whenever they were running low on a flavor and have a truck bring a few more cartons. However, there is a sign above the cash register that makes sure folks know that all of the ice cream that is in this shop is actually made here. It’s why my scooper had to venture into the back room looking for the samples since they weren’t in the case yet.
If you visit the website, they only really make mention of the other store, though there is a phone number at the bottom for franchising which someone seems to have taken them up on. This place is directly across the street from the front entrance to Boston College. It’s on the Boston Marathon route in case you’re running and need something to help you make the last few miles.
With the shop open until midnight every night, there are plenty of chances to find ice cream after the night falls (especially good on these days after daylight savings since it got dark by 4:30p). There weren’t any flavors that seemed particularly seasonal. I tried the Mint Oreo, but the fresh cookie weren’t enough to win me over. I wanted to try a taste of the Maple Grapenut, but they were out.
However, it was being replaced on the specials menu with a mocha fudge chip. The first taste established the coffee flavor as rich, but the fudge really dominated the ice cream. It’s a rich cream that doesn’t have any of the grit that a deep chocolate or coffee can have. What is most exceptional here though are the chips, they are a very different chip from any other I’ve encountered. They were miniature chips that were in the shape of slim teardrops and provided ideal punctuation for this cone.
There’s a nice array of tables and even a central bar where you can sit and eat a cone. Nice to have indoor spaces to eat ice cream when a place is open all year round, because otherwise your only option would be to stand outside and shiver as you watch the Green Line trains turn around and start their run back into the city.
other review: White Mountain Creamery – Wellesley
Cone – child $2.55 small $3.45 large $4.35
Sundae – small $5.25 large $6.45
Frappe $5.25 malt frappe $5.70 extra-thick frappe $6.25
White Mountain Creamery
19 Commonwealth Ave, Newton, MA 02467
Open year round
Sometimes there is no beacon in the night quite as great to see as a neon ‘Open.’ When you’re just following an unknown road and everything else is dark, an illuminated ice cream shop might as well be El Dorado. I had a Chocolate Pecan sugar cone.
I’d visited the shop in Natick this summer, but that was just a satellite. This is where they make the ice cream. And unfortunately, by the time you read this, closed until the end of March. If you live nearby, they are open until 9pm tonight and are selling quarts like they’ve got to go….
Black Cow opened in the mid-90s in Millis and has prided themselves on making high quality ice cream ever since. The results are a denser ice cream that has only 30% air and a rich butterfat content. Great compared with your grocer’s freezer, but pretty much a given with New England hard-pack.
Looking around and seeing the cases full of pre-packed quarts, I realized that this was the end of the run for Black Cow. Sometimes that can have adverse effects on the ice cream that remains, though generally, it is more due to the fact that what is left has all been in the freezer case a little bit longer than usual. My taste of the Vanilla Wafer was so non-descript that I’m still not sure if it was a ‘Nilla Wafer or those wafer cookies that are separated by layers of sugary cream.
What that left me with was a fantastic Chocolate Pecan cone. Pecans are underutilized in ice cream flavors, there’s often butter pecan, but that treats the nut just like candy. Without any other ripples or other adornments, this combination lets the flavor of the pecan nut to shine while being presented on a rich chocolate wave. This was a nice clean creamy chocolate; no bells and whistles needed, just great ice cream.
Since I didn’t know if there was any freezer space where I was heading, I didn’t buy a few quarts to try and see if the could make it through the night before I got home. I’m still kicking myself, because this is worth the room it takes up.
other review: Black Cow – Natick
Cone – kiddie $2.95 regular $3.45 large $4.45
Sundae – regular $5.45 large $6.75 cow-lossal $8.75
Frappe – elsie $5.25 extra-thick elsie $6.25
Black Cow Homemade Ice Cream
End of March – Beginning of November
Daily noon-9p; fall hours Thurs-Sun noon-9, closed Mon-Wed
When they are closing for the season sometimes it’s OK to eat meals backwards. This place is as much a roadside diner as it is ice cream place. Anyway, I figured that it was going to take them a little while to get my cheeseburger hot. That’s my best explanation for having a Heavenly Hash cone first.
Sometimes searching for decent information on the internet is nearly impossible. I love reading Wikipedia entries that are self-contradictory. Often it’s just worthless. After a slew of dead ends, I found someone who listed this place back in 1984.
I know this place from an era later than that when one of my best friends lived nearby in South Lancaster and we made it over here more than a few times. The thing is, I wouldn’t be surprised if the basketball hoop and picnic tables here are the same ones. Nothing looks different from how it did back then, even the signs seem the same degree of sunwashed.
I was in the mood for a sample to set me up, but I just chuckled when I looked at the dry erase board. While the header proclaimed “Over 50 Flavors,” attrition and today being the last day had that down to eleven. I set up my cheeseburger with whatever vegetables they coud fit on there, and just as soon was delivered my heavenly hash cone.
With all of the mixes of flavors and taste, it’s remarkable how reliable a heavenly hash or rocky road can be. It’s no wonder that these are the sort of classic flavors that have endured. truth be told I didn’t even see heavenly hash as an option most places, but this had a wonderfully light marshmallow ripple with nice square chocolate chunks. The ice cream was light and creamy with a more subtle milk chocolate taste, but it lacked any of the signs you might expect in a last day cone.
Actually let’s revise that last statement to ” … , but the ice cream itself lacked any of the signs you might expect in a last day cone.” The sugar cone was terrible. Stunted growth that missed meeting at a point by nearly an inch, it was cold enough so nothing dripped. I wound up pitching the cone after I was out of ice cream because the sugar wafer tasted like Play Doh.
Cone – small $2.70 large $3.60
Sundae – small $3.50 large $4.25 banana split $5.25
Sterling Ice Cream Bar