Sprung: Rota Spring Farm – Sterling MA

3 03 2014

A winter in the vortex doesn’t make most people yearn for ice cream, or if they do it’s snuggled next to the fireplace with a warm cup of cocoa nearby to balance out your body temperature. Thankfully for those of us who enjoy standing in outdoor lines and seeing the livestock that were the genesis for a scoop, there are places like Rota Spring that opened for business the first weekend of March.


I was down in Providence on the day that the windows in Sterling opened for the season, but sent my folks there for that first day and was promptly regaled with tales of long lines and people stocking up with quarts to go with their cones. Two days later I drove and picked up my niece and nephews once school was out for the day and we set out to Sterling.

When even a three-year-old doesn’t mind standing around in 20 degree temperatures for ice cream, you know there is something special at play. For me this is the standard-bearer of local ice cream, the reason we started this blog in the first place to try to find local ice cream that competes. While there have been some quality contenders, Rota Spring is still king of the hill, no matter how remote that hill may seem to some people. It’s a destination that is worth the trip.

Last fall, there was turmoil when word spread that their famed Indian Pudding ice cream was going to be falling off the menu due to ingredients no longer being available. For many people, this flavor alone was reason enough to make this a regular destination. When it popped up on my twitter feed that Rota had brought the flavor back in a revamped form, it was imperative to give it a go. Of course with two scoops, to pick I also threw a scoop of Cowabunga Crunch on top.

The top scoop was a caramel-swirled vanilla with chips, praline pecans, and sugar cookies, and was a perfect preamble to the ice cream season. When I got below that to the Indian Pudding, that’s when it was shown that the game was certainly on. With a lighter mouthfeel than the original recipe, this didn’t lean so heavily on the cornmeal to give it a distinctive texture, but the powerful flavor punch that the molasses brings is a peaked joy to anyone who enjoys great flavor. The smoother consistency might actually help make this appeal to an even wider audience who had been taken aback by the grittiness that the meal had traditionally supplied.


I know, it’s weird to see me eating a bowl rather than a cone, but while trying to wrangle three kids on my own as well, the ability to put this down at times was essential. The cold chased us back to the car to do the eating anyway, though we did it while peering over the snowbanks and watching those cows graze from feeding troughs and the random shoots cracking through the mud. Spring is here, even if there’s still going to be permafrost for another month.

Cone – kiddie $3.15 small $3.95 large $4.95

Sundae – kiddie $4.40 small $5.40 large $6.40

Milkshake Frappe – $4.95  extra thick $5.50

Rota Spring Farm

117 Chace Hill Rd, Sterling MA 01564

978 365-9710

Open early March-Thanksgiving

March & September: 11:30a-9p; April-August: 11:30a-9:30p; October:11:30a-8p; November: 11:30am-6p


Meadowlands – Tewksbury MA

31 05 2012

Sometimes when you’re in north Middlesex County, everything seems to get overshadowed by Kimball’s. For all of the time my dad has spent finding every shortcut and backroad, this place was wholly unfamiliar and barely a half mile off of 495′s exit 37. While here, I had a sugar cone with scoops of Triple Threat.

I can imagine that when Meadowlands opened in 1964, the view behind the ice cream stand was uninterrupted green. Nowadays, you need to turn to the proper angle to keep a development of houses out of that vista, but what is here seems as though it’s been here since that first opening day.

There is a meadow behind the stand, and on the left side, picnic tables dot the places where the parking lot meets the grass. There’s a gigantic tree off to the right and a few tables bunched beneath it. Behind the mown lawn is a more swampy territory full of cat tails that offers up some premium ground for bird watching.

The menu board seemed as though it hadn’t been changed since 1964 with a majority of the flavors being very classic, no blue ice creams for kids and no cookie dough or cake pieces. When I got to the bottom of the list though, I was stuck by a big ‘huh?’ when I read Triple Threat. Not the name for any ice cream flavor that I’d ever heard of before. Their special was reverse chocolate chip, but it was out, so I opted to see if I could get threatened triply.

The ice cream was a chocolate and it included pieces of brownie and chocolate chips. Despite all of the chocolate, the flavor was hoping to be more fudgy than it actually is. The cream predominated, making the ice cream take the flavor of chocolate milk. While nothing was overwhelming, it’s that balance that kept this  oversized kiddie cone from being too much. These guys do the basics right, don’t go expecting bells and whistles, but this seems like classic local ice cream in the Hood and Brigham’s tradition rather than a small batch extravagance.

I’ve now got a new camera again, which should help reviews become more regular again. I was trying to do this without photos, but my sketches of cones and buildings were indecipherable. Now that’s fixed and I even took pictures of the birds flying around back here (I haven’t got a report from my nephew as to what they actually are yet though so I’m stuck merely saying birds).

Cone – kiddie $3 regular $3.50 large $4.50

Sundae – junior $4.25 regular $5.50 jumbo $6.50

Frappe – regular $5.50 large $6.50

Meadowlands Homemade Ice Cream

978 454-6701
Open St Patrick’s Day to Columbus Day
St Patrick’s Day to Memorial Day 11a-9p, Memorial Day to Labor Day 11a-10p, Labor Day to Columbus Day 11a-9p


Mad Maggie’s – North Andover MA

18 02 2012

Consecutive February days in the 50s have really messed with everyone’s psyche. The only places with any snowpack have done it through the magic of compressors and late nights that do dip below freezing. Even the Boston Globe mentioned that ice cream sales have been crazy lately. When Tim & I stepped in here, most of the tables were full – he had a Coffee Cinnamon cone, me? Black Raspberry Cookie.

At some point this store used to be in North Reading, only some clean-up photos from before the 2009 season seem to imply that’s when they moved here to North Andover in a spot across from the Lawrence Regional Airport. Located at the merger of 133 & 125, some incarnation of this shop has been in place since at least 2003, since their website lists Flavors of the Week from that far back.

Even in this mild February, no one was getting their cones from the outdoor window and wandering around, but there is an outdoor seating area and the back lot looks out onto the Northwest corner of Lake Cochichewick. Inside are a slew of tables with ice cream ephemera on the wall, including a patchwork of t-shirts from their old location including a clever one that said, “‘Stressed’ is ‘Desserts’ spelled backwards. Chill out. Have two scoops!”

This is definitely a place to try something interesting. Heck, while we were there there was a new flavor added to a ‘Specials’ board that already had six flavors on it. They trademarked Candy Store Floor at this spot, and their Ground Hog Stew was a variant of that all-in philosophy. This past Friday they put out their Maple Bacon, with locally sourced maple from Turtle Lane Maple Farm in town. My taste was fantastic, as bacon most always is as long as it still has got an element of crunch. I also tasted the Thai pineapple, but even with the Asian spices, pineapple in ice cream still seems more a summer thing. I threw caution to the wind and went with a black raspberry cookie scoop in a sugar cone.

That this is a regular flavor on their menu board is a testament to Mad Maggie’s. This is a great dark black raspberry cone with a massive swath of Oreo cookie crumbles. It’s a magnificent thing just to look at, but thankfully it tastes even better. It makes me want to go back and have a two scoop sundae with it and the bacon as a  perfect mid-winter combo.

The concept of Flavor of the Week is a good way to look at this place – homemade ice cream with inventive flavors – and the best of those graduate to regular status. It’s a good way to make people smile, and with a bell at the exit for people to ring ‘if it was delicious,’ well, I really made it peal.

Cone – kiddie $2.82 small $3.62  large $4.38 six-pack $6.26

Sundae – mini $4 small $4.85 large $5.65

Frappe $5.61 ex-thick $6.54

Mad Maggies Ice Cream

1025 Osgood Street, North Andover, MA

978 685-2814

Open year round

Hours for Winter:  Friday 1-9:30p, Saturday noon-9:30p, Sunday 1-8p


Nona’s – Hingham MA

28 01 2012

Aside from those couple days when an inch or so of snow has fallen and slowed things down, most of this January could be pretty easily confused with March. It’s not just me, I can tell that since all of my plants are starting to sprout spontaneously. That meant it was time for a ice cream trip and we head to Hingham where I found my way to a Chocolate Malt cone.

March will mark eleven years in business for this shop nestled right in the heart of Hingham Square. Prior to being here, this space had been occupied by a TCBY. When it closed, Krissy Donahue was managing the place, she and her husband then put Nona’s into these two storefront spaces. Ice cream, sherbet, nonfat frozen yogurt, and ices are all handmade here.

The room seemed like a gathering place on this Saturday afternoon, it was warm enough that people were craving some ice cream, but not so warm that people were ready to walk the streets with a cone. As a result the seemingly ample seating in the front of the store was all filled up. There were benches out on the sidewalk though with Tim and Tom along we wound up wandering through the old graveyard looking at three hundred year old headstones.

The options for flavors seemed at first as though things were at little basic, but even with a limited menu in the winter there were a lot of fun options. I tasted the ginger, which had a nice flavor and pieces of candied ginger in it, and Tom had a bowl of it, but I went with the chocolate malt and Tim had the coffee oreo, which I may have had if he hadn’t ordered it right before me.

The chocolate malt made for a pretty cone… the extra density that the malt provides usually does help things hold together. However, gravity took over pretty quickly so I had to go on attack mode to keep from making a massive mess of things. The chocolate is rich and smooth, but not too dark, and well, malt is going to merit comparison with a frappe, and it fares pretty favorably. The biggest issue was that somehow i ate the thing like i was sucking down a frappe too.

Hingham Square doesn’t have much there, though it’s pretty amazing to see the train tracks run under it all. The water is visible from the hills of the cemetery, and shows just how much of a classic New England town this is. And the Snug is a heck of a place for a pull from the tap (thumb’s up on the Wachusett milk stout and the monte cristo).

Cone – kiddie $2.39 small $3.39 medium $4.05 large $4.45

Sundae – small $4.55 medium $5.10 large $5.50

Frappe – regular $4.55 malt $4.75 thick $5.05

Nona’s Homemade Ice Cream

781 749-3999

Open year round

Hours (winter) Sunday-Thursday 11a-9p, Friday & Saturday 11a-10p


Treadwell’s – Peabody MA

31 12 2011

Without snow on the ground, the New Years Eve ice cream quest really doesn’t feel much different from any quest for ice cream through the Fall. I took my buddy Tom, who’s to blame for the slow pace of entries thanks to getting me an ice cream maker for my birthday. We lunched in Salem and snuck back to Treadwell’s where I got a Heavenly Hash cone and Tom a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.

Treadwell’s has been in Peabody since the end of the second World War. In 1946, returning veteran Russ Treadwell set up an ice cream stand that has been part of the north shore ice cream landscape since. In 2000, the stand was bought by the Gould family who continue to operate the ice cream stand the whole year round.

114 winds around making some sharp turns and road changes as you get off 128, but if you follow signs, Treadwell’s is a pretty easy find. It’s location a few blocks south of Bishop Fenwick High School means that you should probably not plan to be there at the same time as school lets out every day, unless you don’t mind being in the midst of a swarm of teens.

The surrounding area is pretty non-descript, without other businesses in the area or any real place that you can walk to with a cone. It’s a town ice cream stand with a big parking lot that doubles as an area that you can wander with your cones. Inside there is a bar with a half dozen seats that face out onto Peabody streets. While standing inside I had a sample of the heavenly hash before going for a whole cone.

For an ice cream place that’s open year round, I would have expected more experimenting and seasonal flavors, but their seasonal options were printed on the main board. Relegated to more basic options the heavenly hash balanced a strong chocolate with a soft marshmallow swirl that pulled in big almond chunks and chocolate chips. A similar consistency to fellow north shore ice cream at Richardson’s, Treadwell’s smaller batches give them a greater sense of character without doing much of anything radical. They just do it right.

For a year ending cone, this was just the right taste: a very Massachusetts cone that’s a crazy combination, but wholly traditional at the same time. I may start sharing some of my more successful recipes with my ice cream machine, but with my attempts going to the radical (dragonfruit ice cream with a kiwi compote anyone?) there are some grand failures as well. Even bad ice cream is still edible though.

Cone – kiddie $2.75 small $3.50 large $4.25

Sundae $5.25

Frappe – small $3.45 medium $3.85 large $4.75

Treadwell’s World Famous Ice Cream

46 Margin Street (Route 114), Peabody, MA 01960

978 531-7010

Open year round

Monday-Saturday 10a-10 Sunday 11a-10p


Angora Ice – Chestnut Hill MA

25 08 2011

I keep returning to places that I’ve already written up so this morning I set out with the intention of finding someplace new. Somehow the spot that I found has roots in the area reaching back twenty-five years, so I settled in with a Burnt Sugar cone.

pic – storefront

Angora Ice is a recent offshoot of the Angora Cafe. I guess if I had done some advance research I’d’ve know this, but the case is that I only made the connection afterwards. However, it does nicely explain why it is that a place that opened last August can proclaim that they’ve been “serving the best frozen yogurt for over 20 years.”

This shop is located right next to the entrance to the Star Market here on Boylston Street, so it’s an easy enough place to get to with tons of parking. The shop itself is pretty tiny and the menu boards are on those oddly-too-bright screens like you expect to see nowhere but McDonalds. Outside there is seating at a few tables, and they’ve got a big ice cream cone sitting on the sidewalk to attract attention the fact that this is not part of the grocery store, but its own shop.

Inside things make sense. The yogurt is soft and comes from a machine and the ice cream selection is limited to a small set of base selections with an array of mix-ins. I look to the special flavors first and am intrigued by the carrot cake. It’s rich and full and with carroty sweet goodness, however, in the last week of August, it’s just too much of a fall flavor to surrender to, so instead I take a cone of the burnt sugar.

Sometimes burnt sugar is a flavor that doesn’t differ too much from a heavy caramel. It’s the degree of burning that makes the difference, but much like when toasting a marshmallow over a campfire, if you go too far it just seems like a mess of coal. Here at Angora, they do leave the sugar over the fire longer than most, but that works well to their advantage as this ice cream has got me craving graham crackers and pieces of a Hershey bar. This is potent burnt sugar that hits that delicate balance like right before the marshmallows set themselves ablaze.

pic – cone

You may notice the lack of pictures in this entry. There’s a reason for that, and it’s no good. With a bag of groceries, a cone, and my camera in had as I got back to my car, it seems I put that camera on the top of my car as I loaded the rest of the stuff inside. Seems as though I may have left it there as I drove off. I put calls in to Angora, Star Market, the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center, and even posted in Craigslist’s Lost & Found. Hopefully, I’ll have reason to change this text in the coming days

Cone – small $3.70 large $4.99 pint $6.71

Sundae – small $5.25 large $5.75

Angora Ice

3A Boylston St, Chestnut Hill MA 02467

617 730 8900

Open year round

Hours #a-#p


Nudo – Nonantum MA

18 08 2011

Recently, I went to have lunch with my brother, and shortly after setting out I slowed to a crawl as I noticed the open flags swinging and the new signage for this gelateria in Nonantum. It’s Newton’s first neighborhood as you cross the line from Watertown, and today I finally made it my destination and had a cup of Nudo.

In Italian, Nudo means nude, but that is in reference to the basic natural ingredients that Andrew Tedeschi brings to the gelatos that he makes here. There aren’t pin-ups littering the walls, just a few tables, with a case for baked goods and another for gelato backed up to each wall. This place can fill up quickly if there’s a group of people here, but there’s a couple tables on the sidewalk as well.

With Nudo, Tedeschi is displaying his Italian pride for this neighborhood by bringing first class gelato to the suburbs. The thought is that he’s bringing a taste of the North End to Nonatum, but in truth what they’re making here is better than the gelato you can get there already. The green, white, and red Open flags are a nice touch without being too overt.

The case is intimidating with twenty-odd flavors waiting to be picked, and names often in Italian that take some translation to figure out. There are some fruit sorbet options as well, and I get a taste of the blood orange raspberry. It’s pretty fantastic, but for a whole cup (yes, again no cones for gelato) I think I’m in the mood for something creamy. When I realize that this shop has its own signature flavor, well, do take a taste first, but my cup gets filled with nudo.

The taste is sort of a white Russian, but far more complex. There’s some chocolate and some marzipan and some coffee, or coffee liqueur. And then there are thin small flakes of chocolate dispersed throughout. It’s so smooth and creamy it feels as though it’s sledding down your throat. If you’re gonna give a flavor the same name as your store you need to make it great, and Nudo is.

There’s a lot of coffee in here as well, and they’ve even got a panini menu. I can’t believe that I’d missed this place driving along 16, but when I find out that their opening day was only June 4, I don’t feel quite so bad. I’ll be back to make up for lost time.

closing paragraph/bonus material

Cone – piccolo $3.50 medio $4 grande $4.75

Sundae $6.50

Affogato $4.50

Nudo’s Gelateria

308 Watertown St, Newton, MA 02458

617 795 0213

Open year round

Monday-Saturday 11a-11p, Sunday noon-11p


Gibby’s – Worcester MA

15 08 2011

Taking a day off on Sunday to check out the Bolton Fair left me out in Bolton on Monday morning with nothing to do until the middle of the afternoon. As a result I radically reworked my path back east with a route that started by heading west to Worcester toward Gibson Brothers Dairy where I devoured a Heavenly Hash cone.

Gibby’s has been a regular fixture in Worcester for over 75 years. Friends who grew up in the area remember the milk trucks making deliveries with a full gamut of dairy products. Nowadays those deliveries still take place, and there is a dairy store right next to the ice cream barn, though as luck would have it, it is regularly closed on Mondays.

Tucked away atop Grafton Hill, this ice cream stand would seem wholly in the middle of nowhere and not New England’s third biggest city if it weren’t for the shadow of the Price Chopper that looms across the street. The rain here certainly puts a damper on things, but there are picnic benches all around the parking lot – a lot that is defined by metal poles painted with cow’s spots which seem to limit the chances for drivers to accidently hit anything else.

Needless to say things were quiet when I arrived between the rain and the fact the store wasn’t open. It gave me a chance to try a few samples of their ice creams. I started with the blueberry honey graham, it was a good flavor, but as the girl at the counter said, “it tastes like a NutraGrain bar,” and it was texturally that way as well… chewy and grainy in a way that you don’t expect from ice cream. The key lime pie had a potent lime flavor and bits of crust, but wasn’t what I was after on this day. For some reason, I even went for a taste of bubble gum, but all that did was remind me why I never go for that as a flavor. After such experimentation, heavenly hash seemed like a perfect default.

Even in this relatively temperate day, the ice cream had a mind of its own, and led by the marshmallow swirls it was melting as soon as I had it in my hand. It took some serious work to try and get this cone under any control as it melted away on me (thankfully any drops that made it to the ground were quickly washed away by the rains). The flavors were great with a sweet creamy milk chocolate that was buoyed by that swirl, and the chips were large rectangular pieces liberally distributed through the whole thing. It’s a great ice cream from a specific place, and the only spot in Worcester that makes their own ice cream.

Getting here from 290 was actually pretty eye-opening. Instead of driving all the way through the city and then coming back east, I skirted the eastern edge of the city, driving south the whole way down Lake Street until I got to Sunderland Rd. The cottages along Lake Quinsigamond did a great job of getting me in the mood for ice cream and showed me a part of Worcester that was wholly unfamiliar.

Cone – kids $3 regular $3.65 large $4.25 extra large $4.95

Sundae – kids $3.95 regular $5.65 super size $6.45 specialty $6.75

Frappe $4.95

Gibson Brothers Dairy

50 Sunderland Road, Worcester, MA

508 753-1095

Open April-October

Daily noon-9p

Gibby’s online

Puleo’s Dairy – Salem MA

10 08 2011

Give me a few hours to kill, and internet access and I’m bound to hop in the car and find the nearest unknown ice cream. After a morning DJing session at WMBR, I had nothing to do until late afternoon so all of the sudden I was pointed north toward a cone. After sitting in for a great sandwich, I finished with a Mocha Chip cone.

After working for a co-op in the early 1920s, Charlie Puleo got himself a Model T and opened his dairy business in 1928, delivering milk, butter, and ice cream to the denizens of the Salem area. In the ’40s, this roadside ice cream stand began, and a renovation in 1989 made it a year-round stop. Even more recently they’ve opened a parlor downtown just around the corner form the Peabody Essex Museum.

At night, this place must be easy to find as the large neon sign sits out by the street directing people to turn in… or if you’re driving north up 107 like I was, to look for a place to turn around so you can get here since the road is divided at this point. In reality this is no mere ice cream stand; it’s more like a Brigham’s or Friendly’s with an outdoor window for the evenings when the conjoined restaurant (Brother George’s) is closed. There are a pair of tables with umbrellas in front of the window, and then back behind the store is an area with wood painted to look like cows and a swing set for kids.

Sitting inside at the bar was a good place for a cone, since even away from the elements it started dripping on my fingers. I first started with a taste of the honey grapenut, but the honey didn’t seem pronounced and as is the case with most all grapenuts in ice cream, they don’t sell very quickly so the crunch turns into this oddly semi-solid barley mush. With no seasonal flavors to choose from, I decided upon the mocha chip.

All of the recipes used are from Charlie Puleo’s original recipes, so new fangled concepts are nowhere to be found here, with cookie dough being the most modern nod. While there aren’t a lot of things thrown into the ice cream, the focus is instead on flavor and this may be the boldest mocha I’ve ever had. Usually folks make mocha as a coffee ice cream with the slightest hint of chocolate in it, but this was a battle for taste from the first bite. A strong chocolate didn’t want to cede any territory, but coffee flavors still find a may to muscle in – thankfully there were nice chips in this mix to provide a great balance.

Lately I’ve been eating ice cream before food far too much. Maybe I’m thinking I can get by with ice cream as my entire meal, but after missing dinner and then breakfast, I realized a sandwich might be imperative before a cone. A great roast beef club sandwich was just what my body needed. Oh, and if you’re eating here, pass on the soda and get yourself a fresh chocolate milk. It’s at least as good as the ice cream.

Cone – child $2.75 small $3.40 large $4.25

Sundae – small $4.95 large $5.95

Frappe $5.25

Puleo’s Dairy

376 Highland Avenue, Salem, MA 01970-1744

978 744-6455

Open year round

Monday-Thursday & Saturday 7a-7p, Friday 7a-8p, Sunday 7a-3p, ice cream window open til 9p during Summer


Liberty’s – Natick MA

4 08 2011

With vacation time spent, it seems everyone is falling back into regular schedules already. While it may bring some ennui to most days, it also means that I can scoot out and have lunch with my brother near his work. Last time we did it, we found this place after we’d already had cones. This time it was a target and Tim got a black raspberry cone and I had Butter Crunch.

There’s no countertop to hop up next to a barstool and call out to a jerk to pull you a vanilla coke, but stepping inside the front door of Liberty’s, you can tell for sure that you are in a parlor. With more than thirty-five years in business, everything here is homemade, and the people working today look as though they may have been pulling scoops since day one.

There’s a smattering of tables and chairs in the front part of this shop, and it’s easy to imagine that these tables are cluttered with locals that come here every morning for breakfast. They’ve got a menu full of egg sandwiches and other morning treats, and they seem to keep a grill for lunch stuff, but at this time of day, no one seems to here for any reason other than ice cream.

Throwing the couple sherbets and the four frozen yogurt options into the mix, there are thirty options here, but nothing too wild and crazy. Most of the options are more about the flavor rather than what is held in suspension, and the experience in working here comes through in the strong taste. Tim’s black raspberry is smooth and sweet with no trace of seeds at all, I have a taste of the butter crunch and opt not to get another taste of anything different and just go for a cone (though this was partly because I couldn’t tell if the old guy scooping for me was being ornery or just joking with me).

In the midst of a strip mall, there’s no place to wander outside so we sit down at a table and take it all in. This may be the butteriest butter crunch that I’ve encountered in ages. The crunch seems like crystallized nuggets of sugar… not toffee, but something equally powerful… and they are mixed throughout the ice cream in various-sized pieces. Together, this ice cream is a rich and thick mix that stands very strong on the legs of flavors and textures and just doing things right.

My brother recommended going to Five Guys for lunch while we were out, so I was stunned to find that a vegetarian was taking me to a burger joint. Apparently it’s been around for twenty-five years in the DC area; Tim said it’s where Obama gets his burger fix. Not expecting that the basic is a double burger, I thought it was pretty darn good, but my bun was too thin and had trouble keeping the contents contained.

Cone – small $2.50 medium $3 large $3.50

Sundae – small $3.50 medium $4 large $4.50

Frappe $3.90

Liberty’s Ice Cream Parlor

2 Mill St # 3, Natick, MA 01760-4124

508 655-0225

Open year round

Daily 8a-7p (summers until 10p); closed Sundays



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