McCoy Stadium – Pawtucket RI

31 08 2008

Rhode Island keeps haunting me. Google sent me on a wild goose chase for a place in Pawtucket whose street number was 28. There were doors labeled 26 and 30 that were about eight inches apart. Maybe I’m just in the wrong dimension to ever find ice cream in this tiny state. Thankfully, I was right next to the $2 parking lot for the baseball field where I got a helmet full of Cookies And Cream.

McCoy Scorecard 8/30/08

McCoy Stadium was built in 1942 by Pawtucket mayor Thomas McCoy. While the field was dormant during much of the 1950s and 60s, the Boston Red Sox brought their AAA franchise to this locale. A renovation in 1999 modernized the facilities and there are great sight lines all around the park. There is a lot of great standing room area, especially in left field where there is both a beer garden and a lawn that you can stretch out on. As long as you don’t get stuck in seats behind the press box, you’re bound to have a good time.

This game was pretty inconsequential. With only three games remaining in the season, the Pawtucket Red Sox had already clinched their playoff birth, and on this night the scheduled starter Michael Bowden had been elevated to the majors to make a start for Boston (he was sent back down after his victory, presumably to help the PawSox in their playoff run). The game itself was a lot like an extended batting practice as the teams combined for 38 hits and 21 runs in a 11-10 ten inning victory for the grammatically incorrect Buffalo Bisons.

After being sick for a few days running, I arrived dehydrated and started the evening with a terrible hamburger and a jumbo pink lemonade. With a half-empty stadium, I wandered around a bit and found two vending machines for Powerade, one was sold out, the other only accepted quarters and you needed to have ten of them on hand and the concessionaires were unhelpful. I did locate a water fountain in centerfield. After normalizing myself a bit, I made my way to the ice cream concessions. There were two adjacent stands: one with Dippin’ Dots, and the other with Hershey’s ice cream. I opted for the latter and after discovering that they were out of my first three flavor choices – and that crazy vanilla was merely vanilla with swirls of food coloring – I went with cookies and cream.

For a stadium ice cream that could have been sitting around the park for ages, this was remarkably good. I sat down with my brother and sister-in-law near third base and made my way through the two scoops that filled the miniature baseball helmet. There were no other options for how to eat your ice cream – no cones, no sundaes, no frappes – but the helmet probably would have cost as much with no ice cream in it at the souvenir stand. A simple cream with relatively fresh pieces of Oreo-ish cookie, this was the sort of treat I needed after this lingering ear infection (and subsequent fever) has kept me away from ice cream stands for a few days running.

ice cream helmet pawtucket ri red sox mccoy stadium

As an added treat, leaving the park, Ciao Bella had set up a truck outside of the gates and was giving out free samples of their gelatos and sorbets. While the line seemed too long to stand around to wait in for the tiny cups they were offering, I did procure a coupon for a free pint. Coupled with the coupon for free McDonalds French fries that we were given because the PawSox struck out ten Bisons, and a coupon for a free birthday hamburger at B.Good in Harvard Square, I’ve got a pretty good free meal to pick up.

Oddity for baseballers (and punkers) but not ice creamers: late in the game I realized that at AAA the team managers actually serve as third base coaches. While looking through the coaching roster of the Bisons, I noticed that one of my favorite pitching personalities was now their pitching coach: Scott Radinsky. The irony of this is many-fold, as Radinsky was the first pitcher since Doc Gooden to make the leap directly from A ball to the majors and stick, so he never even played AAA (he also has the most appearances of any Jewish pitcher in major league history). More impressively, he is the only baseball player ever to grace the cover of the punk publication Maximumrocknroll (he sang in the band Scared Straight and Pulley but the cover was dedicated to him alone).

Helmet – 2scoops $4

McCoy Stadium

Ben Mondor Way, Pawtucket, RI 02860

401 724-7300

Open mid-April to September 1 (plus playoffs and special events)

Open an hour before game time

Obama Likes Butter Pecan!

30 08 2008

Yesterday while campaigning in Pennsylvania, Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama stopped for ice cream, buying himself a butter pecan cone – and paying for everone else in the vicinity including the gaggle of reporters that follows him around.

According to a story in the Beaver County Times, “‘There’s no pretense here. This really is just about getting some ice cream,’ one Obama campaign staffer said.”

Bedford Farms – Bedford MA

27 08 2008

Among all of the cones that I’ve indulged in over the summer, a few of them keep coming back to me and stand up as truly exemplary. Had I not had my chair collapse beneath me, my experience at Bedford Farms in Concord with their Sweet Cream cone may have been one of the best. It was with this in mind that I set out for their flagship store where I tried a Chunky Chocolate Pudding cone.

This place has been here longer than most anyone. There’s actually a sign on the wall next to the door proclaiming their 125 years in business. Of course it wasn’t until around year 70 of that run that the dairy started making ice cream, but now it is the focus. Plus, that sign is already a few years old as it’s actually 128 years since their 1880 founding.

What is missing here is a giant sign telling you that this is Bedford Farms. There is a small sign on the street, but nothing on the building that makes any overt proclamation. Located where 62 and 4 and 225 all meet, anyone heading through this area on any major roads must drive near here, and it’s certainly worth a stop.

I started with a sample of the cherry bomb, but wasn’t swayed. It didn’t help any that as I was trying it the girl who handed me the spoonful turned to her co-workers and told them that she didn’t like cherries in ice cream that much and then added that she didn’t really like chunks of things either. This had both. I will give her credit for the largest sample spoon that I’ve had anywhere.

The chunky chocolate pudding did indeed have chunks in it. It was one of the more decadent chocolate offerings that I’ve found anywhere as it is a chocolate ice cream with a fudge swirl, chocolate chips, and brownie chunks. That is a lot of chocolate, and if you’re a chocolate fan this will make you swoon. The ice cream builds from a spectacular base (see my review of the sweet cream) and hits so many different chocolate hues that you’ll be constantly surprised.

For as great as this place is, the one thing that’s missing is a place to really enjoy your cone. The restaurant next door has signs up making sure that people don’t hang out outside their place, even on the ideal stone wall that edges their gardens. Otherwise you have a parking lot, and a couple of picnic tables that were already overflowing with families who had long finished their ice cream. Most of the adults were actually sitting in their cars listening to the radio and there wasn’t even a baseball game on.

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

18 North Road, Bedford MA 01730

781 275-6501

Open year round

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

Return Engagement: Toscanini’s

27 08 2008

After playing live on the radio last night with Concord Ballet Orchestra Players, two-thirds of the band ventured to nearby Central Square to get some celebratory scoops. Joe scored a Sweet Cream sundae with hot fudge, Ben got both the Chocolate and Banana Sorbets, Kyle went for Blueberry Lemon (that was the one I sampled), and I went with a Grapenut Raisin cone.

The Blueberry Lemon had a spicy aftertaste that I wasn’t in the mood for, so I chose the Grapenut scoop. There were vestiges of the cereal’s crunchiness, but the cone didn’t cause chomping audible to our neighbors. The raisins were very present but not overwhelmingly so, and the ice cream was a nice simple cream that let the fruit and cereal ride without being overwhelmed by spices or vanilla. A very nice close to a very good day.

Original review:

Magic Fountain – Mattituck NY

26 08 2008

I set my alarm this morning for a little bit before 6 am, getting up to watch the sunrise. I figured as the right way to start my own birthday, standing on the beach was the right thing to do. By noon, I was jonesing for some ice cream and came here for a Honey Cinnamon cone, and my brother Tim had a Black Raspberry.

Any time you have a regular vacation destination, there are certain landmarks that persist. My gramps lived here when I was born, so I’ve been visiting the North Fork since before I can even remember. While I’m more intimately acquainted with the beach and the park than any stores, the ice cream here persists.

Most of the places have changed names, the grocery store used to be an A&P and is now a Waldbaums. The deli I would go to with my gramps to get the newspaper burned down a few years back and was replaced by a new one that lacks character. Even the Beer & Soda shop finally closed this past winter after the owner died. Magic Fountain has always been here, when I was little and saw it I knew we were here, as it is at the intersection where we had to turn.

My brothers and I drove here together. We bought a bag full of bagels to make lunch with the leftover duck I picked up the day before at the Modern Snack Bar. While Pete has been stranded in Chicago without any pizza he likes, that was what he craved so he went to the pizza shop, Tim and I walked a few hundred feet for cones instead. I looked at the flavors, had a sample of the honey cinnamon, and then decided to get a whole cone full of it.

As seasonal flavors go, this was exquisite, though I’m not sure what makes this season the right time for this. Maybe it’s the pervasiveness of flowers that in turn help bees make honey that make this a summer flavor. The cone was nicely creamy, with a light cinnamon flavor and the honey carrying the sweetness throughout. I was forewarned that the ice cream was a bit soft, but balked at a cup and had no problem making it through a small cone before I got any drips on my hands.

With a few dips in the ocean during the morning, a great cone, and sandwich, it makes for a great birthday as I prepare to venture back to Boston in time for my radio show this evening. A hop on the ferry gets me to Connecticut and then it’s a short hop up 95. Hopefully I’ll find a few more cones along the way.

Cone – dixi $2.25 small $3.35 large $4.50

Sundae – 2scoop $3.95 3scoop $4.95

Magic Ice Cream Shakes – small $4.50 large $5.50

Magic Fountain Ice Cream

Main Rd, Mattituck NY 11952

631 298-4908

Open year round

Daily 10a-midnight

Warwick Ice Cream – Warwick RI

26 08 2008

This didn’t work. Google maps are great for finding ice cream joints. Lots of out of business places do pop up, as my attempts to find Rhode Island ice cream on my way south can attest. This was even more amazing a faux pas.

It’s just a factory. They make ice cream here, but I couldn’t get in (though my efforts were not too diligent after the forewarning on the door). At least the cream here is kept in cool vats that are painted like cows.

Mystic Drawbridge – Mystic CT

26 08 2008

I really hadn’t intended for my first two Connecticut stops to be in Mystic. The place I really want to venture to is the UConn Dairy Bar in Storrs, but that destination is out of the way enough that it needs to be a target. I saw this place as I was heading to New London, and one of our readers commented that it was her favorite place, so I went and tried a Sticky Fractured Finger cone.

When it comes to Connecticut’s South Coast, I’m far more well versed in the culture of New London. I’ve got a few friends that live down there and am willing to make the two hour drive from Boston to see concerts in some odd venues. Plus it’s where the Cross Sound Ferry docks. That town and it’s sister Groton are based around a shipping economy, and more significantly submarine building, so they are very blue collar. It’s easy to forget how posh a nearby place like Mystic actually is.

My knowledge of Mystic really doesn’t get much further past Mystic Pizza, and I hadn’t seen that film since I was in high school (plus I figured that Annabeth Gish was going to be the breakout star from that film, not Julia Roberts). So when the traffic got heavy, I assumed the bridge was up and parked a few blocks away figuring it would be an easier walk. I wandered down Main Street and looked at the boutiques and curios that filled the windows. Also as forewarned on this last week of the summer, there were a lot of New York licence plates around.

Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream is located right at the drawbridge in the center of town and there is a sign that can be seen from the water side that says, “We Make The Best.” In the front windows, the signs instead say, “We Make Old Fashion.” With a section of the menu devoted to Drawbridge Originals (including the new addition Bird Chip – vanilla with trail mix and chocolate chips) their classic techniques for making ice cream one batch at a time are combined with a very modern approach to flavors. I selected from the originals menu with the sticky fractured finger.

It’s a caramel ice cream with broken butterfingers and a caramel swirl, that comes together in odd proportions. The ice cream is actually pretty light on the caramel, with the swirl inside being the part that tries to bring it to the consistency of a butterscotch pudding. The Butterfinger pieces are microscopic – this is truly fractured to the point that the candy never gets a chance to have any of the real bite that a bar might. After getting good advance notice, I do have a tendency to idealize what I think such a flavor could be, and while this didn’t meet my dreams, it was a pretty fantastic cone.

My only real gripe with this place was the service. I got stuck behind two families, and then another was behind me trying to make their way through close quarters with an unwieldy stroller. Watching a family pick out cones is actually kind of fun, but watching one girl be left to wait on all of us was disappointing, more so because one kid was on his break and out of the store, and another girl sat behind the counter idly playing with her cone and making no motions to help even as the shoppe filled up. If you work drawing scoops, don’t sit behind the counter unless you are working as everyone inside seemed on the verge of yelling and it actually changes the way that the ice cream tastes when the workers put a bad taste in your mouth from the outset.

Cone – single $3.50 double $4.50 triple $5.50 the sampler $7.85

Sundae – classic $5.65 specialty $6.60

Milkshake $5.65 malted +$.89

Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream

2 W Main St, Mystic, CT 06355

860 572-7978

Open year round

Daily 11a-11p

Mystic Drawbridge online