Finding out that there is going to be a gathering of some of the best local ice cream shoppes at the end of the hottest week of the Summer seemed like a real blessing. It wasn’t until the day before the Ice Cream Showdown was going to happen that people started flooding my inbox with notices about it, and my friend Tom and I pointed our way to this Somerville Ave parking lot.
With only a Facebook page to tell folks that this was really happening, it seemed as though the biggest buy in their advertising budget was actually for sidewalk chalk. All around Union Square were pictures of ice cream and arrows directing folks where to go. It seems like no one had an idea of what to expect here; when we arrived Christina’s and Toscanini’s were already gone, and b.good’s shake cart was shut off.
Despite some serious underestimations of the crowd, the other locations were still going strong. Arlington’s Chilly Cow was dishing out their frozen custards to a quick moving line of people. They had two people scooping to keep lines moving and offered up both vanilla and coconut options. Given the size of the choices I tried both of them, and even dug the coconut which sometimes is very evasive for me. The enjoyment was more widespread for the custard than I assumed, because they were named Best of Show at the end of the afternoon in a poll of people who voted at the admission table when they left.
Wheeler’s had almost no lines at all. You couldn’t really tell if they were dishing out their vegan wares at all some of the time. When I checked out the sample the first time, I got the tiniest scoop of their curry ice cream. Maybe they were keeping samples small because of the possibility that folks might not like curry, but I usually get larger samples at stores when I’m trying to choose flavors. When I went back the salted chocolate (with pieces of Somerville’s Taza Chocolate in it) had thawed enough to scoop and I did get a more reasonable sized taste. There’s not much need to complain about the size though, both of these really packed a punch.
By the time we got to J.P. Licks, the only choice that remained was the fresh mint ice cream. Now, the truth is that I’d got a frappe of this flavor when I was in Jamaica Plain earlier in the week. The sentiment I had then was echoed and amplified here: this would be twice the ice cream if it were a Mint Julep ice cream and infused with bourbon. When I had the frappe, I was dreaming of alternating sips between the two, and this afternoon there was a liquor store open right across the street. Somehow I kept myself in check and opted for sober ice cream.
Coop’s Microcreamery was the newest entry here and had the longest lines. The lines were the result of one person scooping, and the newness was due to a recent defection from Herrell’s and the opening of something new. The options here were the most interesting as they seemed to be throwing out some experiments to see how the crowd enjoyed them. I was truly bummed that the black licorice flavor ran out between the time I got in the line and got to the front of it. I get to sample both the mango sorbet and the OMFG chocolate, which were both loaded with flavor- a definite sign of someone who had ideas that were repressed while working with Herrell’s and was now ready to take over. This ice cream is available locally at the Allston Cafe.
Cases of dry ice were there to keep everything cold, but the crowds outscooped the cooling resources by a long shot. As a small local celebration of small local ice cream makers, this was a success. Next year they may need to find a larger space for this if word gets out. that’s what we’re hoping.