The further north you venture, the earlier in the season ice cream places seem to board themselves up. It made a trip to Maine imperative, since Labor Day marks an end for most places beyond Portland. A short drive led us to a lonesome train car in the middle of a bustling farm where I had a Hazelnut Chip cone, Sean a Rum Raisin, and Kimmie a cup of Rainbow Bears.
Opened on Memorial Day in 1998 by Martha Grover-Lambert and her mother Sandra, Toots is a local ice cream stand that operates out of a renovated train caboose. Her father had worked at the farm since his youth and bought the 200 acre property back in 1986, and the ice cream business helps cover the taxes and keep these pastures from being invaded by development. In 2002, they began making their own ice cream after a stint at ice cream school.
Toots’ train car is situated right in the midst of farm buildings, and the environment gives people a chance to wander around among the cows and alpacas an enjoy scoops at a most leisurely pace. The other benefit of the onset of fall is that cones aren’t as quick to melt when faced with the elements. Cones are handed out to people who stand on a deck that’s affixed to the side of the caboose while servers hand cones through the side window.
Unfortunately since it was so late in the season, the menu board wasn’t full, and many of the custom flavors that I was hoping to get a taste of weren’t available. I was really hoping for a taste at least of the Whoopie Cow Pie with actual whoopie pies and swirls of chocolate fudge and marshmallow. Kimmie hadn’t been in the mood for ice cream when we left, and was only interested in going somewhere if we could find ice cream that had gummi bears in it – I was thankful that the rainbow bears we saw on their online menu was still around so that she could indulge in scoops full of not only gummi bears, but also rainbow jimmies.
Since it was late and there was a line, I skipped over the samples anyhow and selected hazelnut chip. I actually reeled a bit when I had my first taste. I was expecting something similar to the nut-filled gelatos in Boston’s North End, but instead found something that exceeded those by leaps and bounds. There were no nut pieces held in the mix, instead just the chocolate chips to provide textural exclamation points. What there was was a milky smooth ice cream deeply infused with the flavor of the hazelnut. Even though they’ve been making their own for less than a decade, Toots is doing it the right way.
The girl who handed me my cone chuckled when I asked for a sample spoon “so I could take nips from my friend’s cones.” I’m not sure what to do with gummi bears in ice cream, since they get so hard and it really delays the eating process so that there’s no way to get this in a cone. I like them as a candy, but I think gummi bears are best warm and chewy. The rum raisin was decadent enough that I was almost wary of the fact that Sean was driving. Had he ordered a large, I might have had to take away his keys.
Cone – baby $.70 tootsie $2 small $2.35 medium $2.95 large $3.45
Sundae – small $3.50 medium $4.15 large $4.45
Milkshake Frappe – regular $3.55 large $4.20 extra-thick large $4.85
Toots Ice Cream
Open Memorial Day-Labor Day, weekends Mother’s Day through September and maybe October