Cravings – Wakefield MA

26 08 2010

Anymore, my birthdays are just weird. There aren’t any real changes that happen, and my friends are so far flung that the concept of any sort of party could only really exist in a virtual idiom. After failing to convince anyone to head to Gloucester for lobster, my brother Tim and I drove north and I had a Cappuccino Biscotti cone and he went with Broken Hearts.

Cravings subtitles itself as being “At Colonial Spa,” but it’s tough to figure out what that is. My guess is that if I dug up some old Wakefield newspapers from the 50s, this would be the place with a soda jerk pulling egg creams and a jukebox full of rambunctious 45s that caused a spontaneous sock hop to break out  most afternoons. Truth is, aside from the lack of a jukebox, this place still looks like it could happen.

Inside there’s a row of benches with tables along the wall and a second row of tables with two seats each in this narrow storefront. Cravings also is aware that sometimes it takes more than a scoop of ice cream to satiate a real sweet tooth, and their counter is full of old-fashioned candies to tempt patrons. There’s also a case full of gourmet chocolate truffles and a cooler in the back with ice cream cakes.

The menu board is half fixed and half in constant flux. The first thing I noticed were the words cappuccino biscotti, two things that I can’t recall ever having appeared next to each other in the context of ice cream. The taste was striking and I realized that I didn’t need a second sample. Tim went for the Broken Hearts, a vanilla ice cream that had a variety of those gourmet truffles busted up inside of it.

The one thing that I couldn’t determine for sure was whether the cinnamon taste that kept sneaking into my cone was coming from the coffee or from the cookies. It seemed too present to just be coming from the biscotti, but even Mexicans don’t cut their coffee with cinnamon the same way that they do with chocolates. This coffee flavor was strong, and the cookie was crunchy, but not so unwieldy as to force consideration of the two parts individually. These bold flavors balance against each other, and make for a heck of a fine cone.

With a pocket full of spare change, the candy-filled counters were far too tempting. the best of those are the most politically incorrect. I mean how else could I tease my sister-in-law about my brother’s new smoking habit if I hadn’t spent a dollar on four packs of candy cigarettes.

Cone – small $2.99 medium $3.74 large $4.30

Sundae – small $4.91 large $6.08

Frappe – small $3.88 large $4.91

Cravings at Colonial Spa

389 Main Street, Wakefield, MA

781 245-7665

Open year round

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

Sips n’ Licks – Brighton MA

25 08 2010

Nights that I drive home late from JP to Watertown have me drive right past this location. Usually the time I pass by has all of the storefronts darkened so I didn’t notice when this opened, but my brother found mention of it somewhere online recently. After wasting a day at the RMV, I stopped here and had a Black Raspberry Chip Custard cone.

Sips n’ Licks opened up in Brighton at the beginning of the summer, but its Oak Square location keeps it out of the loop of most general news sweeps for goings on in town. My only friend who lived in this neighborhood moved away a few months ago, so it would have been easy to miss this place entirely since the only time I ever stopped here was for midnight subs at the pizza joint next door.

The place is part of an inconspicuous cement block, located directly between two competing pizza joints, right next to a fire station undergoing serious renovations. There’s a few booths worth of seating inside, and a small grassy knoll just across the street to accommodate cone eaters. The rain was persistent enough that I stood around inside studying the menu since the tables were full of folks taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi.

I was prepared going in for this place to be a small local coffee shop that doubled as another outlet for Brigham’s or Richardson’s, but a quick look in the freezer case negated that thought. Inside were fresh flavor combinations, including a few varieties of frozen custard and fresh sorbet. I started with a taste of the black raspberry chip custard, and only had a taste of the butter pecan as well to ensure that the first flavor wasn’t a mere anomaly. The custard made it into my cone.

Inside the freezer case, the custard had the deepest purple hue that I’ve seen in a cone and that color wasn’t mere artificial tint, it was a sign of the flavor jam-packed into this cone. Many raspberry flavors just hint at the fruitiness of the berry and keep things as light as possible. With this denser, egg-laden custard, the black raspberry needs to be bold in order to stand out, and here it does holding a taste that is reminiscent of nothing so much as a great valentine’s truffle.

I picked up a dish of their mango sorbet for an octogenarian friend of mine who’s lactose intolerant. Whether it was a matter of mere hunger, or something else, he dove headlong into the bowl and didn’t come back up until it was empty. He made very quick time of the sorbet, which is a heck of a sign since he never makes quick time with much of anything.

Cone – 1scoop $2.65 2scoops $3.65 3scoops $4.65

Sundae – small $4.50 large $5.50

Frappe $4.70 extra-thick $5.70

Sips n’ Licks

433 Faneuil St, Brighton, MA, 02135

617 782-2535

Open year round

Weekdays 7a-10p, Saturday & Sunday 9a-10p

Sips n’ Licks on Yelp

Garside’s – Saco ME

22 08 2010

I drove up to Portland to catch the Phantom Buffalo CD release show the night before this, and was assaulted by the ugliest sign in the ice cream business when I tried to go to Harbor Licks – “Closed For The Season.” On my way home I stopped to visit my friends Eddie & Sarah and their son Wesley. They steered me to Saco where I made it to Garside’s for a Black Forest cone.

Garside’s has been a regular stop for vacationers returning from Old Orchard Beach since the 50s. Gordon Pendleton bought the shop from Arthur Garside in 1981, and the shop has remained in the family since then, maintaining their high standards of ice cream.

As locations go, this one is truly hidden. It’s far enough east of downtown Saco that you’re certain you’ve made a wrong turn, and it’s in a such residential area that you’d never expect to find any commerce. The lot however is a nice plot of unlined pavement for parking which is ringed by trees with benches under each of them so there is always ample space in the shade.

Stumbling around a bit sleepily after a long weekend, I really wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for. I tried their Peaches and Cream ice cream and it glowed this luminous orange that frightened me a bit. In truth, it was probably the flourescents that gave it this appearance. After looking over the menu board, I finally decided on black forest ice cream to fill my cone (though for some reason my brain was crosswiring the definition of it and German Chocolate)

The ice cream that I got was spectacular – a rich chocolate cone with chocolate chunks and huge fresh cherries. While it lacked a swirl of whipped cream that would most easily identify this as Black Forest, that’s easy enough to pass off and leave for those that use this ice cream as the base for a sundae. The only flaw with this cone was that because the ice cream batch was fresh that the cherries themselves were laden with ice crystals, but when the crystallization is only inside fresh fruit, that’s usually a good sign.

On my way from Eddie’s to Garside’s, I passed a couple of other ice cream joints that were open. I kept fretting that I was driving past somewhere great and this place wasn’t going to be open, but the exasperated girl at the counter admitted that they were open until 10 every night during the summer. Now I know that I’ll be able to take Wesley out for an ice cream mess sometime soon.

Cone – small $2.75 medium $3.25 large $3.75

Sundae – small $3.20 medium $3.75 large $4.55

Frappe $3.55 extra-thick $4.25

Garside’s Ice Cream

320 Ferry Road, Saco, ME 04072

207 283-0045

Open May-October

Daily Noon-10p

Garside’s on Facebook

Showdown Comes to Somerville & SoWa

19 08 2010

Last year, this festival got tucked in a small lot off Somerville Ave. This year they return to that lot and are adding a second day in South Boston and serving scoops in conjunction with the SoWa Open Studios. Participating ice cream makers include: Stonyfield, Toscanini’s, Picco, Batch, Coop’s MicroCreamery, Chilly Cow Custard, and Christina’s.

This event will be held Saturday in Union Square in Somerville at 374 Somerville Ave from 2-4 PM. Sunday’s event moves to 500 Harrison Ave, South Boston as part of SoWa Sundays from 2-4 PM. For more info try this link.

Spruce Pond Creamery – Franklin MA

18 08 2010

For most people shopping for new shoes isn’t really a quest. When you wear size 16, however, there are a very different set of challenges. A day off and a trip to the Wrentham outlets with my dad proved fruitless, but we stopped in Franklin on the way back and I had a Peanut Butter Brownie cone.

What happens when two brothers have two distinct culinary foci? Well, for brothers Marc and Gary Bluestein, they fused their two greatest passions into a single establishment. Split between pizza and ice cream, depending on where you look, this place is either called Spruce Pond Creamery or Franklin Flatbreads, and has been serving this area for 11 years.

For those just after a scoop, there’s an outdoor window, for those looking to sit and eat, there’s a bunch of tables with a good view into the wood-fired oven. For those looking for outdoor perspectives, there is a balcony that overlooks the namesake pond, and there are picnic tables scattered all around the perimeter of the lot. This family-friendly location is easy to get to as well, located just off of 495.

Since we’d been walking around the outlets, we sat inside and ate calzones before heading to the ice cream side of the menu. We spoke with the chef about his favorites, but not only does he make the pizza, but the ice cream as well, so he couldn’t choose. I started with a taste of the Pecan Pie, but my sample was mostly just a lightly-cinnamoned vanilla with pie crust pieces. A taste of the Guiness was nice, but I landed on the peanut butter brownie.

The ice cream was ruled by the peanut butter, not that there are many instances with peanuts where they don’t take control. Thankfully with this ice cream had all of the taste benefits of peanut butter without becoming so heavy and dense as to overtake all other chewing and eating processes. The regularly-sized brownie bites were mixed in on a chocolate swirl, and gave the peanut butter something that amplified the flavors of each.

The calzones here made me wish that we had split a pizza, but we figured the calzone approach would be quicker. It was, and the pepperoni and cheese calzone I had was so packed with meat that most places would have divided that quantity among three such pieces.

Cone – kiddie $2.95 small $3.50 large $4.50

Sundae – small $4.15 large $5.65

Frappe – 2 scoops $4.45 3 scoops $5

Spruce Pond Creamery

370 King Street, Franklin, MA 02038

508 520-7900

Open year round

Daily 10a-10p

Richie’s – Everett MA

11 08 2010

Yes, Richie’s is not an ice cream place. And yes, I didn’t have ice cream here. Instead, I decided to give their Super Premium Italian Ice a go. It was a hot enough day, and the bad taste from my last ice cream was still lingering, so I chose a Red Raspberry slush.

Step 1 with Richie’s is the joy of getting here. It’s just off the rotary where 16 and 99 meet and if you don’t know where you are going when you take the sprocket that points you to Revere Beach, you are going to drive right on past. Richie’s is the first thing you see. The only thing surprising is that there aren’t usually emergency vehicles and tow trucks in front of it from people trying to stop.

Richie’s has been around since 1956, and their ices can be found in so many convenient stores and freezer cases around New England that it’s stunning that this little shack is the center of it all. This is where they do slush the right way, and even know to keep things stirred during the day so that customers don’t wind up with just a hard chunk of ice.

For those who aren’t inclined to slush, there are two separate windows at Richie’s the one one the left is for slush and the one on the right is for getting ice cream (from Richardson’s) and never the two shall meet. Unless you are there with a large party and people are getting some of each, it’s best to go to the right place to order. I went to the left and tried the Red Raspberry.

It all depends on the temperature when you eat it as to what you will get from this slush. They include a straw with a scoop on the end, but to start with there’s no chance that you can suck anything through the straw. Initially the consistency is much like that of a dense sorbet, the raspberry flavors are strong and fruity. As the slush begins to become more viscous, the sweetness begins to take over the fruit flavors, by the end of the cup, you may wind up with just a sicky sweet syrup depending on how much you ordered.

This Summer, I have been hung up on Slush Puppies. The days when it’s too hot to think about ice cream ruled much of June, and it was the convenient option at the store down the street. With those, you combine super tart flavor shots with a sweetened granular ice water. The result is something completely different from Richie’s, but I figured this was the best place to mention my digressions.

Cone – small $3.10 medium $3.65 large $4.20

Sundae – small $4.40 large $6

Frappe $5.50

Slush – small $2.50 medium $2.95 large $3.25 x-large $4.50 quart $5 gallon $14

Richie’s Slush

2084 Revere Beach Parkway, Everett, MA 02149-5927

617 389-6407

Open year round

Hours 11a-9p

Junction – Needham Junction MA

8 08 2010

With my sister-in-law out of town busy becoming an aunt again, my brother Tim and I found ourselves with little to do on a Sunday afternoon. My toe was still preventing active activity, so I sent him to the internet to find undiscovered ice cream. Something compelled me to get a Creamsicle soft serve cone with a chocolate dip.

Junction ice cream really is what it claims to be – an ice cream stop at a train station located at a junction of two tracks. The building was built around 1906, and no one is sure when the ice cream facilities took over the spot. What it looks like is merely a brick monolith plopped into a parking lot beside train tracks.

As far as ambiance and convenience go, anything this ice cream window picks up is a result of the active train schedule. There’s an indoor spot here, but the door was locked so the best seating was the benches on the opposite side of the building. Given the proximity to newspaper boxes and the lack of melted stains on the ground, these are really meant for folks waiting for the train.

When I first peered at the menu board, I let out a mild groan. Why? Well, after having my brother look for someplace we’d never been and actually traveling here, we realized that the hard ice cream they served was Bliss and as you can see from the preceding review, I’d just been their headquarters. That’s when I made the dastardly choice to go soft and try the creamsicle with a chocolate dip.

With a thin dip that would not harden and instead dripped like a sickly student with a nasty cold, this was barely appetizing enough to start. Once through the mess of chocolate, I realized that the creamsicle ice cream was not a swirl of soft serve vanilla and orange sherbet, but instead just plain ice cream with a rancid orange flavor blast swirled carelessly through the mix. Even calling it ice cream was tough as the mix was dense and tasteless and made me feel like I was being forced to consume some sort of overly processed dairy good made for people who can’t deal with lactose.

If you’re heading here as a local outpost to get a Bliss cone, it is definitely worth the stop. If you are a soft serve fan, imagine instead that this location has a force field around it and going there will kill you, and head to Weston (or anywhere that doesn’t rely on flavor shots) instead.

Cone – kiddie $1.75 small $2.25 medium $2.75 large $3.50

Sundae – small $5.50 large $6.25

Frappe $4.25 (only made with soft serve!)

Junction Ice Cream

40 Junction Street, Needham, MA 02492

781 433-0336

Open year round

Daily 1p-9p

Junction online