Berry Line – Cambridge MA

20 01 2009

For the sake of unity and reaching across ideological barriers, I took the inaugural challenge and headed for the other side of the freezer: yogurt. In general I’m not a fan of yogurt, frozen or not. Despite my love of dairy products, something has always kept me away from yogurt. While looking at the snow out the front window, I ate a cup of Blueberry with Pecans.

Berry Line Frozen Yogurt Yoghurt Ice Cream cambridge Mass

Berry Line opened in September of 2007 offering Harvard Square an alternative to the ice cream shops that ring the neighborhood. A couple of post-doctoral students at Harvard and MIT put  their heads together and created a recipe for a low calorie frozen yogurt. Matt Wallace and Eric Yang had such faith in their recipe that they  started a shoppe.

While the menu has expanded to include coffee and smoothies, Berry Line keeps a small scale scope and seeks to make the best frozen yogurt with fresh natural ingredients. The walls inside feature artwork from a revolving cast of local artists, while a mural painted by Bren Bataclan adorns one of the outdoor faces of the building. For those looking for a quieter internet spot than any Starbucks, they even offer free wi-fi.

I’ve stated from the top that I’m not a big fan of yogurt. The frozen yogurts that I’ve been most amenable to are generally chocolates where the tangy bite of yogurt is lost a bit in the overall flavor. I was offered a sample of the plain as I walked in, and where some shoppes try to temper that flavor, here that tang was very prominent. They rotate two other base flavors in every few weeks and the options on this day were blueberry and guava.

I went with blueberry and then had them add pecans, which were generously sprinkled on the top. The nuts were very fresh and helped contrast the yogurt. The blueberries were bold and strong, and mixed in with the yogurt so that there weren’t even pieces of skin apparent. This ultimately works or doesn’t based on how you like actual yogurt, because they do this right. This blows any TCBY out of the water. If I liked yogurt more this could be a regular haunt. As it is, I’ll give this another go sometime when the weather warms up.

blueberry pecan berry line cambridge mass frozen yogurt yoghurt ice cream

Upon first walking inside, I was met with artwork from Dan Blakeslee, a local artist and musician who plays somewhere between Brighton and Portsmouth a few nights each week. His show posters are hand-drawn efforts that get snagged even by folks who don’t attend his concerts. While eating, Dan walked past and came in to say hello.

Cup – small $2.62 medium $3.33 large $4.67

plus Crunchy Toppings: single topping +$.67  2 toppings +$1.19 3 toppings +$1.57

plus Fruit and Crunchy Combo: single topping +$.95  2 toppings +$1.62   3 toppings +$2.09

Berry Line

1 Arrow St., Cambridge, MA 02138

617 868-3500

Open year round

Sunday-Wednesday noon-11p, Thursday-Saturday noon-midnight

Colonial Candies – Bolton MA

31 12 2008

The radical swings in weather patterns this month have been amazing. After spending Saturday night wandering around all of Jamaica Plain with temperatures in the fifties, we’ve got another winter storm warning. Severe enough that parking bans were issued a day in advance. I opted for trying to beat the storm out of town, and got a Butter Pecan cone.

Colonial Candies Ice Cream Bolton Mass Hebert's

Colonial Candies is an odd moniker  for me to use. Until recently this was a Hebert’s candy mansion, but in 2004 the Hebert family sold their name and recipes off. Member’s of the family still run individual shoppes under new names, but things are different aside from the Shrewsbury store which maintains the original name. Hebert’s introduced white chocolate to America back in 1955, but this store now uses different suppliers and doesn’t have their amazing white chocolate bars.

For anyone travelling south on 495, this spot is a definite landmark. A mile before the highway exit, there is a clearing that provides a good view of the mansion, and there is an iluminated red sign steering visitors this way. As a result, there are often times when you’ll find a couple of elderly tour buses making a stop along their way, and thus lines winding through the aisles.

With the snow picking up pace on this New Year’s Eve, the store was quiet. Only the ringing of the bell when I walked in alerted the one person on duty for the day. It was easy to tell that she was weather weary – ice storms had knocked the power out for 3 days earlier in the month. She even talked about almost not coming in today after witnessing the aftermath of three accidents on 117 during her commute.

I didn’t feel the need to work my way through samples, and heck I wanted to get to my parent’s house and get off the road before things turned truly gnarly. The ice cream here is supplied by Bliss Dairy, so I had a decent idea what I was in for with my butter pecan. While there was a bit of frost on the outside of the cone, refreeze hadn’t permeated the whole thing, and the cone had a rich buttery consistency with large pieces of pecan that really made the whole thing shine. It didn’t hurt that I was given a complimentary waffle cone for being the only customer (a family did walk in as I was leaving and headed straight for the ice cream).

colonial candies bolton mass ice cream butter pecan hebert's snow

As a candy mansion, the best aspect of Colonial Candies is the toppings bar for sundaes. With short hours, it wasn’t set up on this day, but usually crumbled version of the candies in the store are there for you to assemble. Growing up, I can recall many times when we would ride our bikes to Hebert’s and gorge on sundaes making our toppings overflow onto the paper plates below forming a moat of caramel and strawberry and fudge around a great castle of ice cream.

Cone – small $2.75 medium $3.25 large $4

Sundae – small $3.75 medium $4.75 large $5.50

Frappe $4.95

Colonial Candies

47 Sugar Rd, Bolton, MA

978 779-6586‎

Open year round

Daily 9a-6p

Colonial Candies on Yelp

Wheeler’s – Boston MA

15 12 2008

The proposition of vegan ice cream is daunting. I mean, why not just go the sorbet route and make things easy for everyone. Thankfully some people are still out there battling to provide both a healthy and tasty alternative. Walking from Cambridge on a warm December day, I got a Candy Cane cup.

wheeler's frozen dessert vegan ice cream boston mass

Wheeler’s opened up over a year ago near Symphony Hall. Not that anyone except Berklee students noticed it amongst a row of street level shops at the corner of Huntington and Mass Ave. With a goal of attempting to redeem the concept of vegan desserts from the wasteland of cardboard cupcakes and rediscovered cookie recipes lost after the repeal of wartime rationing in the 1940s, owner Wheeler Del Torro set the bar high.

Using almond and cashew milk as well as soy milk for the base of their ice creams is the trick that makes this all work. Gone is the sometime plasticine taste that soy can leave behind. In its place is rich nuttiness that is dairy free and proud of it.

My first taste was the soursop ice cream. In truth I wasn’t sure what soursop even was, and it wasn’t until later that Wikipedia informed me that it’s more often called Guanabana to those that walk down the Mexican aisle of the grocery store. The chocolate pudding was dense and rich, but I’m more apt to defer the chocolate to a sorbet in a place like this.

What I wound up with was the candy cane. Since it’s December and Christmas is hurtling toward us during this shortened month (that late Thanksgiving offers less shopping weekends), it seemed a fitting choice. The ice cream itself was very rich, with the nut milk making for a denser cup. The red peppermint was presented as an additive to the cream and together they combined for a taste that would sneak past most dairy purists if they didn’t know what they were having.

candy cane wheelers frozen dessert vegan ice cream boston mass

This was likely one of the last days until spring that it’ll be reasonable to walk across the Charles via the Mass Ave bridge, but with temperatures flirting with the mid 60s, it seemed more preposterous to take the T around and not celebrate the weather while it was here. After watching the ice storms decimate central Mass a few days before, something about walking a couple miles for ice cream was extra special.

Cup – small $3.75 medium $4.75 large $5.75

Sundae – not offered, but toppings added to cup are $1/per

Milkshake Frappe – small $3 medium $4 large $5

Wheeler’s Frozen Desserts

334B Massachusetts Avenue, Boston Massachusetts 02115

617 247-0048

Open year round

Monday-Saturday 11:30a-10p, Sunday 11:30a-9p

Emack & Bolio’s – Cambridge MA

3 12 2008

I witnessed a remarkable feat just now. A girl walked in from Porter Square and asked if she could have some samples. She tried the ‘Deep Purple’ Cow and commented on the bad names for flavors. Then she got both Banana and Chocolate samples at the same time and walked out the door. All the while I just sat observing while eating a Raspberry Truffle cone.

Emack and & Bolio's ice cream shoppe

The banana flavor is actually called Mellow Yellow Banana. The bad flavor names usually have to do with a punnish rock reference being inserted into a more typical moniker. The reason for this is that Bob Rook who started Emack & Bolio’s had a day job as a music lawyer. It’s also why there are some locations connected with Hard Rock Cafe.

This spot is one of the newest Boston area locations, and it is tucked into the front corner of the shopping plaza at Porter Square. The building it is in is mostly filled by a CVS, but there is a glass-encased area that serves as a market for local artisans.  It’s when you get past that shop  where you find this two-tabled scoop shop.

I’d had a less-than-stellar trip when I went to the shop in Brookline this summer, so I decided to try a few samples and make sure that I got something that represented the ice cream well. I tried Raspberry Truffle, Cosmic Crunch, and  Grasshopper Pie. The Cosmic Crunch had become a more Funkadelian Cosmic Slop as the ice cream was dripping and melting everywhere with no need for the ice in its name.

I chose the raspberry trufle and it was a plain ice cream with swirls of raspberry and tiny raspberry-filled chocolate candies. While the candies and swirl did a great job of carrying the flavor, the ice cream was marred by a case of refreeze. The crystals were invasive even in the softened ice cream, and had changed the nature of the cone so much that it was tough to tell if this base was a vanilla or a white chocolate.

raspberry truffle emack and bolio's ice cream cambridge mass

After a couple of disappointing experiences it’s tough to tell what to make of Emack & Bolio’s. They’ve stuck around for thirty years, but it’s the only shoppe that has had refreeze issues really hamper the ice cream, and it has happened both times. While I do expect refreeze crystals as a problem in December when the ice cream has been sitting around longer than in the middle of the summer, it’s never fun to have ice cream be such a challenge to be good when everyone else calls it great.

other review: Emack & Bolio’s in Brookline

Cone – 1scoop $3.48 2scoops $4.35 3scoops $4.70

Sundae – 1scoop $5.25 regular $5.94 ridiculous $6.95

Frappe $5.05 extra thick $5.90 malted $5.40

Emack & Bolio’s‎

23 White St, Cambridge, MA‎

617 492-1907‎

Open year round

Daily noon-11p;  winter hours: Mon-Thurs 1p-10p, Fri 1p-10:30p, Sat noon-10:30p, Sun noon-10p

What We’re Thankful For

27 11 2008

Today we say thanks for all our friends – near and far, long ago and still to come.

And for the glory of what you can capture in a cone…

cones so far


Rancatore’s – Lexington MA

22 11 2008

My sense of geography has improved greatly since I began searching for ice cream everywhere I go. It’s always an amazing thing to tie together pieces of maps when you drive the length of a road. At this end of Waltham Street, I found a Cinnamon Nutmeg cone as my pot of gold.

rancatore's ice cream and yogurt lexington mass

Rancatore’s is the sister store of the Belmont shoppe. Owned by Joe Rancatore, this is prime real estate in downtown Lexington. With three coffee shops close enough to throw a cone at, the clientele includes a lot more kids – be it friends of employees or moms with families.

Much like the Belmont store, the inside is an explosion of red and black checkerboards that serve as a great contrast to the ice cream and other treats that they serve. There’s a freezer case full of pints and half gallons for dads on the run. With lots of tables, a bathroom roomy enough to change a baby in, and even a water fountain with napkins right next to it, they really do make for a clean and friendly environment (though they were having a problem with the paper towel dispenser, and it seems that no one had wiped down my table since the last customer left).

I made it through an array of samples before I settled on the cinnamon nutmeg. It seems like the sort of flavor that may not have much longevity, whereas the others I was contemplating had food reviews about them painted on the walls. Sometimes the chance to try something takes precedence (though truth be told I didn’t even contemplate a taste of their pumpkin – will someone do something fun with this? add chips? oatmeal cookie pieces? pie crust?).

The nutmeg here has a very wierd presence. Instead of providing the kick that it does to an eggnog, the extremes of both spices are blunted a bit in the mix. At the same time the flavors are the ideal bridge from the apple pies of September and October until we hit that yule drink. The spices provide a texture within the cream which helps make this a constantly surprising cone. The subtlety of the flavors was enough to carry the cream on their own, without any bells or whistles at all.

cinnamon nutmeg rancatore's ice cream and yogurt lexington mass

Walking around in the cold, I made it up to the Flick to see what was showing and discovered a new Mike Leigh film in theaters now. My brother and I went the next day to see Happy-Go-Lucky. Whereas  Naked followed the life of a nihilist in a cold world, this tracks an ebullient grade school teacher smiling at that world around her. A marvelous film that mirrors Chekhov’s collision of humor and horror in the spirit of a driving school instructor.

other review: Rancatore’s in Belmont

Cone – micro $2.60 small $3.75 medium $4.60 large $5.20

Sundae – micro $4.25 small $5.50 medium $6.00 large $7.50

Frappe – small $3.60 large $5 extra thick $6.25 malt $5.75

Rancatore’s Ice Cream

1752 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420

781 862-5090

Open year round

Hours 10a-11p

Rancatore’s online

Lizzy’s – Cambridge MA

21 11 2008

I didn’t get an iPod until this past summer when my brother gave me my sister-in-law’s old one. It’s a four gig Nano so I stuff it with Podcasts and new stuff that can rotate quickly. It was pretty amazing walking around a chilly Harvard Square listening to someone read “The Lottery” and then landing a Mocha Chocolate Lace cone in the midst of it all.

lizzy's homemade ice cream harvard square, cambridge mass

“New Yorker: Fiction” is a monthly Podcast with a modern author reading a favorite story that first ran in  The New Yorker, and this month it was A.M. Homes that read Shirley Jackson’s classic. For some reason it seemed a more apt soundtrack to the day and the ice cream than the bootlegged Guns N’ Roses record that I can’t motivate myself to actually listen to.

This Lizzy’s is the same as the place on Moody Street in Waltham. As a matter of fact this place is really not much more than a storefront space tucked between other stores in Harvard Square. The ice cream is delivered to the store from Waltham. The narrow space barely has room for its freezers, and just fits the three seats that are tucked into the bar at the front of the store.

Some of the more complicated flavors on the Lizzy’s menu are broken out in descriptive sheets that seem to have been drawn by bored workers tired of reciting the same spiel every time customers asked. My first sample was a Coffee Fudge Avalanche, and I think the spoon missed any ice cream and came up with only fudge and walnuts. While I do like walnut fudge, I was after a cone.

That’s what led me to the mocha fudge lace. Snowflake-like pieces of crystallized sugar are covered in chocolate and then mixed into a bold mocha ice cream. It has an oddly grainy quality that could be attributed to the sugar or coffee grit. The texture serves to enhance the flavors as it seems to roll them very unevenly across the tongue giving each element its own opportunity, and different sensations striking adjacent taste buds. The only detraction was that the cream was soft and warm, which was pretty ironic given outdoor temperatures peaking near freezing.

Mocha Chocolate Lace Lizzy's Harvard Square Ice Cream Mass

This Lizzy’s shop is somewhat overshadowed by their next door neighbor (not naming names, but there’s a reason that they don’t serve any hot beverages here) and friends who are regular pedestrians in this territory didn’t realize this tiny spot was actually an ice cream shop. It is tiny without much room to loiter inside, but usually you can find something outdoors in the square to watch. Maybe there’ll even be a stoning.

other review: Lizzy’s in Waltham

Cone – kiddie $3 regular $3.62 2scoop $4.19 3scoop $5.15

Sundae – regular $4.86 2scoop $5.53 3scoop $6.19

Thick Frappe – small $4.10 medium $4.81 large $5.24

Lizzy’s Homemade Ice Cream

29 Church St., Cambridge, MA 02138

617 354-2911

Open year round

Daily noon-10:30p


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.