Ron’s Gourmet – Hyde Park MA

3 06 2009

Somehow, we made it to Ron’s before they closed, it seemed like we tried everything in our power to be late. We even got halfway there before I realized I left my camera on my friends’ couch and we turned back around. As it were four of us made our way down to Hyde Park, and no one was disappointed. I took on a Brownie Nut cone.

ron's gourmet ice cream bowling hyde park ma

Ron’s is a candlepin bowling alley, but over the years since they started making ice cream in the early eighties, what they’re known for has certainly changed. This place is revered for their ice cream, being both the Phantom Gourmet’s favorite, and even more notably, named the third best ice cream in the world by National Geographic. All of this from humble beginnings that only began when their soft-serve supplier sent them the wrong stuff.

Inside is a marvel, if you face toward the bowling, you see ten lanes that look like you could be anywhere in the USA. Turn around and you get a classic old style ice cream parlor. There are a bunch of booths comfortably spaced around the area, though I’m sure cones are not welcome on the parquet. There’s lots of signage on the brick facades outside, but no exterior seating as it is located on a high speed thoroughfare that cuts from Jamaica Plain to Milton.

Apparently, Ron’s trip to international notoriety came in the early nineties when Hillary Clinton stopped here while campaigning for health care. She sent Secret Service agents back for more and later spoke of Ron’s on CNN as her favorite ice cream she’d ever have. From there things spiraled, and nearly every local celebrity has made a pit stop here while in the neighborhood.

I started with a sample of the Peanut Butter Explosion, which was just as it said, a truly amazing peanut butter ice cream, and then sampled Lemon Coolers (they used to be my favorite cookies growing up but now you can’t find them anywhere). The peanut butter seemed to heavy for a whole cone at the moment, and the lemon washed my palate (would be a perfect after-lunch cone when you don’t have the freedom to take a nap). For no good reason, I turned to the brownie nut to fill my cone. It was a fantastic blend of elements that tasted like a brownie sundae reconfigured put back into the freezer. The brownies and chocolate were great and the ice cream easily matches up with any other local city ice cream. My only problem was that my cone came from the bottom of the barrel, so the nuts weren’t strikingly fresh as they can be in the best ice cream, but odds are good when they make the next batch, that will be remedied. This is a place to take all of your friends that will remind you of the possibilities available in places we don’t think to go around town.

brownie nut ice cream ron's gourmet hyde park ma

We decided that a place like this was worth making an event of it, which is why it’s taken so long for us to get here. We piled into Sam’s van and four of us made the trek together. Sam and Shane each had bowls of ice cream with two flavors (Sam: Banana & Grapenut, Shane: Cheesecake & Birthday Bash) (aside: the birthday bash was the only flavor that went unfinished, but that’s because it’s super sweet, even those that like cake batter were astonished that this went to the amazing extremes that it does, good, but overwhelming), while Greg had a cone like I did (he’d recently found his way to Rota Spring, so he had a basis for comparison when it comes to the best around).

Cone – kids $2.75 regular $3.50 large $4.50

Sundae – kids $3.75 regular $4.75 large $5.75 XL $6.75

Frappe $4.95 extra thick $5.95

Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream & 20th Century Bowling

1231 Hyde Park Ave., Hyde Park, MA 02136

617 364-5274

Open year round

Monday-Thursday 7:30a-10p, Friday-Saturday 7:30a-11p, Sunday 9a-10p

http://ronsicecream.com





So Friendly It’s Free

2 06 2009

So it seems like every retailer is having a free day of ice cream to show how much they care. Wal-Mart did it, though this time around instead of hosting a giant ice cream social as they did last year, they just handed out prepackaged ice cream snacks. Heck, this Wednesday night, Sonic* is offering a free root beer float. Truth be told, if you’re going to give us something for free that’s cool and all, but we do prefer that what we get is something real.

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Friendly’s makes it easy and right. Free ice cream. An actual cone (or bowl). All you need to do is show up at the right time. Unfortunately for me, I’ll be inside the friendly confines of Belmont Park during this swatch of time. Please enjoy your ice cream a little extra for me and Calvin Borel.

* Sonic sure advertises a lot nationally for me to know this… unfortunately I am not planning a drive to suburban Allentown PA for a free 10 oz. beverage. That is the nearest location to Boston.





Berlin Farms – Berlin MA

1 06 2009

My little brother worked here for one day. It wasn’t that he did anything wrong and got fired, it was that everyone who worked there were all attending a wedding on the same day and my brother and his friend served up the scoops. That was a different era, but the Strawberry cone that I was served was the same stuff as they had back then.

berlin farms ice cream berlin ma

This land is steeped in history with a small handful of people tending the property since John Bruce first farmed here in 1770. In the 1930s, Chedco Farm was built and it’s this edifice that remains to this day. Barry O’Brien bought the property in 1986, and changed the name to Berlin Orchards. He closed the property in 2005 and died a few months later and the ice cream shoppe was reopened in 2006 by current owner Jennifer Cermak who rechristened the place Berlin Farms.

There is a large gourmet food store in a refurbished barn, and a restaurant with an entrance near the ice cream window. The farm is lush and sprawling, despite 100 acres being donated to a local school and some lots being sold off for development. The land that remains is used for raising and breeding endangered barnyard animals including horses, turkeys, rabbits, sheep, and ducks.

The ice cream window is just that, a single window. There’s a board with all of the flavors posted on it and a small dry-erase board for specials and upcoming events. The only indoor seating is in the restaurant which is a somewhat separate enterprise, but there are picnic tables and lawn chairs abound, in addition to all of the animal pens behind the parking lot.

The ice cream offered up here isn’t made on the premises, in fact, theirs comes from Richardson’s. Even knowing that it’s the same stuff I had just days ago in Roslindale, somehow it tastes better in this far more idyllic setting. This time i opted for a simple strawberry cone – my nephew recommended the flavor choice to me. The pink ice cream was lightly creamy with small pieces (no big chunks) of frozen strawberry in the mix. A nice simple strawberry for a cool early June day.

strawberry ice cream berlin farms ma

With the odd combination of ice cream and animals, Berlin Farms has found a way to fuse the two interests as a prime location for kids birthday parties. What they’ve got going on are the Pony and Barnyard Parties. I’m presuming that’s just what it seems since they have regular pony rides available on weekends from 1p-4p. For those even more inclined they’ve got a summer riding program. I wonder if the horses get to eat the leftover ice cream.

Cone – small $3.50 medium $4.50 large $5.50

Sundae – small $4.50 large $5.50 banana boats $5.95

Frappe $4.50 extra thick $5.25

Berlin Farms

200 Central St, Berlin, MA 01503

617 710-8810

Open April-November

Hours 11a-8p

http://berlinfarms.com/berlin_farms.html





Pinecroft Dairy – West Boylston MA

31 05 2009

Since starting this blog eleven months ago, nearly all of my friends who aren’t lactose intolerant have told me great tales of the ice cream place that they always went to growing up. Quite often those memories are a bit blurred, or else history hasn’t been kind and all that remains is a sputtering soft-serve machine. Sometimes the results are far better like with this Bear Claw cone.

pinecroft dairy west boylston ma ice cream

Pinecroft was a dairy located in West Boylston. The idyllic nature of this place has been tempered by parking lots and nearby developments that have left just a single restaurant building standing. It’s still difficult to get to, especially without any signage along Route 12 that directs people when and where to turn to find a cone. I opted for both a map and a cell phone to find my way to this ice cream.

Established back in 1952, Pinecroft is similar to a place like Cabot’s in Newtonville – a single store that divides its attentions between family dining and ice cream. Think Friendly’s without the excess of franchising and a greater focus on ice cream. Apparently this used to be atop a hill surrounded by cows and other farm elements (the land was used as a dairy even before they started making ice cream), but all that’s around to see is the store itself and an odd grassy knoll with a porch swing and a picnic bench and a mini waterfall.

Inside there is ample seating for people who want a meal or ice cream (though if you’re just looking for ice cream, I’d bet that dinner customers get priority. Outside is an array of windows offering ice cream to the steady stream of people who pull up on this Sunday evening. The inside closes an hour before the windows, so folks are heading off to their cars to eat since the sun is dancing on the horizon and the wind has been whipping that chill into the air.

I started with a sample of the Ginger ice cream, which was both bold and subtle and would have made a great full cone, but I was tempted by the unknown and went with bear claw ice cream. I’m not quite sure how the name applies as usually a bear claw is the almondy cousin of an apple fritter, but I won’t complain much with what is offered here. Starting with a chocolate ice cream base that is light and smooth and very milky as opposed to creamy, the ice cream also has a thick swirl of caramel and then is peppered with chocolate-covered cashews. The combination is heavenly without being too rich, and the mix of flavors brings something fresh to each bite. It’s a great ice cream that doesn’t leave you weighted down afterwards. I only wonder how nice it would have been after a plate of grilled cheese and french fries.

bear claw ice cream pinecroft dairy west boylston ma

My issue today is with cone assembly. The picture above was the first attempt, and as I turned the cone to get a better angle, the entire heap of ice cream started to sway and topple. I caught it in time, but since i used my mouth and took a bite in order to save it, a picture was no longer an option. The problem was that none of the ice cream that was scooped was actually inside the cone. With summer work starting their first days there are lots of teens who are just learning to scoop and this is not the first time this spring that I’ve encountered such precariousness.

Cone – regular $3.50 large $3.95 super $4.50

Sundae $5.50

Frappe $5

Pinecroft Restaurant and Dairy

539 Prospect St, West Boylston, MA 01583

508 853-0717

Open year round

Sunday-Wednesday 11:30a-9p, Thursday-Saturday 11:30a-10p (inside closes an hour earlier)

Pinecroft online





Jimmies – Roslindale MA

29 05 2009

Truth be told, I don’t know much of Roslindale, except a song by that name that the Rudds had. I’m actually pretty certain that I’ve never gone there before intentionally. With today’s Twilight Zone episode of a trip, I’m not sure that any repeat plans are in the works. After this review, I’m not wholly sure that I’d be welcome anyway. I did find a Maple Walnut cone, but …

Jimmies Ice Cream Roslindale MA

Jimmies is a brand new ice cream joint in Roslindale Village. It used to be a photo shop, but with the advent of digital photography and no one needing to develop film, owner Donna Cabral closed up shop and started from scratch with this new endeavor. The official opening was earlier this month, though in truth it  still seems as though they aren’t settled in yet.

The name of the store comes from Cabral’s fond remembrance of the chocolate sprinkles of yore (even if her tale does stray a bit from the actual reality of where the word comes from: while some parlors may have donated the proceeds from that addition to the Jimmy Fund, jimmies are actually named after the guy who invented them). The result is an odd sign that lacks the possessive punctuation that you expect from shoppes with people’s names in the title. The store itself is crammed with a large counter and four tables and little space to navigate around other customers cluttering the area, with a single wooden bench located in front.

The ice cream isn’t made in Roslindale. In fact, it’s another shoppe that has fallen under the umbrella of Richardson’s. While the Middletown based manufacturer makes a nice ice cream, when you work on a spectrum of homemade ice creams, this is really a baseline, a control if you will, to measure other ice creams next to. It’s kind of disappointing to make such efforts to find a new spot only to encounter tastes that are already known.

I tasted the Green Monster (which is just a Grasshopper – mint and chocolate) and Rum Raisin (a tart alcoholic front without much finish), but neither really swayed me so I opted for maple walnut in a sugar cone. Unaccustomed to people providing all the necessary information with brevity, I had to repeat my desire for a sugar cone three times. The maple was syrupy sweet, but lacking that woody kick, and the walnuts weren’t fresh or really much of anything but placeholders. Nothing is as frustrating as a cone that doesn’t satisfy, and while there was nothing wrong, the fact was that a slew of things kept this from succeeding.

maple walnut ice cream jimmies roslindale ma

I tried to salvage my trip and feed my hunger with pizza while I was in this neighborhood, but somehow I failed even more ingloriously. I can’t recall the last time I had to spit up some pizza, but the Sicilian slices I got at Romano’s had a gummy tasteless texture and meat on top that was chewier than jerky. Somehow I spent my afternoon on what some people deem an impossibility – bad ice cream and pizza.

Cone – kiddie $2 regular $3.50 large $4.50

Sundae – regular $3.75 large $4.50

Frappe $3.99

Jimmies Ice Cream & Sandwiches

48A Corinth St, Roslindale, MA 02131

857 719-6665

Open year round

Sunday-Thursday 11a-9p, Friday & Saturday 11a-10p

Jimmies online





Ice Cream Stimulus

8 05 2009

Edy’s seems to be going all out in the contest department this year. Neighborhood ice cream socials are one thing, but providing essentially a $100,000 grant to someone is a whole nother matter. That seems just like what they are doing with an open online application looking for someone with a worthy plan for what to do with an infusion of cash and how you can turn and help the community.

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Go online to edys.tasteofrecovery.com and follow the instructions to apply for their contribution to economic recovery. All you need to do is fill out the application and come up with the best 150 word answers to three questions: “Why are you entering to win an opportunity to be Edy’s® “A Taste of Recovery” Spokesperson and $100,000? Tell us why you deserve and/or need this money, and How would you spend the $100,000 to pursue your dream?”





Ice Cream Club – Auburndale MA

5 05 2009

My quest for the day brought me to Auburndale in search of the Lasell College bookstore to find a shirt for my aunt’s birthday. Thanks to the internet, my brother in Chicago was able to help lead me there (though as a result, I sat in front of the building talking to my nephew for half an hour before heading in). Just down the road, I was pleased to find myself a Black And Tan sugar cone.

ice cream club newton auburndale mass

Back in December, I had made efforts to come over to Ice Cream Club when I found an article about the place being up for sale. It thus a pleasant surprise to find that the lights were on as I drove past. With no apparent suitors, it was nice to discover that the Schaffer’s had opened back up for the 2009 season.

This location has been a Newton area tradition dating back over twenty years when this site was the home of another ice cream parlor named The Ice Cream Man. The shop has been run by the Schaffer family the past few years and all of the kids worked there as their after-school jobs. With the kids now off to college, that’s why they’ve been seeking new ownership. Unfortunately, it was busy and I didn’t get to ask many questions to find out what the current status is, but the for sale sign is not in the front window anymore.

The shop is decked out in record covers and other rock ‘n’ roll ephemera so that it almost feels like the inside of a jukebox. The silver tables and chairs bring that fifties soda fountain feel to this spot. With six indoor tables, two outside, and park benches within view of the front door, this is a very relaxed spot, especially given that it’s so near the confluence of so many major roads.

After a taste of the Grasshopper, I realized my tongue was still attuned to the spearmint of juleps rather than peppermint flavors, and opted for a black and tan cone. This ice cream isn’t a combination of beer flavors, but it does have the half-and-half aspect of the colors colliding, but not blending. It’s a caramel ice cream with a chocolate cookie swirl that also has chocolate covered candy crunch in it. The cream flavors are very subtle and the caramel is just there to bring you the chocolates which make the biggest impact. A sweet cone and here’s hoping there are still scoops in this spot twenty years from now.

black and tan ice cream club auburndale ma newton

It wasn’t until it was too late and I was already dropping globs from my cone onto the tiled floor that I realized that had I wanted, I could have got jimmies on my cone for free. While there are usually lots of toppings (and an equally long set of names for each depending on where you are), this is the first time that I noticed anyone offering them for free. For those reading this who are not from New England, despite what you may have heard, jimmies is not vestigial Jim Crow slang, it’s actually named for the guy that invented them and so is more like Kleenex. Dang, maybe I have to pay someone a copyright for just typing the word jimmies.

Cone – small $2.99 medium $3.75 large $4.50 jumbo $5.50

Sundae – small $3.99 medium $4.99 large $5.99 jumbo $6.99

Frappe $4.95 malt +$.30

Ice Cream Club

419 Lexington St, Auburndale, MA 02466

617 244-3555

Open April-October

Monday-Thursday noon-9p, Friday-Saturday noon-10p, Sunday noon-8p

Ice Cream Club online