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

Mt. Desert Island – Portland ME

5 07 2010

The problem with holiday weekends is that everyone goes out of town. After recovering from a softball-induced near-heat stroke on Saturday, I couldn’t find anything going on for the 4th. With everyone gone, I hopped in the car and headed to Maine when alerted of a party. The next day I found new ice cream downtown and got a cone with Girls Scouts Gone Wild and The Dude.

Mt. Desert Island is the island that Bar Harbor is on. It’s where this ice cream is made, as there are two different stores that have been there for a few years. With storefronts in Portland in regular flux, it seems as though there was an opening for another “gourmet small batch ice cream shop.”

This spot opened in June and has quickly made an impression on anyone who has stepped inside. While the clean lines and bright colors are inviting, the only thing missing is chairs. Exhange St.’s brick lined sidewalks are a little too warm in July to take an already soft cone to the streets.

The first thing that you notice here are the flavor options. Exotic and gourmet flavors are abound. Hot Chili Chocolate? Candy Shoppe? Jack Daniels? Yes, yes, yes. I tasted them all. The Hot was good (though I prefer cayenne to give that hotness rather than chili or jalapeno). When it came to decide though, I was swayed by Girl Scouts Gone Wild and The Dude so I had both.

The Dude is a white Russian ice cream (see ‘The Big Lebowski’ if you don’t get it), and GSGW is a chocolate ice cream with nearly an entire sleeve of thin mints poured into it as well. The hot temperatures meant soft ice cream, but the texture was different than most (reminiscent of Boston Ice Cream Factory) and the flavors were astounding. Rich and strong and just fantastic stuff.

This wasn’t actually the first destination that we’d pointed to, but the other new ice cream joint in Portland wasn’t open on this date. For those looking for ice cream on the Munjoy Hill side of town, there’s also a new site called Harbor Scoops that offers up Smiling Hill Farm ice cream.

Cone – single $3.75 double $4.25 triple $4.75 quad $5.25

Sundae $5.25

Milkshake $4.75 extra-thick $5.25

Mt. Desert Island

51 Exchange St, Portland, ME 04101

207 210 3432

Open year round / seasonally

Hours #a-#p

Dairy Corner – Scarborough ME

7 09 2009

Sometimes the road knows where we’re supposed to go better than we do. We set off toward the mall but a closed exit shot us south until we found ourselves on Old Orchard Beach. After too much time in the arcade, and walking barefoot on the beach, the ice cream place there was closed so we stopped for a Brownie Batter cone as we got back to Rt 1.

dairy corner ice cream scarborough maine me

Located where traffic heading South from Portland turns to point toward the beach, Dairy Corner is exactly what its name says – a dairy bar located at a major intersection. This is the sort of place that seems like it has been around for people’s entire lives. With options to fit every possible permutation of frozen dessert options, Dairy Bar stands boldly with its yellow and blue paint job.

I’d stopped to check this place in April when I did a full scan of the shopppes on Rt 1, No one seemed to have words about this place, but every time I have driven by, there have been lines extending into the parking lot. The mystery is increased because there is no way to see inside. Every window is plastered with signs representing all of the different things they can and will do with ice cream. Thankfully the hot dog and milkshake combination keeps those two items separate from each other.

As seems to be the case here in Maine, Labor Day marks an end of sorts. While Dairy Corner isn’t closing for the season like everything North of Portland seems to be, the flavors available were getting knocked off the list of options pretty quickly. Standing in line and seeing kids cry because their favorite favor isn’t there is an odd occurrence, though it is amazing how quickly tears dry up when an alternative appears in their hands.

I had to skip out on the samples since the Pumpkin and Black Raspberry Truffle were both empty by the time I got to the window. A reevaluation of the flavors landed me on brownie batter without much idea what that would actually be. The ice cream was milk chocolate stuffed with chunks of uncooked brownie and a fudge swirl. After Toots the day before, and a lobster dinner earlier in the evening, this was a bit of a letdown. This was a perfectly fine cone after a day on the beach, but nothing spectacular that would make this a true destination.

brownie batter dairy corner ice cream scarborough maine me

The strangest part of this cone was the drip guard that came with it. The cone came in a plastic cone that jutted out so drips from the cone wouldn’t land on your fingers. I’m not sure who convinced the Dairy Corner that this was how they should present their cones. It may serve utilitarian functions well, be the idea of holding onto plastic when I was eating a cone truly distracted from the experience and the flavor that were inside.

Cone – small $2.76 medium $3.18 large $3.64

Sundae – small $3.27 medium $3.97 large $4.49

Shake $4.02 thick $4.30

Dairy Corner

612 Us Route 1, Scarborough, ME 04074

207 883-6939

Open year round / seasonally

Daily 11a-11p

Dairy Corner online

Toots – North Yarmouth ME

6 09 2009

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.

toots toot's ice cream north yarmouth maine me

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.

hazelnut chip toots toot's ice cream north yarmouth maine me

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

137 Walnut Hill Rd, North Yarmouth, ME 04097-6507

(207) 829-3723

Open Memorial Day-Labor Day, weekends Mother’s Day through September and maybe October

fall hours: Fridays 3p-8p, Saturday & Sunday 1p-8p

Hodgman’s – New Gloucester ME

2 08 2009

Expectations can be pretty difficult to meet when both a bandmate and Yankee Magazine had told me this place was the best around. Last year when we tried, we first discovered it not open on Monday and then that it closed for real on Labor Day. Since Sean was still sitting around waiting for his work to reopen (the owners had a kid), we drove up and both had Chocolate custard cones.

hodgman's frozen custard ice cream new gloucester maine me

Hodgman’s has been here for sixty-three years bringing frozen confections to those willing to head north of Portland. It’s located on Rt 100 just past Gray, and before you get to Lewiston. It’s an old dairy that seems to now be wholly repurposed to bring full flavor to Maine Summers. The biggest bell or whistle here was likely going to be part of the banjo band that was on the verge of being rained out later this afternoon. Even these sort of concerts are rarities.

Driving here is a treat from Portland. It’s just as easy to keep going straight past Lib’s as it is to hop on the Maine Turnpike to pay tolls and not get to see any of the countryside. There are a few strips of shops along the way here, but the neon Frozen Custard sign on the crest of this building makes sure that you are ready for this as you get near. There’s ample parking, and it seemed as though half of the people that ordered returned to their cars and ate their with families. Others wandered around the building where there was a roofed-in patio full of picnic tables, as well as a few that were open to the elements.

What Hodgman’s focuses on is their custard. Unlike other places that offer the widest variety of flavors in the widest array of options (ice cream, yogurt, sorbet, dairy-free, sugar-free, sherbet, gelato, …), Hodgman’s keeps things remarkably basic. There are three flavors. The first two are vanilla and chocolate. The third flavor changes weekly. This week it was a maple walnut. There are no chips or anything mixed in. A sugar cone is an extra nickel. You can get jimmies or nuts for thirty cents.

I started with a sample of the maple walnut, which was stunning. It had the flavor of walnut without any nut particles, but it was ruled by a strong maple flavor. Good as it was, the girl behind the window was in agreement when I opted for chocolate instead. This was a simple and elegant cone. A grand milk chocolate flavor that was rich as the addition of eggs to the mix often is. I was so wowed, and the price was so cheap, that I went back and tried the sampler size of the vanilla as well (though I forgot to direct them to a sugar cone). This is what vanilla is supposed to be like. I let Sean have a taste and he thought he could delineate the entire genealogy of the bean from it.

chocolate frozen custard hodgman's new gloucester maine ice cream

This was a great drive and far closer to town than either of us imagined. If only there were a drive-in theater nearby, this place might be a worthwhile date destination for anyone. As it is, I’m still going to recommend it to anyone who wants to know what custard really is. Unless they live closer to Ted Drewes in which case I can direct them accordingly. We liked this so much, we came home with a quart, and that only rang up at $5.75.

Cone – sampler $1.65 regular $2 large $3 ex. large $4

Sundae – sampler $2.25 regular $2.75 large $3.95 ex. large $5.25

Milkshake Frappe – thin $2.95 thick $3.95

Hodgman’s Frozen Custard

1108 Lewiston Rd., New Gloucester, ME

207 926-3553

Open Memorial Day-Labor Day

Wednesday-Sunday 11:30a-9:30p, Closed Monday & Tuesday

Hodgman’s online

Lib’s Dairy Treats – Portland ME

27 04 2009

For as strong as I can be at geography, sometimes I just get lost. I’m really glad that my friend Tim was driving here, because I’ve realized that my knowledge of Portland is very peninsula-centric. Tim, his girlfriend Katie, his bandmate Sean, and I headed north and I wound up with a Soft-Serve Chocolate cone with a Butterscotch Dip.

lib's dairy treats soft serve ice cream portland maine me

Much like Red’s in South Portland, Lib’s is the sort of place that may have been here forever. The art deco coloration and simple roadside architecture reinforce those feelings. The fact that no one can remember a time when Lib’s wasn’t here is almost enough for confirmation of that concept. The only thing most people remember is the throngs of folks that line up on the first day of Spring – even when they are clad in winter coats and scarves.

The drive-in doesn’t offer a menu of road-fare here, focusing instead on the dairy treats of their name. Sometimes places like this can get lost in trying to please everyone. Thankfully, they don’t and there is no chance that anyone will have relish from someone else’s hot dog drip on their cone or have nacho cheese mix with the rest of the dairy. Lib’s doesn’t even make an attempt at hard ice cream.

The lot is laid out so that most of the people who order here just head back to their cars and eat in drive-in style. With a crew of folks holding cones, the picnic tables provided a better locale for taking our time and just hanging out. Sitting in the car and eating is no fun when you can’t really turn around in the car to see those behind you.

With no crazy flavors to try, I opted for a simple chocolate and then had it dipped in butterscotch. There were a few options for dips as well as the possibility of jimmies or crunch instead. My dip seemed as though the person who did it was a bit afraid to commit to dipping the first time and went back for a second attempt. The result was a thick coating that was a special treat, but it also raised the temperature of the ice cream below so by the time I cracked the shell, the ice cream was leaking like crazy. A nice soft-serve destination, but who knows if I could find this place again.

butterscotch dip chocolate soft ice cream lib's dairy treats portland maine me

I still don’t understand why soft-serve places don’t ever offer sugar cones. We had a nice argument over the relative merits of the cake cones. I wish I had opted for the swirl, but I was a bit frightened by the machine that shared peanut butter ice cream and a blueberry confection that was sort of like a sorbet. I’m not sure that a peanutberry cone has the same merits that a javaberry does.

Cone – kiddie $1.36 small $1.87 medium $2.23 large $2.51

Sundae – small $2.25 medium $2.59 large $2.89

Shake – small $2.95 large $3.41 malt +$.40

Lib’s Dairy Treats

32 Auburn St, Portland, ME 04103

207 797-4133

Open seasonally

Hours- not posted

Lib’s online

Sundaes At The Beach – Wells ME

26 04 2009

The calendar is skewed a few weeks behind when you head north. Driving through Maine it seemed as though many of the ice cream shoppes were going to hold out until May to open their doors. While Massachusetts finds Patriot’s Day as a sign that it’s time to scoop, it’s only when you travel that you realize that Massachusetts is the only place that celebrates Patriot’s Day in any capacity. The open flag here led me to a Blue Hill Blueberry cone.

sundaes at the on the beach ice cream wells moody maine me

Sundaes At The Beach opened here in the summer of 2007. Former firefighter and insurance agent (respectively) Bob and Natalie Heleniak left behind their previous lives in Connecticut to begin making ice cream in the basement of this building situated on Route 1, not too far from their current home in Biddeford.

The store has tons of room, with indoor tables enough that this place could stay open year round if there was the demand for it. Outside is a large porch with an extensive rigging for a full canopy in the summer (it’s not up yet). There’s a handicapped ramp that edges that porch and also serves as the border for a patio full of picnic tables as well. It’s tough to imagine there’s enough parking in this lot to fill all of the seats that they’ve got here.

When it comes to the naming of flavors, each of the ice cream flavors has been paired with an alliterative Maine region, except unexplicably the Mega Mint Chocolate Chip. Mostly the pairings are done between towns and tastes with Orono Orange Pineapple, Port Clyde Peanut Butter Cup, and Saco Strawberry being ideal examples of this sort of punnery. The sorbet, frozen yogurt, Italian ice, and even sugar free ice cream all have unadorned flavor names.

While I passed on the sundae bar this time out, I was drawn to the store’s twist on blueberry ice cream. Named Blue Hill blueberry, the flavor was sweet and creamy, without any rich heavy overtones. It would be easy to eat a whole lot of this in one sitting, which is a good thing when sundaes are the explicit focus of this spot. I only wonder whether they use fresh local blueberries later in the season when they are ripe. This cone was strewn with the skin of blueberries and it was apparent that this is the same sort of dried fruit that you might find in a blueberry bagel.

Blue Hill Blueberry Sundaes At The Beach Moody Wells Maine Me

New England geography is always a genuine treat. If people were looking for this place, any document will list this as being situated in Wells. However, as with many places, there are names that still exist but are only used by postal carriers to further subdivide regions with terms that are wholly antiquated. Maybe that’s why you could also describe this place as being adjacent to the Moody Post Office.

Cone – single $2.95 low tide $3.75 high tide $4.25

Sundae – kids $3.99 regular $5.49 large $6.25

Shake $5.50

Sundaes At The Beach

231 Post Road (Route 1) Wells, ME

207 646-LICK

Open April-October

Wednesday-Sunday noon-9p