Every time I see a recipe for some exotic flavour of homemade ice cream on a food blog, I get slightly tempted. But let's face it. I do not have the time or energy to make ice cream. It's like bread, or pizza, or pastry. I could do it, but come on. Instead, I indulge massively in the store bought stuff. I've always had a weakness for ice cream. I love weird and wacky flavours, but I'm not adverse to some old-fashioned chocolate or vanilla, either. So, in honour of summer, the season where I literally have two servings of ice cream a day on average, I bring you some of my favourite places to eat ice cream, and while we're at it some of my favourite types to buy at the store.
Dane's: Dane's is a local thing, so I won't spend much time on it, but you've really got to appreciate an ice cream stand that is located on a patch of grass behind a bloody service station, and features a convenient picnic table for customer satisfaction. In all seriousness, the ice cream is amazing, full fat deliciousness. I usually get a Twister, which is a blended thing like a Blizzard or a McFlurry, but the soft serve is legendary.
Goodberry's: If you're ever in North Carolina, run don't walk to this ice cream institution. They call it "frozen custard," and it's creamy and delicious. They have other things on the menu, but we only ever get the Carolina Concrete, which is ice cream that despite being very, very creamy does not fall out of the cup when you turn it over. It's obviously very dense. My old standby is the mint chocolate chip, and you really can't go wrong.
Cook Out: I think this is also a Southern chain. They do hamburgers and hotdogs and it's drive through only, but despite being a vegetarian I still go for their thick old-fashioned milkshakes. They have about fifty flavours, and my favourite is the cherry cheesecake. There are actual hunks of cheesecake and whole tart cherries in the cup—only downside is, you actually have to suck the stuff through a straw.
Cold Stone Creamery: Cold Stone and Marble Slab are two chains with the same basic concept—pick ice cream, put on cold slab of marble, mix in random crap, serve—but I prefer Cold Stone because of its menu suggestions. Yes, you can pick anything you want to mix together, but they really do have some nice combinations, and it's generally going to be better than anything you come up with. Be warned, though. The ice cream is extremely rich, as are the mixings, and no matter how many times I tell myself that I'm a big girl and can get the medium, I wish I'd have gotten the small. The birthday cake remix is a perennial favourite of all my friends, but I like to try a different thing every time.
Francesca's Bakery: This is a favourite dessert place in Durham, North Carolina, that I have to include because they have what is perhaps the best gelato in the country. It really is amazing, and I like that they have vegan options.
Capanna Coffee: Another favourite gelato stop, this one in Iowa City. Their gelato is a bit expensive for my tastes, but it's superb, especially the tiramisu and espresso flavours. The free pirouette cookie is a nice touch.
Blue Bunny: I discovered this brand in Iowa City, and I'm not sure it's available outside the Midwest. That said, it really is the best reduced fat ice cream I've found. The reduced fat version is called "Hi Lites," and the Cookies and Cream and French Vanilla versions are so good I can't actually tell that they're reduced fat. The only vanilla I like more is Breyers, and that's vanilla bean rather than French so you really can't compare. I also really enjoy their small gelato containers, just about two servings. The pistachio is quite impressive, though I'm so so on hazelnut.
Ben & Jerry's: You can't beat a classic. My long time favourite is Cherry Garcia, but in college I became rather addicted to the chocolate one with the peanut butter core. It's kind of weird fully frozen, but if you let it melt a bit it's amazing. Also very good is the Dublin Mudslide, but I'm not sure it's available in the States.
Haagen Dazs: This is another brand that was available in college, so I've sampled quite a few of their flavours. My favourite is Mayan Chocolate, as I really have a thing for the combined flavours of chocolate and cinnamon, or chocolate and red pepper (if you're like me and you're ever in Raleigh, go to a place called Crema on Fayetteville Street downtown and try an Aztec drinking chocolate—you'll be glad you did). I also love the Baileys, White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, Pineapple Coconut, Chocolate Peanut Butter (again, eat slightly melted), Vanilla Swiss Almond, and Vanilla Bean flavours.
Ciao Bella: I recently discovered this brand of gelato and sorbet, and I'm in love. So far I've only tried the pistachio and coconut version, but they're both out of this world. Not exactly healthy, but hey, it's worth the splurge.
Tofutti: I'm surprised how much I like the little Tofutti ice cream sandwiches. I'm a huge ice cream sandwich fan, and they definitely don't taste like regular ice cream, but it's still a good taste. My favourite is the mint chocolate chip.