An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jun 23, 2014
08:45 AMThe Connecticut Table
Summer Guide to Best Gourmet and Homemade Ice Cream in Connecticut
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Editor's Note: In honor of the official arrival of summer June 21, we're scooping back in time to revive a June 2012 story on the best ice cream shops in Connecticut to help sweetly guide your travels around the state. Our friends at CTbites had the same idea (first) and just posted Connecticut's Best Dairy Farm Ice Cream: 2014 Edition. Let us know if anything has changed at any of our favorite places, or tell us about new spots with gourmet homemade ice cream and we'll add them to the list.
Summer just isn’t summer without ice cream—and fresh, homemade ice cream from a local stand or shop is the best way to enjoy it. With that in mind, here are 25 great places to get you started.
The Collins Creamery
Enfield • (860) 749-8663 • thecollinscreamery.com
As you drive along a quiet side road and up Powder Hill, passing red barns, grazing Holstein cows, open fields and picnic tables, and then turn into the dirt parking lot of The Collins Creamery, you may feel as if you’re being transported to a bygone era; once you taste the ice cream made here, your journey is complete. Even though it was founded only 15 years ago, the family-run creamery has been a huge hit, with people lining up to try the 20 different flavors of hard ice cream including fan favorites black raspberry and coconut chocolate chip. You can also take it home in half gallons, quarts and pints, as well as ice cream sandwich six packs.
Big Dipper Ice Cream Factory
Prospect • (203) 758-3200
Big Dipper was once the very special province of Harry Rowe, the quintessential ice cream man who, beginning in 1986, made his product fresh every day and scooped it for customers with the undisguised glee of a bachelor uncle. Rowe has passed on, but his legacy continues in this freestanding little house on Waterbury Road. The flavors change from day to day, but the true stars, like the justifiably celebrated toasted almond, never leave the menu. Our recent double scoop of toasted almond and chocolate (the cost is determined by weight) remains a very pleasant memory.
Bridgeport • (203) 366-7496 • timothysicecream.weebly.com
This no-nonsense ice cream shop is an institution in the Black Rock section of town. Its classic rich ice cream is made right here by Timothy himself in a multitude of flavors. French vanilla, sweet cream, Dutch chocolate, Oreo, strawberry, chocolate-chip and coffee are always available along with alternating flavors like caramel crunch, peach, toasted almond and mint chip. The Black Rock, a combo of French vanilla and chocolate-covered almonds, is a neighborhood fave. Crispy waffle bowls and whipped cream are made fresh at the counter all day.
Praline’s Ice Cream
Wallingford • (203) 284-8847 • pralinesownmade.com
Other Locations: Berlin, Farmington, Manchester, Meriden, Middletown, Milford, Plainville, Rocky Hill, Southington
How can a local ice cream parlor have so many locations? Here’s the scoop: The first Praline’s Ice Cream was opened in 1984 in Wallingford by owners Donna and the late Joe Torre who churned fresh ice cream every day in the small store’s back room. But the Torres were thinking big: Two years later, they began offering franchises. Now a dozen Praline Ice Cream shops in nine Connecticut towns serve the same dreamy treat that’s still made in Wallingford—and in 53 flavors including its signature Beez-Neez.
Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream
Mystic • (860) 572-7978 • mysticdrawbridgeicecream.com
What’s great about Mystic Drawbridge is that it’s merely one of many diversions to be found in the center of town—close enough to the Mystic River’s iconic bascule bridge for you to watch the boats come and go, steps away from countless quirky little shops, a few minutes’ drive from Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport. We love the “Drawbridge Originals“ flavors—particularly Lemon Chocolate Kiss, Kahlua mocha fudge and a new concoction, Seaport Salty Swirl (with peanuts, peanut butter and “soggy resistant“ chocolate-covered pretzels). For full gustatory satisfaction, start your visit with selections from the full café menu (paninis, salads, wraps)—or simply take on the Brownie Overload sundae.
New London • (860) 443-2464 • michaelsdairynl.com
Managed by students from Mitchell College, Michael’s is hosting a summer with plenty of value added: family-friendly First Friday Sock Hops through Sept. 7, Local Flavor acoustic music concerts at 6:30 June 22 and Aug. 17, and a Kids Fest July 20. Also, this year the dairy has expanded its off-site event catering, which means you can have enough of your favorite flavors—Milk & Cookies, white pistachio, Cowabunga Crunch—to serve up to 2,000 people at a birthday party or corporate event. We envision an ice-cream wedding with scoops of extreme chocolate so large you need two hands to lift the cups/cones. But we also appreciate the “extra small“ serving for $2.25, which allows one to savor the goods (almost) guilt-free.
Bantam • (860) 361-6600 • arethusafarms.com
In 1999, George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, the owners of Manolo Blahnik USA, bought a dairy farm in Litchfield and began breeding champion Jersey, Holstein and Brown Swiss dairy cows. In time, they began marketing the milk, and now they have their very own dairy shop in a thoroughly renovated old brick building in the center of Bantam. With the cows contentedly grazing five miles away and the very up-to-date ice cream-making machinery in plain sight in the rear of the store, the freshness and richness of the product is impeccable. We had a chocolate-coconut combo and marveled at its deliciously dense, almost chewy, consistency.
J. Foster Ice Cream
Simsbury (860) 651-1499 • Avon (860) 676-2663 • jfostericecream.com
One time IBMer John D’Archangelo opted for the sweeter world of ice cream in 2003, opening a shop (named after his grandfather) in Simsbury. He had a knack for the business, and soon there was a J. Foster in Avon, too. The shops purvey 32 ice cream flavors as well as a handful of gelatos and sorbets, including such D’Archangelo creations as Cashew Caramel, Oreo Bomb gelato (a 1st-prize winner from the Connecticut Food Association) and Graham Central Station (graham cracker-flavored ice cream, crystallized-graham swirl and chocolate-covered graham pieces). Aficionados will also be forever grateful for innovations such as the chocolate-chip cookie slider and the carrot cake sandwich—two “slices“ of carrot cake with cream cheese icing ice cream in between.