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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Ashley’s Ice Cream
New Haven • (203) 776-7744 • ashleysicecream.net
Other locations: Hamden, Branford, Madison, Guilford
Named for famous Frisbee-catching dog Ashley Whippet, Ashley’s Ice Cream originated in 1979 in New Haven and has since expanded to Hamden, Branford, Madison and Guilford. Proudly using only natural flavors, natural colorings, and, when possible, local ingredients, this former “Best of Connecticut“ winner offers premium award-winning ice cream in an astounding variety of flavors. From tried-and-true standbys, like butter crunch and chocolate chip, to more unique offerings, such as Amaretto chip and Havana Banana, and seasonal favorites like Egg Nog and Pumpkin Latte, it’s no wonder that Ashley’s has been satisfying New Haven County’s sweet tooth for over 30 years.
Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream
Griswold • (860) 376-4081 • buttonwoodfarmicecream.com
Always pretty (we’re convinced that “Griswold“ is the Native American name for “land of crisscrossing stone walls“), Buttonwood Farm truly blossoms in July with its annual fund-raiser “Sunflowers for Wishes.“ Head there mid-month and you’ll see 14 acres ablaze with towering golden blooms—better still, attend the actual event, July 21-29, and buy a cut bouquet for $5. Since 2004, Buttonwood has raised more than $500,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. Add tractor-drawn hayrides, 40 homemade flavors—from Forbidden Silk Chocolate to Purple Cow (we’re partial to the brand-new Monkey Business, banana ice cream with mini-peanut butter cups), a dose of blue-sky summer—and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect outing.
Oxford • (203) 881-1040 • richfarmicecream.com
A former “Best of Connecticut“ winner, Rich Farm ice cream continues to take its inspiration from the Rich family who runs the operation—it’s certainly “rich“ (and creamy!), as the hundreds who trek to Oxford to wait in line for the oversized cones and cups can attest. Twenty-six flavors are available daily, including German chocolate cake, Cookie Monster and Razzmanian Devil, plus other specialty flavors that are rotated in on a regular basis, such as Orange Dreamsicle (orange cream ice cream with crushed pineapple), English toffee (vanilla with Heath Bar pieces) or Full Moon Chocolate (double chocolate ice cream with fudge swirl, only available on days with a full moon).
Cheshire • (203) 272-4237 • sweetclaudes.com
There’s a whole lot of sweet in this little red house on the hill. Now in it’s 25th year, Sweet Claude’s of Cheshire makes all of its wonderfully refreshing ice cream as well as its hot fudge on the premises. In addition to the two dozen ice cream flavors available daily, including caramel cashew, black raspberry and Claude’s Cupcake, Sweet Claude’s offers a variety of tofutti, frozen yogurt, and sorbet flavors. Flavors of the week, such as chocolate raspberry truffle, highlighted banana concoctions, such as Banana Heath Bar, and ID-required “adult“ flavors, like Bailey’s Irish Cream, round out the sweet offerings from this quintessential ice cream shop.
West Hartford • (860) 233-8483 • acpetersenfarms.com
This West Hartford landmark, located in its original art deco building, is the place to sip an old-fashioned malt. Milk shakes still made in the vintage blender come in two-, three- or four-scoop sizes. And we dare you to finish the Petersen Royal, a seven-scoop, two-topping (one of which must be the hot fudge) banana split covered in hand-whipped heavy cream. Select ice cream flavors, like the original divine creamy vanilla, are made on site.
Dr. Mike’s Ice Cream Shop
Bethel (203) 792-4388 • Monroe (203) 452-0499
It’s not quantity but quality that matters at Dr. Mike’s. The small shop, located slightly out-of-the-way off Main Street in Bethel, is where Dr. Mike’s cranks out some of the most heavenly ice cream around, and they keep it simple by offering only about eight flavors each day. The extra-chocolaty Rich Chocolate is known worldwide (Gourmet magazine called it “best chocolate in the world“) and the chocolate lace cream—the most popular flavor—is a mix of sweet cream with pieces of Hauser chocolate that’s made right across the street. Sundaes consist of large scoops of your favorite flavors covered in molten hot fudge and freshly whipped cream—eating one is a life-altering experience.
Walnut Beach Creamery
Milford • (203) 878-7738 • walnutbeachcreamery.com
We wandered into Walnut Beach Creamery one day in early spring when owner Susan Patrick just happened to be finishing up a fresh batch of Banana Bread ice cream. How could we say no to the offer of a cup? We couldn’t, and by our second or third spoonful we could see the whole summer arrayed before us, a succession of sunny days spent by the beach with a different flavor of ice cream every evening just before the sun goes down. And what better place for that than this charming spot (it’s on the cover), where the mission is “to make every batch by hand with a single-batch freezer and the freshest ingredients we can find.“ Oh, and that Banana Bread flavor? Very nice.
West Simsbury • (860) 658-1430 • tulmeadowfarmstore.com
Tullers have been farming this 265-acre plot since 1768. That’s staying power. A big factor in their continuing success in recent years is the gourmet 16 percent butterfat ice cream they’ve made here since 1994. There are more than 50 rich and creamy flavors—tasty confections like coconut chocolate chip, Birthday Cake, coffee Oreo and top-seller Red Razz Chocolate Chip (along with ice cream pies, sandwiches and ice cream on a stick). And while you can now get Tulmeadow Ice Cream by the quart at Whole Foods and lots of smaller stores in the area, we recommend a stop at the farm for a cone or cup—and a trip back to a simpler time.
Salem Valley Farms
Salem • (860) 859-2980 • salemvalleyfarmsicecream.com
Is the presence of a hula-hoop playground on the property a not-so-subtle hint to “work it off?“ (Only if that means we can eat more ice cream.) Rotating nearly 80 flavors at their seasonal peak, the folks at Salem Valley make everything in-house—from 16 percent butterfat to low fat and vegan—with the exception of sugar-free ice cream (they still offer two flavors every day). Favorites include bubble gum, mocha almond and peppermint stick, but we were drawn to a special European-style experiment this April: basil ice cream. Yep, we likey, well enough to order it again. Bigger appetites—hula-hoops be damned—will love the Salem Sampler, three to four substantial scoops for $5.15-$6.15.