Dreaming of Cows in Canada

Well, it’s been a pretty good week in the world of Jamie – I hope it’s been pretty good for you too! But despite a few days with unseasonably warm temperatures, and the promise of additional seasonal ice cream places opening up soon (it sounds like Hayward’s in Nashua, NH¬†opens this weekend!), I’m still finding it hard to enjoy February in New Hampshire.

Now of course I have lots of ways of distracting myself, and frankly having gorgeous views of the mountains is a nice consolation prize even in winter, but one of my favorite mental escapes is to occasionally think about my honeymoon, which was now about one and a half years ago, in Canada. My husband and I spent two glorious weeks driving (and mostly camping) through Prince Edward Island (Cavendish/Charlottetown) and Nova Scotia (predominantly in Cape Breton & Halifax), in July, and it was as beautiful, relaxing and life-giving as you might imagine it would be. Being me, there was of course plenty of ice cream over the course of the trip, but today I will focus on what became a theme of the honeymoon: COWS.

Ha ha, you may think – of course there were cows in PEI and Nova Scotia. But I am not speaking of merely cows here; I am speaking of COWS, the ice cream chain born in Cavendish, PEI and, according to the company, made with a secret, old-fashioned recipe that dates back to the time of Anne of Green Gables. (If you aren’t aware, Cavendish is the hub of all things Anne of Green Gables – books were set in the area, the author lived in the area, etc., and it is by far the most touristy thing happening on PEI.*)

Now, if you know me well, you know that I am always skeptical of a chain, so despite this compelling storyline when we first visited COWS (in the retail store in Cavendish, I believe), I figured, okay, at best this will be like Ben & Jerry’s. Very tasty ice cream, but nothing that changes my life or makes me stop seeking out local homemade ice cream shops over chains.

Well, sometimes Jamie is wrong. Sometimes, a chain will deliver some of the freshest ice cream, with the most incredible ingredients (local fruits and other super-high quality ingredients both local and from around the world) that you will marvel at the goodness and have a very hard time not ordering round 2 immediately.

So, from that point on,IMG_1261 COWS was always a destination. We visited that retail store a second time. We also, of course, did the factory tour, which I believe was around $5/person but included ice cream at the end, and it was fun and definitely worth a stop if you want to learn a little bit about the making of awesome. When we visited Charlottetown (which we are absolutely in love with), COWS was a must on both days we were in town. They are open late too, which makes it a PERFECT after-show or after-dinner destination. IMG_1259And although much of our honeymoon that followed could have been viewed as a bit of a disappointment after COWS, we somehow survived as we enjoyed mountain and ocean views (often at the same time) in our travels.

Luckily for us, Halifax, the final stop in our destination (and a long one as we stayed for five nights ), has a COWS location, a little bit out of the way but right on the harbor. We visited at least twice, but I think it might have been three times! We remained completely enamored throughout the trip, as we tried out all of the different bases, fruits, chocolate etc. that makes up all that is COWS premium ice cream.

So, recommendations? 1 – if you’re going to visit Canada, you should probably stick to provinces that have COWS locations. Luckily for you, that number is growing. And if you happen to live in the Seattle/Portland area, you can head to Whistler, British Columbia for your COWS fix. It’s a bit of a drive (4.5 hours Seattle – Whistler) but I’m sure it’s totally worth it. You can bet I’ll do it the next time I’m in the Pacific Northwest! “Wowie Cowie” is a great flavor, as is anything with berries or anything on the menu. I also recommend picking up a four pack of raspberry cordial – it isn’t quite as good as the outrageous homemade stuff we had in PEI, but it’s the next best thing. 2 – Head over to the COWS website and be prepared to laugh your face off. In addition to their extraordinarily successful ice cream business, COWS makes a significant portion of their income from selling t-shirts that spoof popular culture. Who wouldn’t want an Orange is the Moo Black t-shirt? 3 – If you can’t enjoy COWS just yet, as I mentioned, Ben & Jerry’s is pretty great, for a chain….and if you purchase this ice cream making book while it’s on sale, you can get some homemade Ben & Jerry’s deliciousness for yourself and I get a small kickback! Heck, it’s hard to get 2 pints for $6.50, and now you’ll have a whole book of recipes.

And obviously, my biggest recommendation is that you visit PEI and Nova Scotia. Everything we wanted it to be and more, and we can’t wait to go back. But in the meantime, support your local ice cream parlors, and tell me how it goes!

*For the record, I am totally on board with all things Anne of Green Gables. I read them all as a girl and loved them (as I did all of those orphan stories of the era) and I re-read them all in anticipation of our honeymoon, where we spent multiple days visiting the places L.M. Montgomery lived and doing many of the touristy things, including a carriage ride on the beach…and not only did I get us tickets to see the musical, but I liked it so much that I also got a ticket (just for me) to see the sequel across the street!IMG_1161

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Catching Carnies at Arnie’s

The best place to catch carnies (that’s a slang term for carnival workers) is probably at a carnival, but NH isn’t known for its winter carnivals. So instead, I headed to Arnie’s Place.IMG_9528

Actually, I didn’t really need a carnie, although it would have made for a good story. I just wanted a clever rhyme in my title today. But I DID visit Arnie’s Place in Concord, NH for their opening weekend, and I am happy to report that it was as awesome as I remembered.

I have to confess that for someone who grew up in NH, I am very late to the Arnie’s bandwagon. I had heard good things about them previously, but last season was my first time visiting. It’s a place that lives up to the local hype. Delicious homemade ice cream, including hard ice cream, frozen yogurt and soft serve in chocolate, vanilla and maple. And that doesn’t even get into their BBQ and other real food, which I have enjoyed although I am definitely not an expert on their other foods. I visited twice last year, enjoying their delicious maple soft serve (probably in the same ballpark as the creemee I enjoyed last week) as well as some hard ice cream and yogurt.

When I heard that Arnie’s was opening for the season (in February, no less!) I knew I should visit and contribute a few dollars toward the homemade ice cream in February cause. So Ross, my husband, and I stopped by on Sunday.

Ross reminded me that the worst thing about Arnie’s is definitely the location. It’s on Loudon Rd. a busy commercial street that isn’t particularly clean or welcoming. But its adorable exterior would be perfectly suited to a small town location or a beach setting. So when I visit, I like to imagine it’s in a nicer spot. Mind over matter, I guess? At least the parking is plentiful!

Arnie’s has both indoor and outdoor ordering and seating, at least in season, and they keep a fridge stocked with ice cream cakes and treats in a corner. I will of course focus my attention on their ice cream-related products since that’s what this blog is about.

IMG_9540Their menu is extensive, and in addition to a regular list of flavors, sundaes and other treats (including an extensive list of shakes), they have a flurry of the week. Their flurry this week sounded fantastic to me- but I am really not a fan of nuts in ice cream, so I decided to skip the awesomeness: maple soft serve with pecans, shortbread cookies and a chocolate dip!

Thanks to a recent blog by my friend Theresa, I was reminded that chocolate chili chunk is one of their signature flavors…and since I had never had that flavor, that seemed like an obvious choice. Ross got a kiddie – one good size scoop. I was afraid that the chili kick might get too intense over time, so I used it as an excuse to get two flavors – I settled on peppermint stick after trying the white chocolate, which was a little too subtle for my taste and purpose.

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Ross and I were really impressed with the chocolate chili chunk. The chocolate base is super smooth and a classic chocolate flavor, with good size bites of chocolate chunks. But after you get the rich creamy chocolate flavor, the aftertaste is a large dose of chili. It’s awesome! Sweet and smooth followed by the chili kick. It’s amazing to me that it happens with every bite too. The chocolate base clears the chili, and then the chili is back with a vengeance. So good.

And if you aren’t convinced, I can confirm that peppermint stick is a PERFECT compliment to the chocolate chili chunk. This is an excellent peppermint base – it’s the most real peppermint flavor I have ever tasted! Minty coolness alternating with the chili is awesome, and we all know that chocolate and peppermint is a good combo. One of the best choices I made this month. ūüôā

So, even if you won’t find any carnies at Arnie’s, I highly recommend a visit, whether you’re in the mood for maple soft serve, hard ice cream, a flurry or something else entirely. If you’re local, it’s probably worth buying a t-shirt too – you get 1/2 off a cone or dish whenever you wear it there, and with the way I eat ice cream, that would pay for itself easily in a summer! Support this delicious homemade ice cream place and the fact that they open so early in the season.

(p.s. Thanks for reading & supporting the blog by spreading the word and using our Amazon banner. And keep those comments coming!)

In Search of Maple Creemees

Although people in New Hampshire and most other parts of our country would give you a very strange look if you ordered a “creemee”, in Vermont, this is just the term for soft serve ice cream. In fact, the original “creemees” had a higher fat content than regular soft serve, making them extra creamy, according to that illustrious source of all information, Urban Dictionary.

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of traveling to Randolph, VT (to the Chandler Center for the Arts) as a part of Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater’s tour of¬†The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!.¬†While traveling with my husband from NH to VT, we knew we had extra time to kill, so I was on the lookout for a fun diversion. When I saw the sign for Bragg Farm Sugarhouse & Gift Shop up ahead as we drove through East Montpelier, memories flooded back of last winter, when I followed a sign on a whim and enjoyed sugar on snow and a lot of other tasty treats during maple sugaring season at Bragg Farm. So I told Ross I’d found our adventure and to make a right for the sugarhouse.

When we pulled in, we saw lots of signs for creemees – in chocolate and, more importantly, maple. I instantly knew I’d made the right decision. Where else would we be able to get homemade soft serve in February, after all?¬†IMG_9074

After a quick photo, we headed inside, where the sheer amount of maple products on offer again confirmed I’d made the right call. Ross had never visited Bragg Farm and I was looking forward to a second peek. One of the owners graciously showed us where “the magic happens” – this is an old-fashioned sugarhouse and they use buckets on trees to tap the syrup – and then she invited us to sample all of the different maple grades. Don’t mind if we do, thanks!¬†IMG_9065

We started with the lightest and mildest of the maple syrups, working our way counter clockwise until concluding with the darkest, richest flavor, formerly known as Grade B syrup. All of it was delightful, with our favorite of course being the strongest of the syrups.

After sampling the syrups and a few of the other offerings (including jams and sauces), we headed toward the creemees. I was slightly nervous that the offerings might be seasonal, but I held out hope because the temporary signs by the road indicated creemees were still on offer.

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When I looked up, one of the owners noticed me looking at the signs Рice cream sundaes and different creemee sizes and options were displayed. When he asked if we needed a creemee, I relaxed and smiled and put in my order Рa small maple creemee in a cup. My husband Ross got the same, but in a cone, allowing for a much nicer photo op.

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The maple soft serve ice cream, or creemee, is the perfect vehicle for Bragg Farm’s excellent maple syrup. The texture is perfect, smooth and creamy, with a definite maple flavor throughout that doesn’t get lost in the ice cream. It’s really, really pleasant – never grainy or watery or inconsistent.

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After enjoying our fantastic treats and admiring the view, we headed back to the counter and thanked the owners. They confirmed the creemees are made on the premises by adding their own darkest syrup to a local dairy ice cream base. The fact that the sugarhouse is open year-round makes this a must stop, and it’s cheap too! We only paid $2.25 for our small, which was a great portion and not the smallest size on the menu. Bring cash as there is a $10 minimum for credit and debit cards, although that would be easy to meet by purchasing another maple product or two.

(As a note, I imagine that there are better maple soft serve flavors out there Рusing maple syrup in the base could strengthen the flavor, at least in theory. But I am happy that I can highly recommend this without any qualms, probably in no small part due to the excellent local dairy base in addition to the fantastic syrup.)

According to their website, the family has been producing Vermont maple syrup for eight generations! If you can’t make it to the sugarhouse for a visit, they have lots of great gifts and products available on their website. There really is no excuse to skip a visit when you’re passing through – they are open at 8:30 a.m. every day and close at 6 p.m. – and from June – August, they stay open until 8 p.m.! They also have a lot of other educational offerings you can incorporate into your visit, including a few animals to meet, a free guided tour, a video and much more according to their site. Friday – Sunday, 12-5 p.m., from March – mid-April is the time to experience their Sugar – on – Snow – a must try.

Have you visited Bragg Farm? If not, have you gotten to experience the joy of maple soft serve elsewhere? I know that Meadow Ice Cream in Littleton (which carries Slick’s) & Slick’s in Woodsville carries some. I honestly feel like if you have the chance to get maple soft serve (homemade) and you don’t, you’re probably doing something wrong. At least the New York Post seems to agree with me!

Thanks so much for reading. (And thank you also to those of you making purchases through my Amazon link!) Stay warm out there!

The News from Moo’s

Well, it’s not the catchiest blog title, but it’s the best I could do today. Moo’s Place in Derry is a local hub for homemade super premium ice cream. According to their website, they’re open April Fools Day through October – but that would be a cruel joke if they weren’t actually open April Fools Day, wouldn’t it?

In any case, this is an ice cream place that I can honestly say I’ve been visiting since they opened¬†in 2004, and it was very needed in the area as the only local options were not homemade. Not bad, of course – Richardson’s ice cream, sold by Mack’s Apples in Londonderry, is very good – but there’s something wonderful about supporting a place that makes ice cream on the premises.

In addition to being a tasty hard ice cream option – not my favorite, but it’s quite good and is the best option in the area for super premium ice cream – they also make homemade slushes, and some of their frozen yogurt flavors are worth a try as well, although they are hit or miss. Their soft serve is of the same 40 flavors variety you’ll find elsewhere – unless you get vanilla or chocolate, they just mix in the flavoring, so I definitely don’t recommend bothering with soft serve here – but they have plenty of delicious hard ice cream flavors to keep you busy for a while, and they regularly have fabulous specials like ginger, pumpkin and some delightfully rich chocolate options.

I know that ice cream tasters try not to take the location into account, but I do think one of the best things going for Moo’s is the experience. During the summer there will be many long lines of people waiting to grab a cone or a cup and grab a seat under a shaded table, and there is plenty of parking if you don’t live within walking distance of downtown Derry. On the unbearably humid and hot days, or on those April or October days where it’s too cold to eat ice cream outside, you might want to head to their indoor seating area, where they also have ice cream cakes for sale. You’ll find a few adorable cow murals by a local artist that really liven up the classic ice cream parlor feel. ¬†moosmural_large

As proof that I’ve been eating at Moo’s since 2004, here’s a photo of me with a visiting friend from Israel, Inbal, and my father and brothers, long before they added murals. (You’ll notice that Robbie, one of my brothers, is wearing a shirt of a different ice cream parlor – the Cow Palace was a favorite while I worked at a camp in Pennsylvania, and I brought back the t-shirt for Robbie.)¬†Feinbergs with Inbal at Ice Cream

Have you tried Moo’s? Any favorite flavors to report? I think their black raspberry chip yogurt is especially nice, but I tend to try lots of new things here, especially the specials.

Before I wrap up, just a comment that you may have noticed the Amazon logo on the right hand side of this blog. I’ve added this for those looking for a way¬†to support me and help me cover the costs of maintaining this blog. If you like what you read, at no additional cost to you, please click on the link and do your Amazon shopping. I receive a small portion of the purchase as long as you make it within 24 hours of clicking. Thanks in advance for keeping me in mind when it’s time to do your Amazon shopping.

Looking forward to hearing some of your thoughts on Moo’s!