Month: February 2016

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. 🙂

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.

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