Tastings in Tucson 

My husband and I were lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Tucson, Arizona this past winter (mid-December to early January), so I made a point of seeking out homemade ice cream options in the area.
Tucson has many ice cream places to choose from, and we really loved their downtown, so it was a no-brainer to get a dish or two. 

Our first planned stop was Isabella’s. Next to a fun used bookstore, Isabella’s was having their electricity redone the day we visited, so much of their ice cream wasn’t in great shape. While we can’t be sure the ice cream was their best effort, we enjoyed their service and the cute, very small ice cream parlor on our visit. 

Here are the flavors we sampled:

Honey – Although it wasn’t my favorite honey of all time, this is a lovely showcase, creamy and a delicious flavor. 

Salted Caramel Pecan – A nice, milky flavor, with a tanginess like buttermilk – but the flavor lacked something and took a while to hit. Pretty average. 

Candy Cane – Everything you want in candy cane ice cream – except I’d have liked more pieces mixed in. Pretty great. 

Lavender Vanilla – Not as strong as Jordan’s but I’m a sucker for lavender and definitely found this flavor delightful. 

Full disclosure: we paid $3.25 plus tax on two 4 ounce portions thanks to a coupon from the bookstore next door, The Bookstop! 

Overall thoughts: The mouthfeel on these was a bit hard, almost icy, despite the creaminess overall. The flavors were generally great though. It felt average overall, not living up to its goals, but we owe them another try on a day without a power loss! 

I considered visiting the Hub, which looked great and very hipster. But time was of the essence and I chose the Screamery as my other option.

The Screamery made my list not only due to good reviews, but because they carried vegan ice cream flavors. (Thankfully those were coconut-milk based, so I could have them without cheating on elimination diet with more dairy.)

The atmosphere at the Screamery was very family-friendly and the employee who assisted us was very friendly and laid back as he told us about the grass-fed cream, pasteurized on site, used in their ice cream. 

What we thought: 

Coconut Fudge – Ross found this one very good. It’s a nice, very dark chocolate ice cream with a good mouth feel. It isn’t the creamiest, BUT it’s a coconut milk base and gluten-free, so it’s a great option that’s quite tasty. (Pumphouse Creamery in Minneapolis is still the winner, heads and tails over others, on coconut ice cream.) 

Bourbon Brittle – This was a bit smoother and creamier than the coconut milk base; its traditional dairy ice cream. There was a bit of iciness on top. $9.73 for the two of us for their middle size – plenty but somewhat over-prices compared to what we’ve seen in other places. This flavor is very rich and sweet, starting like sugar on snow but with a darker, richer aftertaste from the bourbon. Unfortunately the brittle seemed cheap – reminiscent of baking chocolate, it was kind of chalky. 

Overall: More average than we expected given the price and fancy grass-fed dairy. I was disappointed to see ice and cheap brittle used. Like Isabella’s, it strove for a lot but didn’t quite hit the mark. Some day we want to try the ice cream nachos, which look plentiful and fun. 

I am wondering if Tucson will have an ice cream renaissance in a year or two.  Clearly there are tons of successful businesses so there’s a real passion for local ice cream. Perhaps with a bit more time the quality will improve as they figure things out. They’re all pushing natural, local, etc, but now the taste needs to get on par with cities with better ice cream scenes. As Ross said, “It seems like the tag line was more important than the ice cream.” 

Have you gotten any ice cream in Tucson? I’d love to hear about your favorite place! 

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Finding Delicious Gelato in AZ

It would have been so easy to title this entry inappropriately. But that wouldn’t be right for this delightfully family-friendly, 70’s retro gelato shop in amazingly quirky and wonderful Bisbee, AZ. 

We visited Pussycat Gelato in the second month they were open, so be sure to call before assuming any of this is still accurate. But whatever the deal is there, you’ll want to go! 

Covered in female-centric pop culture and playing retro cartoons, Pussycat Gelato is a delightful place for coffee, Happy Hour and of course gelato or sorbet. We visited during the monthly Friday arts night when local downtown businesses stay open late for shoppers. Their presentation was wonderful. Even when customers came in behind us, they insisted we try as many flavors as we liked and happily made recommendations. They also had an “experimental” flavor we could try and give feedback on. 

Best of all? As we finished our gelato, they came back with samples of new flavors and asked for our feedback. They repeated this multiple times once it was clear we gave good feedback. It was so much fun and it made it clear to us that they will go far as a business because they solicit feedback and keep working to improve. 

The business fits perfectly in quirky, hip Bisbee, AZ. They told us they were hoping to open another location in Phoenix in the future based on the feedback they were getting, and according to their website, they’ve opened a Scottsdale, AZ location since our visit. 

The wife of the ice cream maker mentioned the fun combination of an older retro style parlor with the new quality gelato. It really is a great combination. 

Prices weren’t cheap, but given the amazing service we would happily pay more. And consider getting a cannoli with ice cream – such a unique option. 

This was not your average visit. Although I prefer the creaminess of ice cream over gelato, I enjoyed the experience and the tastes I got here. Be sure to check them out if you’re in town.

The flavors:

Strawberry Cheesecake – We both got this. It’s a very prominent cheese flavor with tasty, if not fresh, strawberries. The strawberries plus cheese makes this reminiscent of the traditional dessert, minus the crust.

Chocolate-Covered Cherries – A vanilla-based ice cream that’s full of flavor and really lovely. The high-quality chocolate melts in your mouth, and the cherry and chocolate aren’t sweet which is great. 

Star Anise – Ross calls this one perfect for after curry. We love the kick afterwards and the delicate flavor here. 

Mexican Coffee – Very bitter, as you’d expect with coffee. Ross’ type of flavor. It adds a bitterness to the chocolate base, and thechocolate-covered expresso beans are a plus.  

Irish Cream – Very creamy but very light. Bailey’s can be intense, but this is balanced really well, not overpowering. It’s finished with a smoky whiskey flavor that pairs well with Mexican coffee. It’s really the perfect strength and balance. 

A cookie came with our dishes – it’s very good, thin, fluffy and breaks easily, like a plain cone but more wafer-like. Imagine a nutter butter. It’s sweet and fun to eat and a nice alternative to a cone. 

Taste Test Results:

His old version of pistachio was very good, sweeter and more like pistachio ice cream than I expected. 

The new version was excellent – much more like the nut, with an earthiness to it. 

The old caramel was very salty and interesting. The new one has fantastic chunks and is much more well-rounded and balanced. 

We tried plenty of other flavors too, so don’t be afraid to ask. Thanks to Pussycat Gelato for a fantastic evening!

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The Best Chocolate Ice Cream – Ever!

Some of you may know that I’m currently on an elimination diet (the Auto-Immune Protocol) to heal my health challenges through diet and lifestyle changes. One of the things I had to cut out of my diet completely is dairy. (The horror, right?!) Unfortunately I’ve realized that I cannot have dairy daily without feeling some of its effects. BUT thankfully, having a treat on occasion is still working well for me, so don’t worry, faithful readers – there is more ice cream in my future. 

After spending months religiously avoiding dairy, I began traveling the country with my husband in an RV. When we found ourselves in Minneapolis for a couple of days, I knew the time had come to have some real ice cream. After all, the city is known for some great restaurants, and it’s the Midwest – I had a feeling they knew how to do ice cream here.

Of course I love to compare different ice cream places, but since I needed to watch my sugar intake and since I wasn’t sure how dairy would affect my body, I limited myself to one: Pumphouse Creamery.  

I chose it because of this – coconut milk ice cream. I can tolerate coconut milk, and amazingly they make it without any of the preservatives (like guar gum) that is standard in commercial ice cream. Basically, that meant they had some options that would be guilt-free for me – 100% on my diet! I decided that as long as I avoided gluten (my number one intolerance so far), I could indulge in their five scoop sampler.

The sampler is extremely reasonably priced. The scoops are small, but for $4.50 you to experience an indulgent variety of flavors. My husband Ross went with a double scoop, which is a little pricey at $5.10, and it seemed fair in comparison since he had more ice cream than I did. They will let you get two flavors at any size which is awesome!Here’s what we thought:

Pumphouse Creamery offers a trio of cinnamon ice creams! A very unique idea and since they were all gluten-free, I tried them all. It was fun to compare them.

Sri Lankan Cinnamon – It has a touch of almost heat. Subtle and it’s creamy too. Delicious. 

Vietnamese Cinnamon- A very fun kick to it! I really liked it. Ross thought it tasted like fall. 

Indonesian Cinnamon – Very mild, subtle and creamy like the first. Strong initially, and a pleasant light taste lingering after; it was reminiscent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch to Ross. 

Mint and Cookies – coconut milk, gluten-free – This is such a light mint! It’s strong and yet light, a real melt in your mouth ice cream. It’s like the inside of a York peppermint patty that fills your mouth – and yet it’s light and airy. So nice – particularly as I’d been craving something like cookies and cream and finding that as a gluten-free option is really tough. 

Chocolate – coconut milk – This chocolate is heavenly. Hence the title of this post. This is legitimately my favorite chocolate ice cream ever. It’s like brownie batter! It’s rich, and has a touch of a fudge feel and yet it still melts in your mouth. Amazing. I never would have guessed it was coconut milk and I certainly never would have anticipated that a coconut milk chocolate ice cream would be better than all of the other chocolate ice creams I have had. Isn’t life full of surprises? After all, if I wasn’t cutting out dairy, I would probably have never discovered this flavor!

Buttermilk Lemon Bar – Ross had to evaluate this one. I confess I took a couple of bites of buttermilk but sadly had to avoid the lemon bar chunks due to gluten. Ross found the base delightful and the perfect amount of sweetness – it’s just a bit sweet. Ross said that the lemon bars accentuate the sourness of the buttermilk. Pretty fun! 

Buckwheat Honey – Ross says it’s excellent. “Almost crumbly like a muffin”. It’s thick and reminiscent of cake batter – not too sweet and with buttery chunks. Honestly it’s a dramatically unique flavor I’m glad I got to try. The swirls of honey are fabulous and the rest is more savory. (As you’ll see in the photo, they first thought Ross wanted a sampler too…which meant more ice cream for us!)

We were so enamored with the chocolate ice cream that we had to find out if we could get some to take with us. They had pints and quarts. $11 for the quart seemed fair, but I think we would have paid anything. It was just that good. We couldn’t have made a better choice for my first ice cream after a long time away. If you’re ever in Minneapolis, this place is an absolute must. The owner and staff are super-nice too. It’s a small location with only a couple of places to sit, so be prepared to stand or walk outside if it’s nice (or come at a weird time of day like we did). But whatever you do, check it out – and bring a cooler! p.s. Thanks for doing your usual Amazon shopping via my affiliate link

Van Leeuwens Wows in NYC

Our final New York City ice cream stop was a rather last-minute addition to our plans as we had to fit it in before catching Stew’s The Total Bent at the Public Theatre. But before experiencing this amazing show, I thought it was important to get one more amazing ice cream place in. And wow, am I glad I did! Van Leeuwen has a very unassuming exterior. It’s very small, and the bookstore across the street, for instance, is much more prominent. The prices aren’t cheap either, as you can probably make out from the sign. But they have classic stylings, fun specials and carry an outstanding variety of vegan ice creams, generally made from cashew milk. The special while we were there was Red Currant Wedding Cake. With a vegan flavor like that, who would choose the cow’s milk, right? 

Well, we tried a few flavors, for research purposes, and on a quiet Saturday morning we made our selections. We paid  $5.50/small (2 flavors), $7.50/large (3 flavors) and tipped $2 for their patience and awesomeness. 

Earl Grey Tea: Trust me – this is your new coffee ice cream. It’s an outstanding consistency, and an absolutely delightful tea flavor. It’s super-smooth, creamy and flavorful. 

Rhubarb Pavlova: Here’s all the rhubarb flavor you could desire. Amazing fruit and outstanding all around. Perfection in a scoop? 

Red Currant Wedding Cake: I was so tempted to get an entire scoop of this! Probably should have as the chocolate wasn’t my absolute favorite, but so it goes. This ice cream has a coconut-based wedding cake that gives you your fill of ice cream and cake all in one delicious vegan bite! 

Hazelnut Chocolate Rice Krispie Treat: This trio of flavors combines a light chocolate base, a hazelnut swirl ala Nutella and Rice Krispies, which get soft but stay delicious to give you a nice combo of flavors and textures. 

Honeycomb: Wow. This flavor is outrageously good. It’s sweet and creamy, with honey and honeycomb throughout. So, so good! 

Chocolate: My only slight disappointment from this outstanding business. It’s rich but also a tad harder than I like. But it’s still ridiculously smooth and not fudgy. This ice cream features super-high quality chocolate that reminds me of the best Ghirardelli’s. It also combines with other flavors phenomenally well. 

My husband and I fell in love with this ice cream. Be sure to pick up a copy of their recipe book/origin story across the street, especially if you tolerate cashews and want some vegan ice cream options. We couldn’t recommend a visit here more highly! P.s. Thanks for doing your usual Amazon shopping via my affiliate link

Odd Fellows in N.Y.C.

This summer’s quick jaunt to New York City was fabulous. We fit in two shows and three ice cream places! (If you missed it, I reviewed Morgenstern’s last week.) The second stop of our trip was Oddfellows, nestled near Playwrights Horizons and other off and off-off-Broadway theatres. 

We knew from the moment we saw Odd Fellows that they were unique. They’re famous for their ice cream sandwiches, but we were already pretty full from our first ice cream stop! So we settled on sticking to ice cream. 

Lime Tarragon – It’s a sorbet! Ross thought it tasted like Pickety Place, known for using their own herbs in their lunches (and also where we got married, incidentally). I loved this, it’s unreal! The tarragon wakes you up and takes this to the next level. It isn’t watery at all…much more than I expected from sorbet. Almost creamy. 

Green Matcha – Ross tried this but passed. He said it just wasn’t the flavor he expected. 

Olive Oil Strawberry – The strawberry is very real, almost more sorbet-like, and it’s woven with olive oil ice cream which is really complex and has a real aftertaste of olive oil. It wasn’t my favorite but it’s super interesting, rich and creamy. Ross described it as everything he is looking for in an ice cream!

Our single scoops came to $4 each with tax, which seemed reasonable for New York City. They rotate flavors and keep eight in stock.  We were delighted to see ice cream and frozen yogurt trucks throughout our travels. If you have a favorite, let me know! And finally, it’s not ice cream-related, but we saw the amazing show Shuffle Along while we were in town. Phenomenal cast and production team, and an incredible story that brought back memories from my independent study in high school, where I wrote about the depiction of African-Americans in American musical theater. A few photos are below! 


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Morgenstern’s

Morgenstern’s has a wonderful reputation in New York City, so it made complete sense that they were being interviewed the day I was there. My husband and I made Morgenstern’s a destination and we weren’t disappointed. 

It was really hopping the afternoon we were there. A dozen people filled into the small store quickly as we waited, and they probably served forty people total while we were in the store purchasing and eating. 

Prices are significantly more expensive here than in other parts of the country, but for New York it felt reasonable. $6.50 for two scoops, plus tax, so we spent about $14 for two dishes of ice cream. 

The staff here was fantastic and super helpful. They let us try things, advised us and complimented our choices, and they told us to enjoy as they handed us our selections. It was impressive in such an overflowing, busy place. Despite the limited seating it turned over quick so we had a place to perch. 

Before commiting to a flavor I tasted lemon shiso espresso. As promised, you could really taste all three flavors! I loved it. It almost melts in your mouth thanks to the texture. 

Ross went with buttermilk and bourbon vanilla for his selections, and I went with raw milk and sweet potato mello. Here are our thoughts:

Buttermilk – Wow! The buttermilk has an awesome sour punch but a real sweet cream to it as well. A winner! It’s tangy.

Bourbon vanilla – Outstanding. This has a 40% booze content apparently. It’s delicious bourbon and the vanilla bean is the epitome of what vanilla can be. Due to the higher alcohol content, they struggled a bit with the texture which Ross wasn’t fond of – it’s a more slushy ice cream. But I loved the flavor immensely and seemed to overlook that. 

Raw milk – This is simple, sweet and creamy – but not too sweet. It’s so good! If you like plain flavors like vanilla, enjoy it as is, but it’s an excellent flavor to pair with something else. 

Sweet potato mello –  It’s like the innards of sweet potato pie. And it’s sweeter than you’d think. So, so good!!!

There are a lot of amazing ice cream places in New York City but I highly recommend a stop here! If you’re used to super sweet ice cream and giant portions, this place might change your expectations for the future. 

p.s. Thanks for doing your usual Amazon shopping using my affiliate link!

 

Kimball Farms – Worth the hype?

I wanted to love Kimball Farms. It came highly recommended to us by a trusted ice cream connoisseur, and with multiple locations it is well-known in parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. 

It’s an extremely extensive building in an absolutely gorgeous part of rural, southwest New Hampshire. Gorgeous mountain and farm views, a full service restaurant (with a stand out front) and a charming gift shop with fun t-shirts, games and much, much more. In addition to a restaurant stand for food, there is, of course, the ice cream stand. 

When we were there, lines were extensive. They moved slower than I’ve ever encountered despite having three or four lines running. It took fifteen minutes for the pair in front of us to be served! Based on the conversations I overheard, and that I partook in, part of the pacing may be because it is unclear from the sign that you have very limited options when you order. 

Long-time readers know I love variety. Offer me a sampler and I’m in. Let me throw multiple flavors into a scoop and I’m your best friend. Well, at Kimball Farms, you get one flavor. The only way around it is to order a large. And since the small was very big, I can only imagine what happens when you go up two sizes. 

I was so disappointed about this. The menu of flavors itself had some interesting ones, and I tasted a couple. But with a giant line forming behind us, I felt pressure to make a choice and move along. So unfortunately that probably left a bad taste in my mouth, at least metaphorically. 

But let’s get to the important thing. How is the ice cream? 

Ross and I both settled on chocolate caramel whiskey. It seriously has all of those flavors in every bite. The chocolate isn’t too dark, with a rich, tasty caramel, and whisky. They meld together really well. 

I also tried the malted moo crunch. It has a slightly malted light chocolate base (a mix of vanilla and chocolate) with chocolate covered toffee balls. It does actually taste like a malted milk ball. I found it very refreshing. 

We paid $9.70 for our two smalls. The portions were ample but it felt pretty expensive because we couldn’t have two flavors. Frankly I get bored with big portions of one flavor. I would have happily paid more if I got two, even for less ice cream. These prices would fit in on the Seacoast but they’re unusually high for other parts of the state. 

I should mention that I did find a few ice cystals, but overall the texture was very good, a little hard and fudgy for my taste but I enjoyed it. 

The restaurant looked pricy for fried seafood but fun, if that interests you, and the store reminded me of Yankee Candle. 

I get why people come here. Probably the best option in the area. But I won’t be in a rush to return. I do recommend trying it for yourselves, though. Maybe bring a friend, order different flavors, and switch halfway through. 

p.s. Thanks for doing your usual Amazon shopping using my affiliate link!