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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Stumbling Upon Gelato in Fort Worth, TX

People often ask me how I choose which ice cream (or gelato, or frozen yogurt) places to visit. Although I aspire to visit EVERY homemade ice cream place out there, my time and budget certainly don’t allow that. So I tend to do some research, read reviews and narrow my search down based on where will be convenient for me, their menu offerings and what I’m betting will be best based on reviews. 

But that isn’t the whole story. Sometimes I will be exploring a town or a city and I will literally pass an ice cream place that I hadn’t realized I’d be seeing. At that point, I do a little research, consider how hungry I am and how much money I’ve got for a treat. I’m certainly more likely to visit if it’s right in front of me. 

So although gelato isn’t my favorite treat, when I saw Paciugo calling to me as we explored the Christmas lights in Fort Worth last year, I decided to give it a look. (I was also craving ice cream but there wasn’t a homemade place nearby.) It turns out they’re a chain with locations in about ten states, and their gelato is made on site. They also have a nice coffee menu, and if coffee plus gelato sounds like a fun combination to you, you’ll enjoy it even more. I decided to check out a couple of flavors. My husband Ross stuck to a hot black coffee, which he was pleased with. The prices were on the higher side for smaller portions but we were in a fancy part of Fort Worth so it felt kind of normal. Here’s what I went with. Wild Berries: The true fruity taste of this is lovely. It’s actually dairy-free too. Delightful and not overly sweet with an awesome fruit tang. A nice mouth feel too.

Milk Chocolate: This gelato has a very nice feel, with a rich milk chocolate flavor. It reminded me of an excellent drinking chocolate. 

Ross enjoyed both flavors a lot too, and I also recommend the combination. Although this is so far the only location I’ve visited, I would definitely recommend Paciugo when you’re craving a tasty dessert. Do you have a favorite place to get gelato?

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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. 

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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. 

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Dewey’s

Some quick research online told me Dewey’s, in Center Harbor, carried homemade ice cream. So my husband and I added it into our schedule. It wasn’t until we were in line that we realized they actually carry Richardson’s ice cream. And no, not the lesser-known Richardson’s in NH, but the Richardson’s in MA that you’ve probably enjoyed before.

I’d love to return here for coffee or a meal, but in the meantime, here is my review of the ice cream. It’s in an adorable location in a beautiful town, so it’s worth a visit to walk by the water and have an ice cream. And if you know of any homemade ice cream in that area that deserves a visit, please let me know!

Cake Batter – It’s a cake batter base, with cake pieces. The base almost reminds me of frosting! It’s a very bright flavor, very childlike. I enjoyed it. Doesn’t top Blake’s but it’s very good. (Blake’s throws some chocolate frosting in there that really makes it!)

Strawberry Cheesecake – It uses real strawberries, but the strawberry syrup isn’t great and tastes fake. That being said, the cheesecake is creamy and rich and awesome!

Phantom Berry – Oh my goodness. This is black raspberry ice cream with chocolate cookies. The cookies are clearly not Oreos, they are MUCH better, with a killer crunch, and brownie pieces are also included. It’s like a sundae in itself! Super sweet and so tasty. It was so good that Ross wanted to go back for another scoop! The cookies aren’t too sweet either which really helps keep all of this in proportion and not get old. They have a bit of saltiness too.

Death By Chocolate – The base isn’t too dark or too light, just classic chocolate, with great brownie pieces and a fudgy cold chocolate syrup. There is some bitterness to the base and it isn’t too sweet. It would be a fun base for chilies! The base works well so the mix-ins aren’t overkill = you can really taste all of the flavors.

Dewey’s has a great vibe and awesome seating. It would be a great place to hang out. Generally speaking Richardson’s is excellent in terms of consistency, and Phantom Berry gets one of our highest recommendations. Portions are very large, and prices are reasonable at $3.45, $4.35 and $5.25 with tax included. We spent $8.50 for the two of us. Another plus? They offered to do two different flavors in a kiddie! Super nice.

So while I wouldn’t make Dewey’s a destination because you can get Richardson’s in many places, if you’re in the area I really recommend a visit. And if you try their lunch or coffee, let me know how it is!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

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The Best Restaurant in Derry, NH

I don’t usually write about non-dessert items, but of course there’s always an exception to the rule. Early this summer, my husband and I were in the vicinity of Derry, NH and needed a meal.

When we’re in Derry, there isn’t really a discussion about where to go to eat. It’s not exactly a food mecca, but there are a few decent restaurants. And then there is Amphora.

Amphora was the first restaurant where we felt like family the first time we visited. I scheduled a large group gathering the night of the NH Theatre Awards a few years back, and although Amphora doesn’t normally take reservations, they allowed us to arrange for reservations for this event. I’d never been there, so I wasn’t sure what to expect except Greek food. I was delighted then and they continue to impress.

Everything is delicious and much of it is local, but they are also just ridiculously accommodating. Of people, of allergies, you name it. That first day they expressed interest in hosting a VIP night after our production of Weird Romance at the Derry Opera House. They’ve since let us host cabarets and one-woman shows there, some of them in conjunction with a fancy menu designed just for the purpose. They’re sweet, amazing people who really know how to cook.

You can’t go wrong there. Seriously, it’s all that good. And since this blog is about sweets, I especially recommend our two favorites – the baklava cheesecake (so indulgent) and the ouzo cake, with a warm licorice-flavored liquor dripped over the top.

It’s the place I will most miss when I leave New Hampshire. Don’t miss it yourself!