Screaming for quality ice cream

Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco
Photo from my visit to San Francisco's Bi-Rite Creamery, Jan 2007.

Cold Stone Creamery: Rich and empty, nauseatingly sweet and vaguely artificial, it's the Paris Hilton of ice cream. "Mix-ins are a great concept, in theory. Ice cream is delicious. Cake and candy are delicious. Simple digestive mathematics dictates that combining the two should double the delicious…Whereas a visit to Ben and Jerry's or Häagen-Dazs leaves me wanting more, a visit to Cold Stone leaves me wanting a salad and a shower." Salon takes a look at the mix-in ice cream trend and what that's doing to plain old ice cream.

It's funny, there's a Cold Stone near my parents' house and on a recent visit I stopped in because I was really craving a hot fudge sundae. I couldn't even tell if they sold hot fudge, I didn't see any signs of it and I couldn't find it on the giant menu board. But they had it, so I got a "small" (it must have been three scoops) of sweet cream ice cream and hot fudge. And I too couldn't finish it. It was OK, but nothing great, and a bit of a disappointment given my craving. The ice cream really had no flavor at all, it just tasted cold, if that makes sense.

I worked at Herrell's Ice Cream in Harvard Square, and so I've served my fair share of mix-ins. But at least there, the ice cream was also good quality, so if you opted not to mix, you could get a solid cone, or a great sundae (fresh homemade hot fudge, real whipped cream). Why are quality ice cream shops so hard to find? Lately I've been dreaming of opening a little ice cream store in my neighborhood in Manhattan, where you could get a decent scoop (not a huge size) in a tasty homemade cone, and you could also get sundaes and shakes and malteds. I guess in the meantime, I'll make my own, and hope a Cold Stone doesn't open in my area any time soon.

21 thoughts on “Screaming for quality ice cream

  1. more than the overly sugary, gross ice cream they serve, i am annoyed with their perky theatrics. “Welcome to Cold Stone Creamery!!!!!” – the shouting is so hyper, so slap-happy, that it automatically puts me, and many of my friends, in a foul mood – not because of the cheeriness, but because of its fakeness.

  2. Have you tried Sundaes & Cones? They’re located at 95 E 10th St between 3rd and 4th Avenue. I believe they make their own cones.

  3. Oh, I totally know what you mean about ice cream that’s merely cold and not decadent enough to be satisfying. I was just going to suggest Sundaes & Cones, too. We went there twice this week (including Chelsie’s first-ever taste of ice cream!) and it wasn’t stupendous, but it was much better than the half-assed places.
    Amusingly, to me at least, one of the fastest-growing franchises in the U.S. is Marble Slab Creamery which is a blatantly sad ripoff of Cold Stone, minus the singing. It’s so low-rent (there was one in SF right near where we used to live) that I almost want to root for them. Their ice cream sucks, too, though.

  4. Oh yes, I’ve been to Sundaes Cones several times. I like the mango there, but I wasn’t overly impressed with some of the more basic flavors like chocolate or strawberry. I haven’t tried a sundae from there, will have to do so soon.

  5. Talk about lack of quality ice cream – I’m in Clinton Hill and the closest ice cream shops are the Cold Stone in Atlantic Center (totally agree with you on their ice cream) and Maggie Moo’s in Park Slope (which isn’t that much better). I dream of an ice cream place opening somewhere within a mile, lessening my dependence on the corner bodega.

  6. I have also been disappointed by Mary’s Dairy on West 4th Street, which was marketing itself as a local alternative to the Cold Stone on 6th Ave. Overpriced with relatively flavorless ice cream–and a disaster of an egg cream as well. I was spoiled by the gelato in Argentia last summer, but I did have some Dulce de Leche at the Blue Pig in Brooklyn Heights last week and it was really pretty good. I’m looking for a great vanilla.

  7. You know what I love is The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard near Elisabeth. I love the Green Tea ice cream. They’ve got a full range of Chinese flavors plus more “exotic” flavors like chocolate and vanilla.
    Kate, Ronnybrook Farms which is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I think, has an awesome vanilla ice cream, the best I’ve tasted in ages. Their milk is great too.

  8. There are two or three extremely wonderful ice cream places near here (Pittsburgh), in my opinion, which has proven to be exceedingly dangerous to my health.
    But really, how good is my opinion? Maybe I’ve never really had fantastic ice cream.

  9. Hi! Saw the Bi-Rite snapshot. Hope you were able to sample Sketch ice cream across the bay, in Berkeley (the best in this area, I think). They do an incredible spearamint ice cream on occasion. For when you return…

  10. Talking about Ice Creams, nothing beats Coconut Ice Cream.
    This is very enlightening and attractive + nice layout. Cheerio O_o

  11. Regarding Bi-Rite, they have great ice cream. But there is one flavor there that stands above all the rest – salted caramel. One of the best ice creams I’ve ever had.

  12. I’m surprised working in Cambridge you never noticed any of the numerous J.P. Licks stores around the Boston area. I work at one now, and as far as I can tell it’s the most quality homemade ice cream around. Manhattan may be trickier though.

  13. Martin, at the time JP Licks was only in JP, if I recall. This was around 1990-91. But Boston has better ice cream than NY, hands down. It’s an ice cream town, and NY isn’t. I read once that Boston consumes more ice cream per capita than any other city, so perhaps it’s that demand that supports so many quality shops.

  14. the photo of the icecream has already made my mouth watery. this is a really nice way of making icecream. thankx for sharing your ideas

  15. My wife LOVES Cold Stone. I do not get it at all, since I too find the ice cream to be sub par, barely saved by the mix-ins.
    The other night I was in Central Square, and we went to Toscanini’s for ice cream after dinner…I had forgotten how good it can be!
    I had the Belgian Chocolate and Grape Nut Raisin. The Belgian Chocolate was deep, with a satisfying chocolate taste and just a hint of sweetness. Not overly sugary, or cloying.
    Adding Grape Nut Raisin to the Belgian Chocolate seems like an odd combination, but as anyone that has had the Grape Nut ice cream from Toscanini’s knows, it is a must.
    The vanilla ice cream base has just enough hint of cinnamon to complement the malty flavor of the Grape Nuts, and the Raisins give the mixture a nice complementing texture and burst of sweetness.
    My wife said that Cold Stone is better. Well, she married me, so she must have some taste.
    Boycott bad Ice Cream folks!

  16. Im thrilled not to be alone in the distaste for Cold Stone. I had one interesting taste of a wasabi ice cream (horrible on its on) with ginger and raspberry mixed in. It tasted good for a second, then like dirt. Two spoonfuls and I was done.
    Just like Starbucks, having a lot of locations does not make your product good!
    Thanks for the awesome site, Meg!

  17. ummm… sorry to remind you but a (very gross) Cold Stone HAS opened in your area, no? And kind of a long time ago, too, at Broadway and Astor?
    Anyway, yeah, Mocha Chip is totally the way to go at Sundaes and Cones, or Coconut with hot fudge sauce. I used to LOVE the Pineapple with hot fudge, but they haven’t had that in a while, though Debbie thought it tasted like a chemical bath… which it kind of did, but I got addicted to it anyway.
    East Village Ice Cream on Avenue B and 13th was a disappointment, except for the Chocolate Chocolate Chip.
    The big news in the frozen sweet treat category, of course, is Grom, on Broadway and 76th Street. The gelato here is amazing—I’ve had seven flavors so far, all incredible: subtle, complex, fresh, sweet, satisfying—and the granita (I had the almond) may even be better. Trust me, this is totally worth the trip.
    Here’s a couple of links to my reviews, if you don’t mind…

  18. Sparky’s Ice Cream here in Columbia, MO is so good that they opened in October and STILL did enough business to last until Summer. They’re still open and are very nearly enough reason by themselves to stop in Columbia if you’re passing through (or nearby).

  19. Hey – have you tried Sugar on Allen and Houston? I have to admit to being a wee bit drunk when I tried their gelato, but it was really quite excellent. They had a rather accurate Ferrero Rocher flavor. Also agreed about Chinatown ice cream factory. They made my birthday cake and I nearly cried when it was finished.

  20. Another Boston transplant! I was up visiting friends and family this past weekend and was so glad to have JP Licks! Excellent ice cream and fresh roasted coffee without the fake smiles and singing tip-whores. If you open up an NYC ice creamery, I’m in!

  21. This probably doesn’t help… but I thought I’d mention that Buenos Aires, Argentina has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. We moved here last year from the States and I have to say, the ice cream is amazing! Arnaldo’s is one of the best. So… if you ever visit B.A., you know where to go for that craving!

Comments are closed.