3 Must-Stop MA Ice Cream Shops For Your Summer Road Trips
The Commonwealth’s love affair with ice cream has global roots, but you don't have to travel that far to taste today's imaginative flavors.
If, by some miracle, you can't feel the heat and humidity of a ninety-degree day in Boston, here’s a surefire way to tell how hot it is outside: simply park yourself near a local J.P. Licks and watch the incessant flow of traffic. Few things scream “summer” like sweet, cold, creamy ice cream. Whether you prefer a cup and spoon, or enjoy the maddening race to lick before it melts down your waffle cone, you’re in good company. The average American eats over 20 pounds of ice cream per year, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.
A chilly history
The centuries-long history of ice cream is fraught with competing claims of invention, in addition to a few myths. Some say a form of ices or sorbet was enjoyed in Ancient Greece, while others claim it was invented in India. Marco Polo allegedly brought a sherbet recipe from China back to Italy in the 13th century, where it evolved into gelato, and some credit Catherine de Medici with introducing ice cream to France when she married Henry II.
Regarless of its controversial beginnings, frozen treats were a luxury savored by the lucky few until the early 19th century. Throughout most of its history, ice cream came primarily in fruit flavors — in addition to chocolate and vanilla of course. But by the 1950s, dessert lovers could choose from 28 flavors at hundreds of Howard Johnson restaurants across the U.S., thanks to that New England entrepreneur’s marketing savvy.
What's hot is cool
Today, we hardly blink an eye at exotic ice cream flavors like strawberry balsamic, blackberry goat cheese habanero and Irish cream chocolate chip. There’s no limit to the amount of creativity local chefs and confectioners pour into their frozen creations — for that, we should be thankful. But with so many places to choose from, it’s hard to know which are worth the trip (and the calories). In honor of National Ice Cream month, here are a few of the hottest flavors at the coolest ice cream spots — all of which you very well may encounter on a summer road trip.
Rocky Road at SoCo Creamery
On a recent trip to the Berkshires, I made sure to stop by local scoop shop SoCo Creamery in Great Barrington. Usually, the store is bursting with customers, but by some miracle, there was hardly any wait this time — not that that would’ve stopped me; their ice cream is some of the best in the state. If you’re a chocolate lover, you won’t be disappointed. SoCo boasts several varieties, including Mexicali Chocolate, made with cayenne and peppermint, and Dirty Chocolate, a best-selling flavor made with cocoa powder and chocolate liquor. My personal favorite (I even daydream about it!) is their heavenly Rocky Road: rich chocolate ice cream peppered with chocolate chips, almonds and homemade marshmallows that melt in your mouth.
SoCo Creamery — 5 Railroad St., Great Barrington, 413.528.8400, sococreamery.com
Hurricane Madilyn at Nona’s Homemade
If you’re heading to Nantasket Beach in Hull, be sure to swing by Nona’s. They typically have 15 or more flavors to choose from at each of their two locations, including best-sellers White Chocolate Oreo, Coffee Oreo, and my go-to, Hurricane Madilyn (vanilla ice cream with fudge swirl, brownies and chocolate chips). Hingham Harbor Sludge — chocolate ice cream with oreos, fudge and caramel — is also a winner.
Nona’s Homemade – 19 Main St., Hingham, 781.749.3999 and 1 Mill Wharf Plaza, Scituate, 781.378.1464, nonasicecream.com
Salted Caramel with Sea Salt Brownies at Melt
Looking to try inventive ice cream flavors that aren’t overly ambitious? Then make a beeline for Melt, a relatively new and welcome addition to the burgeoning food scene in Salem. You’ll find palate-pleasing options featuring locally-made products, like Atomic Coffee and Taza Chip Cookie Dough, regularly on the menu. Try as I might, I can’t resist ordering a scoop of their ever-popular Salted Caramel with Sea Salt Brownies when I go there. Their rotating menu of flavors is equally intriguing; be on the lookout for Orange Honey Lavender, Vegan Vanilla Coconut and Nutella Fluff.
Melt – 60 Washington St., Salem, 978.826.5703, meltsalem.com
Follow Amanda on Twitter @amandabalagur.