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Tour de Hard Ice Cream Nominations

April 16, 2012

Holy cow, it’s going to be a scorcher today. And what do you do when it’s hot? Cool down. And how do you do that? With ice cream, naturally.

Here in the Capital Region ice cream is synonymous with soft serve. It is virtually a religion. This is why last spring I led a group of intrepid eaters around the region looking for the best soft serve in the area. And now we know it’s at On The Farm in Latham.

But you know what? Soft serve pales in comparison to a great handmade hard ice cream: simple ingredients, true flavors, density, something that’s actually crafted by a person and not simply some preparation of a pre-made mix.

So we are going in hard. Hard ice-cream touring. When and where are still up in the air, but today, I’m taking nominations. As usual, I’ve got some thoughts to share, but then I’m opening up the floor to you. Because there are a lot of ice cream parlors in the region, and we can’t go to them all. In fact, we’ll be hard pressed to go to five. But we will do five or we will die trying.

The quest is for places that make their own hard ice cream and do it well.

Moxie’s to me is a no brainer. What I am flummoxed by is trying to figure out their schedule. So if anyone knows how to determine when Moxie’s will be open for the season, please let me know. Just to be clear, the tour will not be scheduled until Moxie is open for the season. This is how strongly I feel about this contender.

The Snowman was left off the list from the Tour de Soft Serve because of its owner’s pride in their handmade hard ice cream over the soft serve they make from a mix. I’m partial to their Boston shake. But I’ll put that aside for the sake of the tour.

The Ice Cream Man is all the way up in Greenwich, and it would be a long haul to get up there. But I’m not ruling it out at this point. There are both folks who swear by the place and others who claim that it is overrated. When it comes to the comments, do not be silent on this venerable establishment, which could single-handedly make this the most driving-intensive tour on record.

Then all the way on the other side of the region is Curry Freeze in Rotterdam, which claims to make its ice cream too. I love the name, but still wish they had kulfi ice cream or other things with rosewater. But sadly they get their name from their location on Curry Road.

Back in Colonie is a little farmstand that has a seasonal ice cream joint called Scoups attached to it, and they too advertise homemade ice cream.

Now that’s five. I can’t say all of them are as promising as the others, but sometimes there are surprises lurking in the field. And for no good reason Toll Gate in Slingerlands isn’t on that list, and given that it’s a beloved institution, it should probably have a place on the tour. This is just to show we’re going to have to make some hard choices.

Here’s how it will work.

Everyone will choose their flavor at the beginning of the day and try their best to stick by it over the course of the tour. I’m hopeful that with enough participants we can not only determine if there is a clear overall winner, but also be able to tell if some lesser shops have a flavor or two that really shine.

To help with the tasting effort, I will make calls at the beginning of the day to see what each shop is serving. From there we can find the commonalities, and participants can choose a flavor to take them through the day.

Some people believe strongly that vanilla is a telltale flavor. For homemade ice cream, I’m not so sure. I might be inclined to put my money on strawberry and see how each place handles something that involves fruit. Chocolate chip can be interesting because of the variations in chip in addition to the ice cream flavor and texture. Mint chip should be white, but I’m guessing precious few places are bold enough to go the more natural route.

Sadly, in the interest of science, some of the more interesting flavors (like Toll Gate’s peanut butter and jelly) will need to be ruled out for comparison purposes. Although in the wrap up, these too will be noted, because after all things like this are what make ice cream shops special – not what they do that’s similar to the others – but what they do that’s different.

But it’s important to compare likes to likes so we can see how each shop’s flavor, texture and value stack up on the basics.

As always, this is just the starting place. Now it’s time to speak up and make your voices heard. I’ll fold in your comments and thoughts into my preconceived prejudices, and we’ll have yet another tour on our hands.

Just as soon as we figure out when Moxie’s opens. Okay. Ready, set, go.

Speaking of the best ice cream, do not forget to vote for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0 and help me improve the Capital Region. If you’ve already voted, now would be a great chance to send an email to all your friends and family asking for their support as well. Thank you. We are in the home stretch. Don’t delay. The time is now.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Elyse permalink
    April 16, 2012 10:06 am

    “. I might be inclined to put my money on strawberry and see how each place handles something that involves fruit. ”
    BLEGH! If I can participate in this one, I’ll go pure chocolate.

    Moxies opens on Mother’s day!!!

  2. April 16, 2012 10:15 am

    I’d like to come on this one & expand my horizons beyond Stewarts. Farmers Daighters Drive In in Saratoga is supposed to be good, but maybe pretty far out of the way.

  3. April 16, 2012 10:44 am

    Who says the Ice Cream Man is over rated? I want to challenge them to a duel!

    OK, not really but I do think they have some of the best hard ice cream in the capital region. Moxie’s is fantastic and I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite but I do hope the Ice Cream Man does not get ruled out for being too far.
    After all, you do have a signifigant portion of readers from the Saratoga area and thereabouts.

  4. Amy permalink
    April 16, 2012 11:12 am

    I’m so glad you included Scoups in your short list. We love their ice cream and I’m interested in seeing how it stacks up with the other places.

  5. llcwine permalink
    April 16, 2012 11:21 am

    Mac’s Drive In in Watervliet

  6. April 16, 2012 11:28 am

    Scoups has an amazing black raspberry that really tastes like the fruit – and Snowman’s Butter Pecan tastes like, well…. These 2 tie for first in my book! :) Happy tasting.

  7. April 16, 2012 11:46 am

    I was just thinking about this yesterday, as I was digging into a pint from The Ice Cream Man. Woo-hoo, ice cream! I’d say the Ice Cream Man isn’t too far, especially since it seems to be consistently mentioned as one of the better places in the area — it would seem wrong to leave them out.

    Also, if Farmer’s Daughters’ makes their own, as Eric above mentions, we should hit there, too — and it’s on the way to The Ice Cream Man.

  8. April 16, 2012 12:14 pm

    Twist in Glenmont.

  9. Crystal permalink
    April 16, 2012 12:25 pm

    I, too, am a fan of Snow Man’s Boaton shake. What a fabulous creation, I must makean effort to get one soon.

    I agree that the simpler flavors such as strawberry and chocolate chip are necessary for comparison. They must be done well because there’s not the complex additional flavors to hide behind.

  10. PensiveEngineer permalink
    April 16, 2012 1:51 pm

    I am partial to Curry Freeze. What about Ben & Jerry’s? It is factory made I realize, but it is relatively local (<200 mi) and it's oh so good.

    • April 17, 2012 8:03 pm

      Yea, I don’t see the difference between Ben & Jerry’s and Stewart’s. Both are local, neither are homemade. So is it the Tour de Homemade Hard Ice Cream, or just Tour de Hard Ice Cream?

  11. Jessica R permalink
    April 16, 2012 4:30 pm

    What about On The Farm? Is their hard ice cream not home made? If I’m going to vote them BEST Ice Cream in the Capital Region (on your insistence), then I want them on the Tour de Hard Ice Cream as well!

    I think Stewarts should be tried because it always wins or places in this “Best of” category, and because of that they should be compared to the other shops. The ice cream is made locally, and they are well know for their seasonal speciaities that people look forward to every year – many of which are regionally themed (Crumbs Along the Mohawk, for example). Also, their Philadelphia Vanilla won best Vanilla in America within the last two years – another reason to put it up against the smaller regional shops. I understand the need to keep the list to 5 shops and the desire to support small local places, but I can just hear the masses yelling “A Tour de Ice Cream without Stewart’s is NO Tour de Ice Cream!”

    • April 17, 2012 3:24 pm

      Good point — and Stewart’s IS locally made ice cream, even though it’s grown to be a big company.

      • Kyle permalink
        April 18, 2012 12:21 pm

        Stewarts is made in a factory; if you include them you should include Ben & Jerry’s which is way better. B7J is also relatively local. If we’re going for homemade here then neither should be included.

  12. April 16, 2012 5:57 pm

    Stewarts ice cream is pretty fine and does have a regional character, but it’s also a commercially made product. When I think of Home Made I think of something made in a reasonably small batch- maybe fresh that day. It’s like Perry’s ice cream- a nice product made by a regional company, but it’s still commercial.

  13. Jessica R permalink
    April 16, 2012 6:22 pm

    Ok, seems like On the Farm serves Edy’s, so that’s a no go.
    I’m still promoting Stewart’s though.

    So, my 5 suggestions (which I think are easily drivable)
    Mac’s Drive In

    Oh…but I do want to go to Toll Gate though….. 6 suggestions!!

  14. April 16, 2012 9:27 pm

    Another fan of Ice Cream Man, here! It’s probably WAY too much driving to suggest Cooper’s Cave in Glens Falls as well, but a girl can try, can’t she? :)

  15. derryX permalink
    April 17, 2012 10:41 am

    I think it would be a great idea to get a Stewarts in there, just so it’s there as a benchmark of comparison for the other places. It’s something that most people are going to be familiar with, and I’m sure that no matter what the footprint of the day is, there will be a Stewarts either on the way or with minimal detours.

    Snowman needs to be on the tour. (but you already know this)

  16. Jenna C. permalink
    April 17, 2012 11:55 am

    Agree that Snowman needs to be included and Stewarts as a benchmark, as already suggested. Mac’s in Watervliet gets my vote as well.

  17. A Professor's Wife permalink
    April 17, 2012 12:26 pm

    All of the suggestions are music to my ears (and stomach) – I keep hearing Moxie’s is a must-try, so I’m 100% determined to try a scoop of whatever the most rockin’ chocolate concoction is there. I have yet to try Stewart’s, and it’s everywhere. I’m only working on 10 months in the region, though – I think I’m doin’ alright. I think I’ll have ice cream for lunch.

  18. April 17, 2012 3:29 pm

    Here’s a feasable route:

    Start at Moxie’s (which looks to be near Troy somewhere),
    then Snowman,
    then hit a Stewart’s (maybe up Route 4 to the one in Mechanicville?),
    then Farmer’s Daughters’,
    then The Ice Cream Man

    Five solid stops in a south-to-north line.

  19. chadmorrison permalink
    April 17, 2012 5:15 pm

    The Ice Cream Man is a definite must! Go for the 5-scooper with five different flavors!

  20. April 18, 2012 9:55 am

    Curry Freeze & Bumpy’s! Hard ice cream in Sch’dy county is the best

  21. April 18, 2012 1:35 pm

    I don’t think Stewart’s should be included. Why would ice cream made in a factory with sub par ingredients be compared to ice cream made by hand in small batches often with local ingredients? Apples and oranges.

    *Note to rabid Stewart’s lovers: I am not saying Stewart’s ice cream is bad. I like it, its good for what it is but what it isn’t is homemade.

  22. chezjake permalink
    April 18, 2012 3:33 pm

    Tour within a tour: Don’t forget that you can do a “tour de vanilla hard ice cream” without ever leaving Moxie’s. How many varieties of vanilla this year?

    BTW, best to leave Moxie’s to the end of the tour, since they never open before 1:30 PM

  23. DeeDee permalink
    April 23, 2012 11:58 pm

    Please include the Jericho Drive-In’s ice cream, I think it’s called Twist. Their red velvet ice cream is giving my own home-made a real challenge.

  24. ginamodschooler permalink
    April 25, 2012 1:39 pm

    Lick in Hudson and Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter serves Jane’s Ice Cream, which is made in Kingston. I’m pretty sold on their Killer Chocolate. But I don’t know if you count Columbia/Greene counties in your estimation of the region – technically we are, but the mindset seems to be that we’re sort of off that grid.

  25. May 22, 2012 6:45 pm

    big fan here of Lansingburghs’ The Snowman……..tho I wish they were more experimental with their flavors………….Moxie’s outside Troy has like 5 or 6 variations of Vanilla (thats right)………but for hard Ice Cream fans…….check out (farther afield) Wemple and Edicks outside Fonda (county route 334)…they do experiment (one time they even had licorice flavor)

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