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Soft Serve the Size of Your Head

May 14, 2018

Spring. It’s here. The snow tires are off the car. My yard has had its first mow. Tulip Fest is behind us. For that matter, so is the chill of winter. Sure, I may have seen someone at Tulip Fest on Saturday rocking a pair of gloves, but I blame it on the rain.

If you define spring based on the time our seasonal soft serve stands open for the season, it’s been here for over a month. During that unseasonably warm heat wave, I took Little Miss Fussy to Jumpin’ Jacks in Scotia. But we were just there for dinner. No soft serve for us.

Actually, I’m trying to teach my kids that soft serve isn’t ice cream. It’s an ice-cream-like product that can can easily be mistaken for the real thing, much like Country Time can be mistaken for lemonade.

Here’s one way to tell the difference. Real ice cream comes in servings that might approximate the size of your first. Soft serve comes in servings more like the size of your head. Or if you ask Jack from Two Buttons Deep, a small cone should be the size of his fairly large hand.

Apparently, according to Jack, it also shouldn’t melt.

Still, the appeal of soft serve isn’t lost on me, I recognize it’s part of our local culture. So let’s hear from someone who isn’t quite so jaded. Our new friend Emily L. submitted another guest post all about her love of local soft serve. But once she’s done, I’ll share one parting thought on the matter.

One of my favorite things about Upstate New York is the local ice cream stand culture. In the midwest, we generally had large chain ice cream stalls that would feature one or two regional items based on the franchise owner (my uncle would drive 45 minutes to one Dairy Queen that had fried frog legs). But here in the Capital Region, there is a real point of pride for each town’s family run ice cream stand.

Scotia has Jumpin’ Jacks. Schenectady has Bumpy’s. But my heart belongs to Delmar’s Jim’s Tastee Freez.

First introduced to me by my boyfriend, this Capital Region staple was started in 1963 as Bill’s Taste Freeze. This cash only ice cream features traditional soft serve and (for those of us who are lactose intolerant) almond milk soft serve. Their flavors change on a daily basis which they post on Facebook. I have no shame in admitting Tastee Freez is one of my favorites in my phone because I call on a weekly basis. Open March-October, I can’t tell you how many times I have had my winter coat on, full heat in the car as I enjoy this Capital Region treat.

But what stands out about Jim’s Tastee Freez is the Boston Shake. I had never heard of this New England staple until I moved to the area. A milkshake featuring a scoop of ice cream on top and fudge or syrup, it’s worth the diabetic coma to enjoy this drink. When they have it, get the S’mores Boston Shake; chocolate milkshake, vanilla ice cream scoop, marshmallow sauce, whipped cream, and graham cracker bits will take you to ice cream nirvana.

So you may have your favorite ice cream stand, but I am a die-hard Tastee Freez girl for life.

Emily is lucky, because her local soft serve spot is pretty good. I wish I could say the same. But I just can’t bring myself to like Kurver Kreme. At least I know that the best things to get there are either the orange-vanilla twist or some small quantity of soft serve smothered in hot fudge, because every now and again I’m dragged there against my will.

The upside of doing those soft serve tours is that I know if any children in my care must get soft serve, it’s well worth my time to drive them up to On the Farm in Latham. Maybe I can even get a burger out of the deal. Or I could go further afield and hit Country Drive In because then I could get some onion rings.

In the end, I sound more like Emily’s uncle than Emily. Maybe, just maybe, one day she’ll treat us to the story about the fried frogs legs at Dairy Queen. Because, I for one, am dying to know.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. rts2346 permalink
    May 14, 2018 9:56 am

    Our favorite is Muffins, farther west on Central Ave, closer to Schenectady. They serve – when the machine is working- real frozen custard, like the kind we had when we were kids. A little later in the season, they make a fresh fruit Sundae that is a marvel! Worth the drive, for sure

  2. May 14, 2018 10:20 am

    It’s too bad we don’t seem to have any frozen custard places around here. The stuff runs circles around ordinary soft serve. In California, there is Foster’s Freeze, in Boston, there is Abbott’s. Ther are many others, but as far as I know, nothing in these parts.

    • rts2346 permalink
      May 15, 2018 10:10 am

      The Ice Cream Shoppe (Muffins) 2113 Central Ave, has frozen custard, if the machine is fixed!

  3. May 14, 2018 11:36 am

    Sorry, I’m not buying what she’s selling.

    In no way would I find a super sweet shake-like concoction to be “ice cream nirvana”. An equivalent would be proclaiming one of Starbucks’ sugar bomb coffee drinks to be ‘coffee nirvana’.

    FWIW, here’s my thoughts on soft serve. Consider it a rebuttal to her post.

    • -R. permalink
      May 14, 2018 12:42 pm

      Steve, agreed 100%.

      I appreciate Emily’s youthful enthusiasm – really I do. But her notions on flavored coffee, soft-serve ice cream and Taco Bell leave me puzzled, as does the profussor’s semi-tacit endorsement of such notions.

    • Emily Lang permalink
      May 15, 2018 7:15 am

      This is why I love talking food. How you feel about soft serve is how I feel about sorbet.

      I like soft serve. I also like Tack Bell. But I also am willing to try anything once. When I want really good tacos, I go to the Mexican grocery in Schenectady and get cow tongue. When I am feel really homesick, I want the comfort of a soggy taco with “cheese” from Taco Bell. Food can take comfort in so many forms.

      But no. You can never convince me to like sorbet. Not even the Dutch Udder could.


      • May 15, 2018 10:25 am

        I’m with you Emily until you said “Taco Bell” – that stuff is just vile in every possible way.

  4. Emily Lang permalink
    May 18, 2018 5:55 pm

    Oh I don’t disagree. It is totally vile.
    Yet bizarrely comforting for me.

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