There is something special about an ice cream store. From the bright colors to the wonderful smells, it's hard to deny that ice cream provokes happiness in even the most dispirited of people.
When I was four, my father opened an ice cream store and made his own ice cream using the same techniques he learned while working at his family dairy farm while growing up. Whilst this might sound like a blessing, for me, it has been more of a curse as I struggle to find ice cream that is up to par with my snobby standards.
I am an ice cream snob. I have tried to deny it, but I eventually realized it was true whenever I could only come up with four different ice cream shops across the country that I found to meet my standards. These shops produce the best of the best, and are definitely worth making a trip to.
Leo's Homemade Ice Cream, located in Carlisle, PA, has been dishing out over 100 flavors of super premium ice cream since 2003. In 2014, they were named one of the top ice cream stores in the country by TripAdvisor. They make all the ice cream by hand in small batches to ensure a consistent, quality product.
They have gained local notoriety with their top selling Salt Caramel flavor, but are also well known for their more unique flavors such as jalapeño corn bread, chocolate chili pepper, and kumquat. Leo's serves a great product in a friendly environment and is a must try for anyone in the mid Atlantic.
Recommendation: S'mores (Vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips, graham crackers, and a marshmallow swirl) on a homemade waffle cone
Screamin' Mimi's, located in Sebastopol, CA, brings together local culture with creamy ice cream to create a fun and enjoyable environment. The store features a rotating art show and has had several elements of the shop, including the sign and cone statue, made by local artisans.
The shop's specialty flavor is Mimi's Mud, and they also have dairy-free alternatives such as sorbet. They have been ranked as one of the top ice cream stores in the nation by Food and Wine Magazine and USA Today. A visit to California definitely warrants a trip to Screamin' Mimi's!
Recommendation: A Mimi's Mud (espresso ice cream, cookies, chocolate, and homemade fudge) hot fudge sundae, because one can never have too much fudge.
Mora Iced Creamery, located on Bainbridge Island, WA, requires a ferry just to get to, but has still earned a reputation as being one of the best ice cream parlors in the country. The store produces artisanal flavors such as dulce de leche and lavender, as well as more common flavors such as raspberry and chocolate.
Regardless of the flavor you choose to get, be prepared for the rich flavor that it carries. All flavors are made completely from scratch, so you may get a few pieces of rind in your orange sorbet. Mora was named as the top ice cream store in the United States by Food and Wine Magazine and Fox News.
Recommendation: Coconut and Dark Chocolate in a bowl. You are going to want to savor every spoonful of this creamy treat.
Dolcezza, located in several shops around Washington DC, redefined what gelato was to me. Gelato differs from ice cream in that it has a lower fat content and has much less air whipped into it. I had always held ice cream above gelato, but that was until I went to Dolcezza.
Each store has a different vibe, but they all serve the same delectable product. The portions are small, but the flavors are so decadent that even the smallest size is almost too much. The gelato at Dolcezza tastes like ice cream, although it tends to be a little denser, which allows the product to carry more flavor with each bite.
Recommendation: Guittard Milk Chocolate and Valrhona Dark Chocolate in the smallest dish they have (the richness of the gelato makes this all your taste buds can handle).
Take It From An Expert
I learned how to make ice cream a few years ago from my father, and since then I have never looked at the frozen treat the same way. For many, homemade ice cream, Hershey's, or Blue Bunny will do the trick, but I simply can't give in and eat something sub par.
If you are looking for a truly eye opening ice cream experience, then you must try at least one of these shops' products. They all produce their own products and take pride in what they make. The ice cream or gelato you eat from these stores was made with love, and will make you fall further in love with frozen desserts.