Make no mistake: America is king of the cream.
Alexander the Great may have broken from warfare to sample sweet honey-dipped snows, but the USA reigns supreme today. No nation produces or consumes more ice cream – on average, five gallons per person – and July is the peak time to eat it. Cones fill so quickly this month that Ronald Reagan paused from the Cold War to make it the official National Ice Cream Month.
As America bites into that cone on July 4th weekend, a question: why do we love it so much?
'Everybody wants a trip back to their childhood, man,' explains Sibby Sebion of Sibby’s Ice Creamin Viroqua, Wisconsin. 'Ice cream was there when we had our first birthday parties, and make our first memories. And that’s why we eat it.'
Many think it’s such family-run operations, or quaint tunes of passing ice cream trucks, that carry added sentimentality – and even quality.
'Because we only have two locations we get to pay extra attention to the product,' explains Travis Dillon, who married into Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a Route 66 survivor in St Louis. For him, that means the responsibility of 'daily testings.' Poor man.
At least we can share the spoils.
We've put together a half-dozen of our favorites to detour to. Don't agree? Chime in on the community ice-cream edition!
It’s OK to eat yellow ice cream in Colorado if it’s Glacier’s mango sorbet or banana, or any of the 80 made with hand-squeezed fruits and homemade chocolate.'
The Penn State Creamery has made Penn State’s second-favorite product (nothing beats football in north-central Pennsylvania) since 1865. Everything’s fresh. It only takes four days for the ice cream (and cheeses) made here to go from cow to cone. It comes in 100 or so flavors. Note that its store is closed on July 4.
Sibby Sebion, the Norwegian-American owner of this small-scale farm-based creamery, makes everything the old-fashioned way, using local and/or organic products and recipes from back ‘before they invented anything.’ She says the quality comes from the “energy of this place” – glaciers never disturbed the rolling farmlands of this 70-sq-mile area, an hour west of the Wisconsin Dells. She’s ‘just a farm girl,’ but can also arrange interesting farm tours, hay bale romps and overnight stays.
The extra dose of eggs turns ice cream into a more dense, equally delicious frozen custard. And this is a good place for it. St Louis has been linked with icy desserts since the World’s Fair in 1904, when a cup-less ice cream vendor wrapped ice cream in waffles. The ‘cone’ was born. Ted Drewes opened the first stand here in 1931; his son Ted Jr still drops by a few times weekly. The second location, on old Route 66 on Chippewa St, draws long lines for its cones and ‘upside-down shakes.’
A recent takeover of the Brooklyn (organic) scoop scene, Blue Marble’s two locations serve nearly 20 creams made upstate in the Hudson Valley, including seasonal options such as pumpkin and summer refreshers such as mango sorbet and mint chip. It’s delicious. And it was recently picked by readers of Time Out New Yorkas the city’s best new ice cream. (To be honest, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a four-minute walk from Lonely Planet’s East Coast office.) The company also runs Blue Marble Dreams, a nonprofit effort to help a Rwandan community.
You’ll find Mitchell’s on a residential street in the Mission by keeping an eye out for the line out the door. It carries a lot of its original ‘50s vibe, but with a world of new ice cream flavors, including some interesting tropical choices including Buko (coconut) and a lovely orange Thai Tea.
Did we miss your favorite creamery? A reminder: you should check out what our travel community suggests and have your say in our 'Get the scoop' community blog post.