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Sweet Creams!

Ice cream cravings of the Capital Region, or confessions of a sweet tooth in exile

 

If it drips down my arm, I wonít care. If I feel that icy, sweet pain in my teeth, or the pinch of brain freeze, I will not be deterred. Itís hot and Iím in for the official cold treat of summertime: ice cream.

I owe my love of local ice cream to a dear friend who has tasted it all. He is my corhort, with whom I tour these places. Our trips for ice cream are my official signal that summertime is here. Now, I confess, since moving one state south, I get to enjoy the bountiful offerings of Capital Region ice-cream stands only on special occasions, but distance has made me appreciate the plentitude of stands even more. So I implore you, dear reader, to take advantage! But with so many choices, how does one choose where to go? In many ways itís up to your mood and needs.

Today is a scorcher, and itís all I can do to keep from driving for six hours for the homemade taste of Dairy Haus in Saratoga Springs. Itís not a flashy or spectacular place, but itís got what I want: black raspberry and lemon swirl soft-serve ice cream, the ultimate in refreshment. Itís particularly for times when Iíd be likely to seek out sorbet, but itís so much better. Itís an added bonus that there are big wooden swings outside Dairy Haus to share on with friends.

When Iím in the mood for a dip, I head to Central Avenue in Colonie. And when I say dip, Iím not talking about swimming, people. I am talking about that waxy magic coating that can hold soft serve in place on even the most scorching days. I cannot resist a cherry dip on vanilla soft serve at Kurver Kreme. Plus, theyíve got a great old sign worthy of the avenue, which, by the way, is also true of the Snowman in Troy. (Whatís cooler to see than a snowman in June?)

If easy access is what youíre in for, Stewartís is an excellent option, and you wonít break the bank. The good people at Stewartís have been doing ice cream since the 1940s, so I trust their experience. I tend to pick amusing flavors there like Cotton Candy or Crumbs Along the Mohawk (graham cracker and caramel). But my ultimate is Fireworks: vanilla ice cream with a cherry swirl and pop-rocks. Whoa. I should also note that Stewartís is my favorite place for a milkshake. Any of the coffee-oriented flavors can double as a dose of caffeine. This is crutch on those pavement-melting days of July when reaching for hot coffee proves your hopeless addiction. (I give you permission to have a coffee milkshake with breakfast.)

If youíre up for a challenge, however, trek up to Moxieís Ice Cream in Troy, the home of the Blue Moon. Blue Moon is a mystery flavor that keeps patrons guessing, which apparently no one ever has. Still, if you correctly guess what Blue Moon is made of, the staff apparently will confirm the ingredients. Go venture a guess, because itís amazingly tasty. The folks at Moxieís make all of their creations using vintage equipment.

Moxieís is part of a long tradition of roadside stands. Two other stands I love are Farmerís Daughter and the Ice Cream Man. The Ice Cream Man is a favorite, first because its hard and soft ice cream is homemade and comes in a bevy of tasty flavors, and itís a log cabin so it gets points for ambiance. Farmerís Daughter is a farmerís version of a drive-in where eaters bask in its sunny spot.

But perhaps, for you, ice cream is not a meal alone. When I want to make lunch out of a trip for ice cream, Jumpiní Jackís in Scotia is the place. Itís a drive-in by the Mohawk thatís a longtime favorite of mine, not only because of the burgers, but because of their blueberry soft-serve. But be advised, they rotate flavors, and while theyíre all yummy, you might show up wanting blueberry and find pistachio. (I have been known to call in advance.) Do know that there are no dips here, and locals encourage you to bite the bottom off the cone and suck the ice cream through the drippy bottom. Good, messy fun for all!

Now if swanky ice cream is what youíre in for, my father is my best arbitor of taste. He is a vanilla ice cream connoisseur, a snob, even. Then he tried Chez Sophieís ice cream made with fresh cream, and real snobbery was born. Itís simply perfection: blossoming with vanilla and sweetly creamy. It is that to which all other vanilla ice cream will be compared.

There are also great options for gelato and Italian ices locally, but Iím smitten with ice cream stands. I could swoon over more of them, but letís just say that there is much to sample out there, and you should not be bashful about pulling over for a treat. Surprise yourself. Itís sort of like buying lemonade from kids on the roadside; the mere act of stopping for ice cream makes me feel youthful, relaxed and as though Iím making time to enjoy something summery. But donít take my word for it, go forth and taste summer for yourself.

óAshley Hahn

Among the sound options for sweet treats: Dairy Haus, 476 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs; Farmersí Daughter, Route 29, Saratoga Springs; Ice Cream Man, Route 29, Easton; Jumpiní Jackís, 5 Schonowee Ave., Scotia; Kurver Kreme, 1349 Central Ave., Colonie; Moxieís, Troy; the Snowman, 251 Fifth Ave., Troy.

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