Victory Garden • New York City, New York
Just over a year old, Sophia Brittan's tiny shop in the West Village is THE place to go for creamy, delicious soft-serve goat milk ice cream. While conventional cow's milk ice cream can leave you feeling a little tired and full, goat's milk has a totally different molecular structure that is easier to digest and doesn't sap your energy. Add to that fresh, local ingredients and gourmet mix-ins and you've got a healthy, but sinful ice cream break. Sophia gets all of her goat milk from New York and Vermont and is constantly making the ice cream right in the store, so it's always fresh.
Insider Tip! If you're easily overwhelmed by choices, go for the Salted Caramel ice cream as it's the most popular and what people love to talk about. If you're adventurous, try Sophia's Mastic Ice Cream (when in season) which is made with an edible resin and has a cult following.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams • Columbus, Ohio
Jeni Britton Bauer is a household name in Columbus, the center of the heartland. But she has become even more widely known thanks to her outrageously popular ice cream (shipped by the pint) and her recent James Beard award for her ice cream cookbook. Stop into one of her shops, like this location in the Short North district, just off I-70. Try a signature flavor, like Sweet Corn with Black Raspberries (pictured above), Salty Caramel, The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, Bangkok Peanut (spicy and coconut-laced), Black Currant Yogurt (reminiscent of a Kir Royale sipped in Paris), or any one of her other vibrant varieties. The shops are all distinct, with their own personalities. But each is bright and modern, with swags of homemade bunting and pops of color.
Insider Tip! Jeni's ice creams get all the attention, but don't ignore their trappings. What you smell, when you walk into a shop, is the smell of homemade waffle cones toasting on a griddle. They are rich and warm, the perfect vessel for a scoop of real-live Ohio ice cream.
Amy's Ice Creams • Austin, Texas
If you're looking for a family-friendly ice cream destination in Austin, look no further than Amy's Ice Creams. The shop features locally made ice creams that are created under the philosophy of "making people's day" — and with over 350 delicious and unexpected flavors on rotation, everyone in the family will find something that'll make them smile. The flavors on the chalkboard and the 'scoops' behind the counters — mixing up your ice cream treat with crush'ns (and maybe even a trick) — are as eccentric and bright as the city itself. One flavor you can count on is their best-selling Mexican Vanilla — creamy vanilla with a delightful hint of cinnamon. With locations all throughout Austin, you'll always be able to find an Amy's nearby to give you a break from the heat.
Insider Tip! There's a beautiful park just outside the doors of the North Austin Arboretum location featuring a duck pond, and life-size marble cow statues that'll make your family adventure that much more memorable. True ice cream aficionados can even book a tour at Amy's ice cream-making facility.
Salt and Straw • Portland, Oregon
Salt and Straw began as a hand–pushed ice cream cart but nearly overnight it has boomed into neighborhood hangout spot, with a constant queue out the door. This may sound surprising. Portland, after all, is quite often cold and rainy, but this shop brings out a year-round desire for sweet, cold, creamy treats. Cousins Kim and Tyler Malek, the owners, work hard to use local ingredients, like milk from Lochmead Dairy. But the shop doesn't just sell ice cream. True to its local Portland roots and vibe (think: industrial stools, tall ceilings, barn light fixtures, shelving of reclaimed wood), the owners bring a collaborative spirit to their business too. They sell locally-made candies, jams and assorted sundries. They explore local oil, cheese, wine, tea, coffee, beer, honey, jams, salt, chocolate, and produce all created or grown within a very short distance of the shop. It's ice cream that celebrates the seasons and the rich regions of Oregon.
Insider Tip! The blue cheese and pear flavor sounds strange, but don't pass it up. It has an addictive blend of sweet, salty, and creamy. Try it once; you won't be able to resist it!
Morelli's Ice Cream • Atlanta, Georgia
This hidden ice cream stand located in the up-and-coming Ormewood section of Atlanta may seem a little bland on the outside, but their out-of-this world flavor combinations are anything but. Morelli's — owned by husband and wife team Donald & Clarissa Morelli — opened its doors in 2010 and has been churning out Atlanta's finest homemade ice cream ever since. Their ultra-rich, super-thick ice cream is made daily from only the freshest natural ingredients, and judging by the local cult following, it shows. And while salted caramel put Morelli's on the culinary map, it's the other wild and crazy creations that keep folks coming back for more. Flavors change daily, but sweet potato pie, black sesame, and mango habañero are some of the dozen or so on offer that will tickle even the most jaded of tastebuds.
Insider Tip! Keep an eye out for the maple bacon brittle ice cream. It takes over a full day to make and only appears on occasion, but when you taste one sweet, salty (and Southern) bite you'll know why it was worth the wait.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross; Faith Durand; Chris Perez; SAY Media; Nealey Dozier)
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