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What’s the Scoop?

Take a Tour of the Area’s Most Beloved Ice Cream Shops

Nothing says “lazy days of summer” like ice cream. 

Taking that first lick of ice cream can instantly transport us back to our childhood, whether it be an early memory of rescuing a dripping scoop from landing onto a hot pool deck or the sweet sensation felt when sharing a cone with a teenage love. We ate it after winning awards, dove into it after failing a test and savored it before bed on balmy summer nights on the front porch, watching the fireflies twinkle. 

Although the flavors presented today can seem novel, there’s truly nothing new. “When you look at recipes of early chefs who worked for the nobility, you’ll see avocado, lavender, chocolate—which was exotic then—and pinecone. Fast-forward to 21st century artisanal ice cream shops, and they are making the same things,” says Laura Weiss, author of Ice Cream: A Global History. “Ice cream is a blank culinary palate: It’s cream, sugar and maybe eggs. You can apply to that pretty much any flavoring you want—savory, sweet it doesn’t matter.”

But the main ingredient is love. 

When we asked our social media followers to name their favorite local ice cream parlors, two rose to the fore: Blue Sheep Bake Shop and Fresh Tiki Bar, both on Division Street in Somerville. Also noted was Gabriel’s Fountain in Bridgewater, As You Like It in Raritan and Summer Ville Homemade Ice Cream in Somerville. At Blue Sheep, Karin Giamella serves up artisan ice cream, which is made in-house. “The recipes are curated by our pastry chefs whose goal is to create unique, from-scratch recipes using only the highest quality, all-natural ingredients,” she says. “The Roasted Pistachio Cannoli ice cream is a great example of our strategy: We use actual cannoli cream ingredients to flavor the ice cream instead of using an extract or flavor, which is the industry norm.”

At Fresh Tiki Bar, a few doors down from Blue Sheep, owners Matt Lewis and Aimee Suprenant invite guests to their corner of the tropics, including the outdoor dining area they have dubbed “The Fresh Tiki Beach Club.” Inspired by a family trip to Hawaii in her youth, Suprenant envisioned a restaurant with an island vibe and a community feel. Its fresh, made-to-order artisan ice cream with up to 30 rotating flavors has established a fervent following. On our Facebook post asking about our readers’ favorite area ice cream locations, Stephanie Avrutskiy commented, “Fresh Tiki Bar has the best ice cream we ever had—the strawberry shortcake sundae is heavenly” and Jerry Carollo called it “to die for.” Kaitlin Horvath gave a nod to its “amazing” Italian cookie ice cream, Kim Kredatus recommended the crumb cake and Amanda DeAlmeida gave a shout out to “Aimee’s butter pecan.” 

“New to the menu is our Fresh Baked Warm Sundaes: Your choice of ice cream sits atop your choice of fresh baked brownies, cookies or waffles, which are warmed and topped with fresh caramel sauce, dark chocolate sauce, our signature pink sprinkles and fresh whipped cream,” says Suprenant.

Even More Epic, which opened this spring in Somerville, offers rolled ice cream. Never heard of this? Neither did we—so of course we had to stop in and try it! “We actually make homemade ice cream from scratch in front of you,” explains Kevin Trimarchi, who also owns Epic Cookies, also on Main Street. “We put the ice cream base liquid on a freezer plate while you watch, so you are getting the freshest ice cream possible.” 

Following is a roadmap for some of the area’s other beloved locations. This list is just a taste—pardon the pun—of what our county has to offer, so we encourage you to explore and make your own discoveries.

As You Like It, Raritan: This little corner ice cream store that has been operating for close to 40 years has a neighborhood feel—and often lines out the door. With 24 flavors of hard ice cream—get a blue tongue with Cookie Monster Chunk—vanilla and chocolate soft-serve and sugar-free, nonfat ice cream, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick. But magazine follower Sophie Belkin says, “Its Jersey Shore is the best ice cream flavor ever.”

Ava’s Homemade Ice Cream, Basking Ridge: Ava’s is truly a family affair: The parents develop the flavors and make the ice cream and the kids work at the shop. Our favorite: Goodness Gracious, which is named after Grace Eline, an area child who was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer. When you order this dish with Grace’s favorite flavors—chocolate ice cream with caramel and marshmallow swirls and chocolate chunks—Ava’s donates the proceeds to the WITH Grace Initiative, a charity dedicated to support pediatric cancer research, advocacy and direct care to those in the fight. avasicecream.com

Gabriel’s Fountain Kitchen & Creamery, Martinsville: This go-to spot in town owned by Bridgewater resident Alex Alb creates artisan ice cream onsite with all-natural flavors, organic extracts, mostly house-made mix-in’s and plant-based coloring from natural sources to create unique flavors like the spicy-meets-sweet Aztec Chocolate Churro made with homemade churros, Chimney Rock Road, Martinsville Mudslide and Salted Cilantro Lime Margarita. But for reader Sunny Monaghan’s sons, it’s the Sponge-Bob scoops that keep them coming back for more. gabrielsfountain.com

Polar Cub, Whitehouse Station: We all have made the trek to Polar Cub, an ice cream institution that has been serving Central Jersey since the 1950s, to order from its window and celebrate a game win or just a hot summer night. Use your time in the ever-present line—it’s that popular!—to mull over your selection: It offers four soft-serve and 12 hard ice cream flavors. polarcubicecream.com

Scream Truck: Ice cream reaches the app age with Scream Truck. Sign up to add your house to the Scream Truck route. You will receive a text when it will be in your neighborhood. Reply “Y” to request a stop, and you’ll receive a link to pre-order. screamtruck.com

Summer Ville Homemade Ice Cream, Somerville: With its Shore theme, you always feel like its vacation-time here as you lick homemade cones with flavors like Irish Pub, Vegan Coconut, Jersey Devil—and of course, Somerville Mud. Summer Ville stores all nut flavors in a separate freezer so those with allergies can indulge worry-free. facebook.com/SummerVilleIceCream

The Ice House, Hillsborough: This family-owned ice cream shop offers more than 30 flavors, including vegan options. Things can get wild here. Check out Thatcher’s Treasure Chest fusion (“crazy vanilla ice cream with rainbow marshmallows, nerds and rainbow sprinkles”). theicehousenj.com

Roasted Pistachio Cannoli Ice Cream

Blue Sheep Bake Shop 

15 oz container whole milk ricotta

4 oz mascarpone cheese

1 c granulated sugar

1 ¼ c heavy cream

½ c whole milk

½ tsp vanilla extract (not imitation)

⅛ tsp ground cinnamon

½ c broken cannoli shell pieces 

½ c chocolate chunks or chips

½ c unsalted roasted pistachios, roughly chopped

Combine sugar, ricotta and mascarpone until combined (approx. 1 minute).

In a separate bowl, combine milk, heavy cream, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Start mixer on low speed and add milk mixture to the mascarpone until combined (1–2 minutes). Cover the mixture and chill for 1 hour.

Remove the cannoli ice cream mixture from the refrigerator and freeze it in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. When you are about 5 minutes away from the ice cream being done, add cannoli shell pieces, pistachios and chocolate chunks. 

Scoop ice cream into containers and freeze until solid (about 3 hours).

Nutella, Oreos & Cream Ice Cream

Fresh Tiki Bar

4 c heavy cream 

3 tbsp cocoa powder 

2 tbsp vanilla extract 

1 13 oz container of Nutella 

2 c crushed Oreos

Using an electric mixer, carefully and slowly on a low setting whip together heavy cream, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and Nutella until thick and creamy.

Using a spatula or spoon, fold in the crushed Oreos.

Place in a freezer-safe container for 6 to 8 hours.

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