Ice Cream Day is coming up this weekend and that got me excited about planning our trip back to North America this summer. As a way to rev up our engines for this year’s Ice Creamery Tour I’m taking a look back at how we finished up the last one. But we before we get to that we need your help–This year we are spending time in Canada as well as the United States–visiting the cities of Quebec, Montreal and Toronto in addition to various regions in NY, PA, DC, MD and VA in the United States. You can help us create the map for our ice creamery tour by sharing your favourite creameries and shops that feature craft or artisan home made ice cream. We don’t want to miss the hidden gems. So if you will, please leave a comment on this post sharing your best ice cream recommendations in these areas. (You can feel free to share your best recs of all time no matter where they are–I hope one day we will visit them all.) By the way, I shared the names, locations and links for all the ice cream joints that made the 2021 tour at the bottom of this post.
Now onto reminiscing about last year…First, Let me set the scene. It was June 2021 and we’d just spent a week in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We were headed north up The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The air was clear and breezy. The sunshine was energising and with the windows open even the girls were feeling it. The breathtaking views on the drive made me think, “Maybe one day we’ll move to Virginia.”
From cool mountains of the Blue Ridge we cut East toward Hampton Roads and the coast–our list of ice cream shops in hand.
First up: Blue Cow on Shore Drive in VA Beach. The location is colourful and they give tastes, which I love. There is a quote on the wall that sounds like something I heard Jeni say once, but they didn’t give a source. I tasted Sea Salt Brickle with Caramel Swirl but ordered Three Ships Coffee Chip and the Mint Chip on a home made waffle cone. All the ice cream was very good and the atmosphere was perfect. The only thing I didn’t love were the cones, but that is a matter of personal opinion. They were home made and smelled delectable but had too much cinnamon for me. Still Blue Cow hit all the spots–Flavor, consistency, big scoops, wonderful atmosphere– Thumbs up.
The next day we planned to visit Gerald’s but it was closed so instead we went to Gelati Celesti. They have a number of locations from Richmond going south, we visited the VA Beach location a Hilltop. Gelati Celesti had some of the most memorable flavours I’ve ever eaten. The staff was friendly and informed, I even went back again a few days later because it was so heavenly. They also let you have tastes, so I tried Almond Amaretto (to die for if you like almond or amaretto) and Blanchard’s Dark as Dark. Blanchard’s is a Richmond based coffee roaster and this flavour knocked my socks off. It was without a doubt the most delicious and memorable espresso flavoured ice cream I’ve ever tried. They had a special edition lemon custard that I couldn’t resist and an absolutely beautiful flavour called Rainbow Cookie (made with soft but not too soft rainbow coloured shortbread chunks–pretty and nice to sink your teeth into.) Every flavour we tried was sublime and the shop itself is really cute. This is the shop I am most excited to re-visit next time we are in town.
We made it to Gerald’s later that week. They flash freeze their ice cream using nitrogen to avoid crystallisation. Staff was also friendly and chatty and they have an old fashioned ice cream parlour vibe. The ice cream was good but— it was pricey. Let’s be honest: all artisanal ice cream is expensive. We didn’t get a double scoop anywhere on the tour for less than $6 or $7. But at Gerald’s a double scoop is $9. I opted for one scoop of chocolate cherry decadence on a cone. They features all kind of ice cream cakes and pies. It looked like the perfect place to order a beautiful decadent dessert for a party. We enjoyed ourselves but I have one critique–they had fake plants in the planters outside. It is shady but there are so many possibilities for beautiful, living, low maintenance shade plants. (Sorry! You can take the girl out of horticulture but you cannot take horticulture out of the girl.)
A visit to Hampton Roads is totally incomplete without a trip (or more than one) to Doumar’s. Doumars has been a favorite of mine since the early 2000’s when I walked up to the intoxicating smell of waffle cones being made by hand outside on a cone machine that is more than 100 years old. They have a fantastic family story and I feel proud to say I was a regular at Doumar’s when I lived nearby. The waffle cones are without a doubt the best I have ever eaten. It’s not just that they are made fresh–lots of artisan ice cream shops make fresh cones, it’s the simple mix of flavours. I don’t know the recipe, but it tastes like vanilla, butter and a good amount of sugar. No complicated extras-no spices to complicate the ice cream pairing. They sell the cones by the jar so you can take them home. The ice cream itself is not made in-house and is nothing to write home about so I would love to see a local collaboration between some great ice creamery featuring Doumar’s cones.
Our last stop in VA Beach was Lolly’s. We visited the location at the ocean front. An adorable robin egg blue brick building, Lolly’s is located in the relatively new Vibe district with plenty of cool murals and other shops around. The staff is super friendly. I opted for a scoop of mint chocolate chip and a scoop of special edition Takes the Cake. Takes the Cake was really something. A truly mouth-watering mix of chocolate ice cream with pretzel crusts, salty caramel swirl and chunks of chocolate cake. The mint wasn’t my favourite because they use creme de menthe and I’m a fan of mint ice cream flavoured with actual mint leaves. Either way Lolly’s shouldn’t be missed. The one question we had is: Why weren’t there umbrellas at the picnic tables? It was a super sunny hot day and we were dying for shade. Umbrellas might’ve allowed us to stay longer and order even more ice cream.
After VA Beach we sampled ice creams in DC, MD and PA. In DC we hit Jeni’s again (of course!) and Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream in DC. We stopped for soft serve in MD, went on to the Village Coffee and Cream in Shrewsbury, PA, before hitting Nittany scoops (a branch of the Penn State Creamery-they are the real pros.) We ended the tour with Urban Churn at their newly opened location in Mechanicsburg. They have flavours that sound out of this world so I’m going to spin this around and say that they were having an off-day when we visited. We’re planning to visit their actual “urban” location at the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg next time and give them a second chance.
You can read about the rest of the 2021 tour here and here. Below is the full list. These are not sponsored. We heard about them or did some googling and visited each one. Don’t forgot to send us all your recommendations! Can’t wait to read your recommendations for some new ones in 2022.
Great American Ice Cream Tour 2021
Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA