With summer finally here, we have updated and expanded our annual roundup of the best dairy farm ice cream in Connecticut.
You can’t get closer to farm fresh ice cream than tasting it at farm. Not only do you see the cows, you whiff them, and that aroma is part of the authenticity of the experience, if not the charm. Sure, these farms aren’t close by. But WTD. They’re “Worth The Drive” And worth the lick: usually the freshest, creamiest, and most flavorful retail ice cream available in Connecticut.
While Chocolate and Vanilla remain cash cows, dairy farms also offer a greater array of flavors than you’ll find at parlors or in the supermarket freezer case. In fact, farmers have begun to rival restaurant chefs for sheer inventiveness and culinary dairying-doo.
So, for your and your family’s guilty or innocent pleasures, we submit our favorite cow-to-cone ice creams …
ARETHUSA DAIRY FARM - LITCHFIELD
As you would expect from owners and life partners George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, president and vice president of high end Manolo Blahnik shoes, the designer ice cream from their dairy farm in Litchfield is outright Sex in the Country. At Arethusa Farms, the main business may be breeding prized cattle, but they also sell their bovine by-products (milk, cream, cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream) at the Arethusa store a few blocks away. Our favorite by far: Rum Raisin. The rum soaked raisins leach alcohol into the sugary ice cream, creating as smooth and creamy a texture as any we tasted on our tour. We were not as transported by their chocolate or strawberry standards. Though both are the store’s most popular ice creams, their flavor tasted surprisingly shallow. New for this summer is Egg Nog ice cream, which has been a holiday sensation at Arethusa for a few years. The notes of nutmeg, of course, make it a perfect Connecticut treat. Suitable for slurping in Stilettoes
Arethusa also distributes their ice cream to selected supermarkets across lower Connecticut and their cheeses and butters also grace the table at a few of Fairfield County’s leading restaurants. Chef Bill Taibe claims he pours Arethusa heavy cream over his morning cereal.
www.arethusafarm.com 822 Bantam Rd, Litchfield (860) 361-6600
BUTTONWOOD FARMS - GRISWOLD
Drive into their massive parking lot, and you can’t help but grin. Buttonwood is right out of a Capra movie. Stone walls crisscrossing green pastures, herds of lactating cows, a freshly painted and immaculate stand with gleaming counters and smiling servers …all picture perfect. But more importantly, their ice cream is pitch perfect, maybe the best we’ve tasted in Connecticut. And like the store itself, which was built from lumber felled and milled on the farm, all the ice creams are also made from scratch.
The Key Lime Pie Ice Cream tasted especially sublime. Usually ice cream flavors that try to impersonate other desserts taste artificial …more of an invocation than a replication. This Key Lime could rival any other KLP we’ve tried. The taste was amazingly authentic, replete with chucks of graham cracker crust and a texture that invites biting, not licking. They could serve it with a fork. We were also impressed with Buttonwood’s White Chocolate flavor, decadent chunks of candy buried in a dazzling white chocolate ice cream and then generously scooped into a homemade waffle cone, the size of a helmet. Though inventive, their take on a bacon ice cream was disappointing. The hard flecks of fried bacon barely survive the frigid ice cream, which drains their flavor and solidifies their texture.
Buttonwood is a field trip. It lies on a remote country road almost at the Rhode Island border, not far from Mohegan Sun. It’s probably the only sure bet in that neck of the woods.
www.buttonwoodfarmicecream.com 471 Shetucket Tpke, Griswold. (860) 376-4081
COLLINS CREAMERY AT POWER HILL FARMS - Enfield.
Yes the creamery is on a farm. But the Collins family doesn’t own the farm. In the end, that’s a technicality. Their ice cream is farm fresh, milked from those cows switching their tails directly in back of the stand. The ice creams are incredibly creamy, and may be the most dense of any we tasted. We tried their popular sampler, a flight of any four flavors on the menu for six dollars. Our choices: Toasted Almond, Red Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Rum Raisin and a flavor our young Scooper called “Compost.” (By the fruity taste we figure he meant “Compote.” But then there’s a big sign at the entrance announcing that Power Hill Farm sells compost and hay. )
We were somewhat disappointed by Collins’ Rum Raisin, especially compared to the sweet boozy raisins we found at Arethusa What each of the ice creams may have lacked in depth of flavor, was made up in part for by their decadent density.
http://www.thecollinscreamery.com 9 Powder Hill Road, Endfield (860) 749-8663
FERRIS ACRES CREAMERY -- NEWTOWN.
As the last working dairy farm in Fairfield County, not only is the ice-cream fresh, but Ferris offers the an array of over 40 flavors. Last year we thought Elvis’ Dream rocked (Vanilla ice cream mixed with peanut butter, banana pieces and dark chocolate chunks) But based on reader recommendations we have some new faves. Like Cow Trax, a riff on the Elvis, with caramel, peanut butter, and chocolate chips (fit for a King.) Another recommendation was the Bada Bing. Though not from Jersey cows, the Bada Bing features Bing cherries and huge chocolate chunks. Bada Bing was so fantastic we brought home a pre-packed pint. We also love Toasted Almond -- an almond based ice cream with toasted coconut mixed in -- Raspberry Swirl Chunk, and Salty Cow, salted caramel ice cream. Ferris also confects ice cream pies and cakes to take home. Be prepared to stand in line for 20 minutes or more. But the wait, like the drive, is worth it.
www.ferrisacrescreamery.com/news.html 144 Sugar Street (Route 202) (203) 426 8803
RICH FARM -- OXFORD
Celebrating their 20th Anniversary, this family farm sits just over the border from Fairfield County in New Haven County and competes with Ferris for the freshest, creamiest ice cream available in Lower Connecticut. Each has its fans. For us, it’s a toss-up, though Rich’s multiple ordering windows keep lines moving faster here than at Ferris. Each morning, the Rich family cranks out 28 everyday flavors, and each week they mix in a few of the 36 special flavors they’ve created over the years. The most popular choice is Toasted Almond, but a close second is Razzmanian Devil -- dense vanilla ice cream, swirled with raspberry streaks and studded with chocolate chunks. We also liked their signature ice cream, German Chocolate Cake, flecked with actual crumbles of cake. In October, you can lick their pumpkin ice cream as you take a hayride around the farm.
http://www.richfarmicecream.com 601 Oxford Rd. Oxford, CT (203) 881 1040
UCONN DAIRY BAR. Storrs
Long before Ben met Jerry, we were tasting super premium ice cream and exotic mix ins at the University of Wisconsin dairy farm in Madison, lo so many years ago. UCONN has also been home to a similar creamery for over a century, producing award winning ice cream from University owned cows.
Popular with students and staff, the Bar is open to the public year round. We wanted to try their signature ice cream, Jonathan Supreme (named for the Husky mascot) a peanut butter swirl featuring chocolate covered peanuts, but alas, the treat has been temporarily and inexplicably removed from the menu. Instead we opted for the Jonathan Crunch, also named for the Mascot, a coffee flavored ice cream mixed with fudge sauce and oreo cookie crumbles. This outstanding scoop enjoys a sensational mouth feel and palate pleasing balance of sweet with umami. We grade it A Plus, placing the Crunch instantly on our honor roll.
This summer the Dairy Bar will offer seasonal fruit flavored ice creams. We were told that Peach is a big favorite. Like other Dairy Farms, it’s destination dining, especially for families. The Storrs facility offers kid friendly educational tours, but customers can also watch the operation through a huge viewing window.
During Winter Weekend students and faculty line up and pay a few dollars to receive as much ice cream as their giant buckets can hold. Shh. Maybe that’s the secret ingredient to UCONN’s winning this years men’s and women’s buckets titles.
http://www.dairybar.uconn.edu University of Connecticut, Storrs. (860) 486-1021
COMING SOON: A CTBITES ROUNDUP OF THE BEST COWNTER AND COWMERCIAL ICE CREAMS