We have expanded and updatedlast year’s popular roundup of the best ice parlors in lower Connecticut.
New flavors abound for 2014. One of our favorite scoop shops melted away, but thanks to our readers, we found a truly magical hidden gem in an unexpected place. Here's the updated list of BEST LOCAL ICE CREAM PARLORS IN LOWER CONNECTICUT.
Ice cream fans, don't miss our companion piece, the 2014 Edition of BEST DAIRY FARM ICE CREAM IN CT.
NORTH FAIRFIELD COUNTY
Although the Gold Coast is considered foodie haven in Connecticut, to our mind, the most luscious handmade ice cream is served in local parlors far inland from the gilded shore.
IL BACIO – DANBURY
Buried in a nondescript strip mall, Il Bacio is literally a hidden gem. Its signature ice cream, Cardiac Arrest, a dense and deep dark chocolate confection that still manages to defy gravity, earned its name from two docs at nearby Danbury Hospital. In honor of the heart benefits conferred by dark chocolate, the physicians jokingly called it "Cardiac Arrest," and it’s won hearts ever since. Owner and Chef de Cream Tony Nascimento balances the sophisticated bitterness of dark chocolate with sweet and familiar milk chocolate. Both flavors play off each other, well, arrestingly. This is the most decadent non-cloying chocolate ice cream we tasted at any shop in our roundup. Tony considers ice cream as food and believes his kitchen is as creative and cutting edge as that in a gourmet restaurant. He claims to have invented the original Cookie Monster ice cream many years ago. To delight his young son who loved Sesame Street, he came up with a now familiar whimsical blue hued ice cream mixed with cookie crumbs. We also enjoyed his fresh take on the cliché that Salted Caramel has become. He ups the sweet and salty ante with pretzel chunks. The result is refreshingly intense. Tony's wife and business partner, Gina, recommended we try Coffee Ice Cream. Made with real beans, the ice cream is infused, not flavored, with coffee essence, almost brewed as much as churned. Like most of Il Bacio's selections, you can actually smell the aroma before you taste the cream. The flavor lingers even after you swallow, like a great sip of coffee. Tony and Gina’s modest shop is spotlessly clean. Even the raw eggs Tony cracks for cookie dough ice cream are pasteurized. Il Bacio means The Kiss in Italian. Indeed, their ice cream might be as sweet as your first kiss. But not quite.
30 Germantown Rd (203) 794-1184
DR. MIKE’S – BETHEL (MONROE)
As we mentioned last year, many aficionado’s feel heaven touches earth at this acclaimed scoop shop in downtown Bethel, now celebrating its 40th Anniversary. In honor of the birthday, they’ve added a freezer so now there are 10 daily choices drawn from an ensemble of 50 flavors. Dr. Mike (aka Robert Allison) has come up with a number of new flavors -- relying on summer’s bounty of berries. After a two year absence cookie dough ice cream is again available. The popular Chocolate Lace and Cream continues to be on the menu, its super creamy vanilla ice cream studded with tiny lattices of brittle hard chocolate (confected by a local candy shop) Rich Chocolate is also a menu constant which the late lamented Gourmet Magazine once crowned as the best in the World. Dr. Mike recommends his legendary molten hot fudge sundae, topped with homemade whipped cream. He also delivers to a Dr. Mikes in Monroe, but the shop is not owned by Allison. DM ice cream is also available at Marge’s in Stratford. (As a reader pointed out last year, her grandfather is credited with inventing the ice cream scoop.)
158 Greenwood Ave (203) 792-4388
DEBORAH ANN’S SWEETE SHOPPE – RIDGEFIELD
New this year are such exotic ice creams as Jalapeño Cornbread and Carrot cake. Since Deborah Ann’s is a sweet shop, offering both a candy store and an old fashion ice cream parlor, the ice creams studded and flecked with candies are what we recommend -- like English Toffee and Chocolate Fudge, which deliver gigantic chunks of delicious candy and super creamy ice cream. And we again tried the crème caramel coconut, which tasted like a frozen Almond Joy, minus the nuts. Just a reminder: the ice cream is hand made by Mr. Shane’s, once a beloved Ridgefield scoop shop, now closed.
381 Main St (203) 438-0065
EAST OF FAIRFIELD
Travel up the coast and you’re in for three vastly different ice cream experiences. You can journey back to the parlors of yesteryear, discover a summer-splashed beach stand, or enjoy the sparkle and whimsy of a gleaming urban ice cream parlor.
TIMOTHY’S -- BRIDGEPORT.
Ice cream served in a time capsule. This old fashioned parlor displays vintage ice cream makers and scoops amazing old-fashioned ice cream: dense, rich, creamy and smooth. While Timothy’s may not be as cutting edge as other shops, their menu boasts over 20 modern flavors from Caramel Crunch to Coffee Oreo. But we like the standards: Dutch Chocolate, Strawberry, or Vanilla. In fact Vanilla allows you to fully appreciate the sheer freshness and taste of unadulterated ice cream and here is where Timothy’s shines. Some complain that the shop is long in the tooth and could use a good cleansing. But as we pointed out last year, when you're traveling back in time, what’s a little dust? Timothy’s is also available at Bullshead Market in SONO.
Timothysicecream.weebly.com2974 Fairfield Ave (203) 366-7496
WALNUT BEACH CREAMERY – MILFORD
Here’s a recipe for the ultimate ice cream experience: Summer, the Seaside and a cone of freshly made Ice Cream that melts slowly in your mouth, no matter how hot the sun. If all that sounds yummy, come to Walnut Beach where Susan Patrick’s cheerful store front ice cream shop smiles at you, with a flirty wink. Last year we loved the violet shaded lavender-fig combo, its homespun, nutty tasting fruit given a spicy lavender kick. This year we’re mad for Mad Molley, a cinnamon flavored Belgium chocolate mixed with Oreo cookie crumbs. Call ahead to make sure it’s not sold out. Susan also offers sugarless options (Rum Raisin and Peanut Butter), which inspired a commercial sugar-free line called “Iskream.” Trouble is you finish the fantastic ice cream before you make it to the beach.
walnutbeachcreamery.com 17 Broadway 203-878-7738
ASHLEY’S – NEW HAVEN, BRANFORD, HAMDEN, MADISON, GUILFORD
This chain of family owned shops in New Haven County has been honored by many polls as the state’s best ice cream. We think there are other worthy contenders, but of all the parlors we visited, we loved coming back to the flagship location in New Haven the most. It’s the Platonic Ideal of a big city ice cream shop: brightly colored tiles, surgically clean, and totally happy. There’s lots of toppings and mix ins for the kids, and parents will appreciate the fresh, naturally flavored ice cream itself. Every flavor is hand made daily, five gallons at a time and sourced with fruits and berries from local farms like Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. Every holiday is celebrated with special flavors. We wondered who sweet Ashley was. Turns out he’s not a she, nor human. Ashley was a world famous dog who once frequented the store. Sadly the dog died years ago, and with it his favorite flavor, Chocolate Banana. It may be gone but the store serves 16 other variations of chocolate Ice Cream.
Ashleysicecream.net 280 York Street (203) 776-7744
WEST OF FAIRFIELD
Alas, Bliss, one of the best ice cream shops in the area didn’t survive the winter. Although many frozen dessert lovers in the southwest corner of the county seem to prefer gelato to ice cream, here are some good bets.
LONGFORD'S OWN MADE ICE CREAM -- OLD GREENWICH
Everyone knows that the primary taste of Ice cream is sweet. But the Mud Pie flavor we enjoyed last year at Longford's in Old Greenwich, was more than just sweet. The blend of chocolate and coffee created a rich umami underlayer that not only complemented but also intensified the sweetness. It’s one of 60 different flavors concocted by Nolan and Patricia West in Port Chester, which supplies both their Longford shops in Old Greenwich and Rye. They import their cocoa from Holland, use only premium nuts and candies, and mix in seasonal fruits. They also offer non-sugar choices like Black Raspberry, Coffee , and Vanilla. Longford’s packaged ice cream can also be found at Frosty Bear in Westport, and Glenville Scoops in Greenwich.
www.longfordsicecram.com 146 Sound Beach Avenue 203.637.0480
SWEET ASHLEY’S -- NORWALK
No relation to Ashleys in New Haven -- owner Steve Tyminski named this store after his daughter, just what you’d expect from a classic Mom and Pop shop. As we learned last year, they serve forty different tubs of handmade flavors, churned on premises. It takes about two days to make a five gallon tub, and over a hot summer week, customers can go through 90 of them! One of our faves is the toasted coconut. The Salty Turtle, caramel, chocolate, vanilla ice cream and salty roasted pecans, is a crowd pleaser, and was suggested by a customer. Have an idea for a flavor? Steve loves to invent flavors with his customers. Summer fruits are a good starting point. Nothing like sweet fruit and cream, as if fresh from i the dairy barn. (Back a hundred years ago cows and calves actually pastured near the close-by beach.)
sweetashleysicecream.com 248 East Avenue (203) 866-7740
GOFOR ICECREAM – GREENWICH, STAMFORD, DARIEN, BRIDGEPORT, COS COB. FAIRFIELD
With over 36 flavors on the menu, this Connecticut mini chain is open year round. Cherry Sensation is a stand out: cherries, chocolate fudge and "something crunchy" are mixed together in super smooth ice cream. Their strawberry malt is the best we’ve ever tasted. They replaced Bliss in its former location in Cos Cob.
BRENDAN’S 101 – ROWAYTON
Locals flock to this historic Royalton institution, just off the river. A combination of scoop shop, deli, gallery, and town melting pot, Brendan’s is famous for its old time ice cream socials. Be the highest bidder at their annual charity drive, and win an ice cream cone a day for life.
Brendans101.com 101 Rowayton Avenue (203).853.1050