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Jul 27, 2009 01:50 PM

Hard ice cream in NoVA?

Hounds, I moved to the Fairfax area from Boston fairly recently and I'm a bit confused about the ice cream offerings around here. All I can find is soft ice cream and custard. I've tried Ethan's dairy bar in Manassas and a couple of other soft ice cream places, but haven't been impressed.

Isn't there any New England-type hard ice cream around (expensive gelato doesn't count)? I miss Steve's, Richardson's, Toscanini's, Christina's, etc. I've been resorting to our local Friendly's out of desperation (Baskin/Robbins is not even edible). TIA!

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  1. If you're talking about ice cream parlors, no, they've mostly all gone away. There's Baskin-Robbins, of course, and a few Hagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry's stores where you can get a cone or a sundae in a take-out cup, but that's about it.

    There are some better than average packaged ice creams available in grocery stores. Willams-Sonoma has some pretty good sauces. Get yourself some fancy glasses at World Imports and make your ice cream treats at home.

    1. Have you tried the place just south of 50 off West Ox, sort of behind Safeway (is it still there?)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dennis S

        That's the Yum Yum Cafe you're refering to, and yes, it's still there.

        1. re: dpan

          Can you add anything more? I liked it the one time I went with my daughter. I don't like sweets in general, but it (in my mind) became our go-to place after our one visit. Nothing stellar, but seemed to be a local affair and good overall - and they have decent enough coffee!

          1. re: Dennis S

            My kids like to go for the ice cream, it's pretty good, but it's just like Baskin Robbin. I don't have a sweet tooth so I don't go for the other things like the baklava. If you like those heavy middle eastern sweets, this is your place.

      2. Try Max's Best on Wisconsin Avenue just north of Georgetown in Glover Park (across from the Whole Foods). It's more like JP Licks or Emack & Bolios's than Toscanini's or Christina's, but still good.

        1. You'll eat Friendly's (gack!) and not Baskin-Robbins? [*scratches head in puzzlement*]

          Very highly praised house-made frozen custard at "The Dairy Godmother"

          1. There isn't anything better than Thomas Sweet on Wisconsin Ave in Georgetown.
            Old School hand made hand scooped with all kind of custom ice cream flavors like
            Tiramisu just a great summer place to hang out and get dipped.

            8 Replies
            1. re: keithlb1

              The original Steve's first outpost outside of Boston was in College Park in the mid '70's. After a number of years it went out of business. But Steve Herrell moved to Northhampton and that was the end of his Boston store, too. (Did you ever have the original Bart's?) I am not a fan of Toscanni's although everyone on the Boston board is. Washington does have the best "store bought" ice cream that I've had in years and it is called "Simplicity" and is made by a company in Falls Church. Balducci's sells it for about $6.00 a pint or so. Stores? The Princeton based Thomas Sweet in Georgetown is probably the best. "Soft" is Neilson's on Church street in Vienna. I am not as big of a fan of the Dairy Godmother as most others on here. I still remember Max's Best when it was opened under a different name. Great D. C. ice cream like the University Pastry Shop, Wagshal's (which they sold in the '70's-NOT what they sell today), Avignon Freres and the original Gifford's which closed in the early '80's no longer exists.

              With one exception: I haven't been in about three years or so but the man who made the ice cream at Gifford's at Georgia and Sligo for it's last ten or so years opened his own place a month or so after Gifford's closed. He made the EXACT SAME ICE CREAM which also includes the EXACT SAME SWISS CHOCOLATE and making ice cream sodas the same way (i.e. mixing a tablespoon of ice cream in with the soda water first). The name was York Castle and his first store was in Montgomery Hills just south of Seminary. He could not claim it was Gifford's-he didn't own the name. When Gifford's sold their name years later the recipe was changed. But for over twenty years York Castle in Silver Spring made the exact same ice cream that its owner made at Gifford's when he was their plant manager.

              I know all of this because I was in the Silver Spring Gifford's the last hour it was open and was in York Castle a few minutes after it opened on its first day.

              1. re: Joe H

                I was a fixture at Bart's in Amherst in the 80's. What great memories. I also remember waiting half an hour in line at the Steves on Mass Ave in the middle of winter for a mix in. I liked Herrell's but not as much as Steve's. Are those places still around?

                I also like Nielsen's frozen custard--you can get hard scoopable custard, too.

                As store bought ice cream goes, WF carries a local one (I can't remember the name) that's pretty good but doesn't compare to Bart's, or at least my memory of Bart's. I'd like to try Haggen Dazs' Five--made with five ingredients: cream, sugar, eggs, milk, and one more flavor.

                1. re: chowser

                  Some Whole Foods carry Sinplicity, the local brand that Joe raves about. I was looking for it to give it a try and it wasn't at the Falls Church Whole Foods. I broke down and bought a pint at Balducci's. Bonus was that they had samples of their Chocolate Decadence cake out in the bakery department. I had two!

                  1. re: chowser

                    Bart's is no longer in Amherst and, I believe, it was bought out by another company and is sold in supermarkets under the Bart's name in western MA. But it's not the same. The Northampton store was one of the best on earth. Serious hyperbole but it was seriously good ice cream. Steve Herrell's is still there almost across the street but it doesn't carry the same appeal for me. Lineage of Neilsen's is that the Salt Lake City original's owner once worked in Milwaukee Kopp's and brought a lower butterfat version of Kopp's to Salt Lake. Most frozen custard is 10% butterfat with low overrun. Kopp's is 16%-a real number.

                    Chowser, on your profile I noted that you like Patowmack Farm. Did you go to the original when Beverly just had a tent and tiki torches on the hillside? A different chef, too. I wrote this on here about it in 2002:

                    And, if you are really into ice cream, I make it with a, now, forty year old White Mountain freezer with rock salt and ice and Lewes Dairy heavy cream, Vermont or Irish butter, etc. is a post of mine on here about a flavor that has now become a standard for me.

                    The Sinplicity really is good. York Castle's "original" Gifford's flavors (i.e. French Almond, Swiss Chocolate, butter pecan, peach, strawberry, pumpkin, etc.) are excellent. Moorenko's and Thomas Sweet are really worth a visit, too.

                    Still, last week I was in Louisville where there is an outpost of Cincinnati's Graeter's. At 11:00 at night I had a large dish (2/3 of a pint) of their strawberry chip which has large chunks of chocolate in it. For me, Graeter's remains the best store bought ice cream I've found.

                    1. re: Joe H

                      That's a nice review on Patowmack Farm. I visited our first time a year or two after your review, after they built the glass conservatory. We went in October and the view was beautiful w/ the foliage. Beverly greeted us and we had a great time. With the glass conservatory, you feel like you're outside but w/out the elements. It must have been fun, a completely different experience, with the tiki torches and tent. I haven't been in a couple of years but we enjoyed the food. As you said in your review, it was excellent, mostly locally sourced. I have had better dinners in the area (would put L'Auberge Provencal over it) but the whole experience was wonderful.

                      Thanks for the heads up on that ice cream recipe. I do make my own (w/ an old 80's Danvier hand mix) and will give it a try. It sounds great.

                      Okay, the ice cream I had at WF was Moorenko--the other posts reminded me of the name. I liked it but it doesn't compare to the ones from NE and I prefer Middleburg Creamery. As hard frozen custard goes, if anyone gets up to Maryland, the Meadows does a pretty good frozen custard with different flavors.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Is the Meadows the one in Hagerstown?

                        1. re: Joe H

                          I've only had it from Fredericksburg but looked it up and there is one in Hagerstown. I think it's a local franchise.

                          1. re: chowser

                            We stopped in the one in Hagerstown. It has a frozen custard machine similar to Neilson's/Dairy Godmother/Milwaukee Frozen Custard. All of these put out "scoopable" frozen custard similar to what the ElectroFreeze machines did in the '40's and '50's. Carl's in Fredericksburg and Klein's in Harrisonburg (as of two years ago) still have original ElectroFreeze machines as does the original Kohr Bros. on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, NJ-but only this one.