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Aug 3, 2009 02:15 PM


Are there two Gifford's ice creams? I was in Snider's the other day and came across quarts and half gallons of Gifford's-- but the label was different than DC's own Gifford's. Looking at the label it is 8-12 percent butterfat content and says something about "Maine's Original." Now our Giffords is true premium ice cream with high butterfat content and quite a bit more money (and taste). Talk about confusion... any thoughts?

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  1. There are three Gifford's ice creams:

    1. The original Gifford's which started in the 1930's and closed in 1982 whose base is duplicated by the Montgomery Hills York Castle in their non tropical flavors. (Try the Swiss Chocolate which that York Castle sells or a Swiss Chocolate sundae there.) This is NOT sold under the Gifford's name. In many ways the original Gifford's was very similar to Cincinnati's Graeters, especially a couple of their older stores. It was richer than the "new" Gifford's.
    2. The "new" Gifford's is a group that bought the Gifford's name and, I think, some of their candy recipes and decided to reintroduce Gifford's to the D. C. area after a lengthy absence. This is different ice cream. It is fairly good but it doesn't approach the original.
    3. Gifford's from Maine is a long standing Maine ice cream company which sells their ice cream both in stores and in their own outlets. It is not an ice cream to drive out of your way for.

    My comments about York Castle are based on many visits from 1982 until three or four years ago which was our last. Both my wife and I grew up with Gifford's (she in Arlington and I in Silver Spring) and when we moved to Reston we made annual pilgramages to Montgomery Hills to have it.

    There was also a time when Gifford's made their ice cream totally in house in their small ice cream "factory" at the corner of Georgia and Sligo. Sometime in the '70's a law was passed which forced them and other stores to have their base made by a dairy. Shenandoah was the last dairy to make the original Gifford's ice cream and the first to make York Castle. Last, the man who made Gifford's ice cream when it closed opened York Castle as his own store only a month or two after the closing. He used the same base and the same suppliers.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Joe H

      Any more info on York Castle- location, website... why no visits in the past few years? I'd love to go with you as you seem to love ice cream as much as I! I used to consult with a company called Woo City in NE Ohio... crazy (and very nice) the family who owned it were from Hawaii... the wife came up with the oddest ice creams but many were magnificent! Nothing like that here I suppose...

      1. re: ClevelandDave

        Dave, we live in Reston and, for no particular reason, just haven't made it back in a while. I only mention three or four years because it may have changed ownership, etc. But for 20+ years his non tropical flavors were the exact ice cream that he use to make when he worked for Gifford's. He just never bought the name and decided to emphasize the tropical.

        Still, the original Swiss sundae is awesome!

        1. re: ClevelandDave

          Please note that the "Tropical Ice Cream" store no longer serves real York Castle ice cream. Please check out this discussion on Chowhound

        2. re: Joe H

          There is a story in the news today that Gifford's of Maine just bought the local Gifford's.

          1. re: ivysmom

            That ice cream is ok to decent but nothing special.

        3. Gifford's scoop shops have been sold to a Baltimore investor. Article in today's Post:

          1. Wow, I can't believe Gifford's sold their ice cream shops. I noticed quality was going down, but I didn't think that they were going to sell the entire retail business. I also heard their ice cream isn't batch frozen or hand made anymore, but made by a big ice cream manufacturer in PA.

            23 Replies
            1. re: tbantug

              Maybe this is why they changed their flavors/ingredients. I started a thread here a few months back about it. My favorite beloved (and much purchased) Gifford's deep chocolate with chocolate chunks was changed into something awful and not very tasty. Sad, so many former Gifford's lovers that are friends have mine have all dropped them too. They might have saved money - but so far this change has them losing tons of customers. Hope it was worth it to you Giffords!

              1. re: beauxgoris

                I still find myself going there every now and then, for one reason only... they are located next to the two local Landmark theaters, both of which I haunt on a fairly regular basis. With time to kill before a movie, Gifford's is irresistible. Their ice cream has become increasingly disappointing over the past few years that I've lived here. One day soon I'll say, "never again!", but that hasn't happened yet.

                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  Yeah, we pretty much only go there after a movie (or occasionally in the summer for cheap sundaes). I don't think their ice cream is bad, it's just not particularly good. I'd say they are right around Ben and Jerrys quality.

                2. re: beauxgoris

                  Gifford's in Bethesda seems to be on life-support. The shop only operated with limited hours over the long Labor Day weekend. On Saturday, a handwritten sign noting reduced hours was accompanied by text about "irresponsible management", or something similar. When I stopped by a few minutes before 9 p.m. the next night the doors were already locked. A worker was still inside, but didn't offer to open the doors when I knocked. Meanwhile, Haagen-Dazs was teeming with people enjoying their ice cream on such a lovely evening. At least I managed to get a cone the day before, though I wonder if it will be my last. I too noticed that the famous 72% chocolate bore only a limited resemblance to the intense flavor we enjoyed last year.

                  Like others CHs who have posted, I am sad to see Gifford's decline.

                  1. re: uwsgrazer

                    There was an article months ago about the retail stores closing so the owners could focus on wholesale distribution. A few weeks ago, the Rockville town center store had only a few flavors, and no explanation from the kids who worked there. This all bears out what we've been noticing for almost a year now; it would have been nice if the owners were big enough to tell us loyal and prospective customers what was happening, considering the passion that many people had about the reopening of Giffords some years back.

                    1. re: Joe H

                      My first Giffords experience was about 1964. The last was probably the summer of '77. more recent ice cream experience (last Saturday) was at Nutter's in Sharpsburg. I got a double cone of black raspberry and mocha chip and my wife got a single (hazelnut, I think) for a grand total of $3.07. It was pretty good ice cream, too.

                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        Sinplicity, which I bought at the Reston Farmer's Market on Saturday morning (three different flavors including an incredible Irish cream w/ walnuts) may be as good as the original Gifford's. I would make the argument that this is the best commercially available ice cream in the Washington area today. Seven dollars a pint and worth every penny.

                        6402 Arlington Blvd Ste B150, Falls Church, VA 22042

                        1. re: Joe H

                          uwsgrazer I'm glad to read someone else noticed their famous 72% chocolate chip ice cream has changed. I used to buy a pint a week, but not more. The ice cream isn't as dark and the chips are tiny compared to what they were. So sad.

                          1. re: beauxgoris

                            beauxgoris - Sad indeed. According to this report in yesterday's Washington Post, we may have been duped into eating Hood's ice cream!!


                            1. re: uwsgrazer

                              uwsgrazer - Thank you for the article and link. I guess I was right! That was *not* the same Giffords I had and loved for years. So sad though to think I'll never have that ice cream again. Why do people always have cut corners (or cheat and lie) and ruin a great product.

                              1. re: beauxgoris

                                What ever happened to the guy who was the Giffords "mixmaster" who had the York Castle in Rockville (tenuously associated with the York Castle in Silver Spring) last year? Is he still around? He claimed he was making his ice cream just like he did at the real Giffords, and based on my one visit (Swiss Chocolate) and other positive reports here, it was close enough to the original - I can't rely on my taste memory to be valid after 20 years - to enjoy it as much as ever.

                                This was such a financial and legal mishmash that he may have just gone back under ground.

                                Earlier York Castle thread (JoeH) here:

                                1. re: MikeR

                                  York Castle Rockville is alive and well and putting out spectacular ice cream.

                                  They still have the Swiss Chocolate (ice cream AND sauce), and all of the funky island fruit ice cream flavors on the menu. Made with fresh fruit, not flavorings.

                                  And if you think you've ever had mint chip ice cream before, until you have some where actual mint leaves were mixed in to make the flavor earlier that day, you're kidding yourself.

                                  1. re: DanielK

                                    Good to hear that he's still doing it. I just wish the place was closer - or maybe I should be thankful that it isn't.

                          2. re: Joe H

                            i had sinplicity ice cream at the mad fox in falls church. it was delicious, and the tiny chocolate bits in it (like medium size flakes, really) were not hard as is generally the case with other chocolate "chip" ice creams. the chocolate, therefore, had a good flavor, and you could tell it was quality chocolate. recommended!

                            (ice cream far better than the food there, btw).

                            1. re: alkapal

                              Not Giffords, not Sinplicity, but I remember buying some grocery store brand (maybe even Ben & Jerry's) within the last few years called something like Chocolate Truffle which had chocolate bits softer than the chunks, flakes, or "drops" that get rock hard at ice cream temperature.

                              Anybody remember that, and who made it?

                              1. re: MikeR

                                for a while, godiva brand (actually made in texas) made some awesome chocolate ice creams. that "truffle" sounds familiar.

                                a thread on godiva ice cream...

                                hmmm, i think there may be another "truffle" ice cream that i've had recently... it has little soft "truffles" proper in the ice cream right?

                                now, i've got to go hunting!

                                maybe it was this edy's flavor:

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  I think you're correct about the Godiva truffle ice cream. I haven't bought Godiva in quite some time. The Edy's sounds promising, but I usually buy their yogurt blends. Better for me, I hope, as I'm an ice cream addict.

                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    poor old godiva is gone.

                                    i like edy's french silk! problem is, i have to be in a mood for ice cream, and it takes up space in my cramped freezer. i'm going to see if that edy's truffle-ganza is around.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      No wonder I haven't had Godiva ice cream in a while. I, too, like the Edy's French Silk, but it's hard shards of chocolate, not the soft truffle bits. The Edy's Truffle-ganza doesn't sound familiar, but there's an odd thing about ice cream - seems that there's a lot of competition for shelf space in the freezer, and, beyond the core flavors of each brand, the different grocery stores have different extra flavors. What you see at Giant might not be at Harris-Teeter.

                                      1. re: MikeR

                                        i don't recall french silk having choco-bits. it has been a while, though, so i just may not remember it well. it is "silky" though.
                                        the giant at bailey's crossroads is a nice big store, and the harris teeter on duke street, with lots of space and varieties of items.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          checked on french silk and -- as you say -- it has choco-shards and some swirls of vanilla-y stuff.

                                          i saw gifford's brand in the harris teeter, in gold-ish colored pint containers; it was about the same price as hāagen-dazs and ben & jerry's, fyi.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            The grocery store Gifford's is about the same quality as Haagen-dazs, too, just a different set of flavors. I get a pint of Swiss Chocolate now and then just for nostalgia's sake, but you know what they say, nostalgia isn't as good as it used to be.

                                            1. re: MikeR

                                              Has the quality of the grocery store Giffords also changed as well? The chocolate isn't as chocolate (nibs aren't really there) as I remember...

                3. I looked in the windows of the Gifford's on E Street last night about 6::30. No one in there I could see, no ice cream out. It looked to be in the early stages of dismantling.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                    There was an interesting post on Rockville Central about Gifford's yesterday. They posted this statement from Gifford's Wholesale:

                    Unfortunately, the Baltimore guy has been a terrible partner to us, to the landlords, to the suppliers, etc. and we are in court with him to try and get the stores back. Due to the length of time it takes in the court system, we are not sure if that is going to happen (legally getting the stores back) before the landlord’s formally evict him from the premises.

                    Gifford’s Wholesale is actively looking to find new franchisees and present them to the landlord as alternatives.

                    The full post is at:

                    1. re: amarynth

                      So sad - I guess Gifford's is gone. I drove by the old store in friendship heights and there was a for rent sign on it.

                      1. re: beauxgoris

                        Very sad. We drove by the Bethesda location on Christmas Eve, but you can't really make things out from the street, as the store is actually farther back in a pedestrian-only area. I could still make out the store signage. If I didn't know better I would have thought the store was open, but I suspect it was dark inside.

                        1. re: uwsgrazer

                          The retail stores are all closed, but it was completely separate ownership from the wholesale producer, who is still packaging Gifford's ice cream for retail sales.

                          1. re: DanielK

                            "still packaging Gifford's ice cream for retail sales."

                            Don't you mean "still packaging ice cream with the Gifford's name" for retail sales? <g>

                            1. re: MikeR

                              Sure, if you're pining for the Gifford's of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, this isn't it.

                              But it's the same "Gifford's" ice cream that they've been packaging for years, and the same ice cream that up until a year ago was in the Gifford's stores, and is still available in local grocery stores and restaurants.

                              1. re: DanielK

                                I guess I must be thinking of the past. The last time I was at Gifford's was before the shop at Bailey's Crossroads closed (or was it the Lee Highway one that lasted a little longer?). I never cared for the grocery store version, I only got it freshly dipped, and I liked sitting at a table and being served a sundae. .

                  2. i just heard a news report that the giffords takeover of giffords local stores will be using the original hand-written recipe.

                    i have never had giffords.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: alkapal

                      Is this the Gifford's that recently closed?