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Oct 13, 2009 12:25 PM

Hungerford Drive's new "York Castle" IS The ORIGINAL GIFFORD'S ICE CREAM. (Proof)

With all due respect to Komomya's post below I believe this is a significant statement that I wanted to receive the attention it deserves.

Andrew Gifford, of the Gifford family wrote this a year ago in the Santa Fe Writer's Project: http://santafewritersproject.blogspot...
This excerpt details how Cal, formerly the plant manager of Gifford's at Georgia and Sligo in Silver Spring, opened York Castle in Montgomery Hills (featuring Carribean flavors) soon after Gifford's closed. It goes on to note that the "recipe" that was sold was not the correct one. ONLY the ice cream sold at York Castle was the same.

"You can get a scoop of real Gifford’s ice cream today thanks to Cal, mentioned above, who (perhaps unknowingly) contributed his notes to the forged recipes. His York Castle ice cream shop is an unassuming hole in the wall, and it’s the finest ice cream in the area. It’s not exactly Gifford’s, as Cal’s perfected his own technique over the last 20 years, but it’s damned close. He’s also kept the tradition of seasonal ice cream and the famous Gifford’s ice cream logs. The fresh peach ice cream? Yeah, it’s the same. The rum raisin and the peppermint stick? Yep, that’s Gifford’s."

But Cal sold York Castle several years ago and the new owners have changed the recipe.
Recently Cal opened the "new York Castle" on Hungerford Drive where the old Kohr Bros. was. He is selling the exact same flavors, Swiss sundae, sodas, etc. that the original Gifford's sold from 1937 to circa 1980. The Gifford's in Bethesda and elsewhere is NOT the same Gifford's that Washingtonians like myself grew up with.

Go to Rockville. From Manassas, from Lutherville, from Waldorf. This is GREAT ice cream that is "worth the journey." I was in Gifford's the last day it was open; I was in the original York Castle the first day it opened. Rockville is a short distance from Reston to recapture a memory and a taste. I am guessing that he probably has fresh pumpkin on the menu. It was one of the original Gifford's best flavors.

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  1. Have had the soursop at the new location and can confirm that it tastes like the York of old -- but I haven't been around these parts long enough to say whether it's akin to the original Gifford's (which I assume did not sell soursop ice cream!).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Marty L.

      Gifford's did not have tropical flavors; he started that using the Gifford's base when he first opened York Castle. This is not about those flavors: this is about a Swiss sundae or a real strawberry soda or fresh pumpkin or fresh peach ice cream. I am suggesting going to this York Castle and ordering as if you had stepped into a time machine and found yourself at Georgia and Sligo in 1980.

      1. re: Joe H

        I don't doubt that, Joe, and I plan to nab that pumpkin soon -- but you'd be really missing out on something if you didn't try Cal's tropical flavors, too; he's rightfully very proud of them.

    2. The Swiss sundae. Man, was that good. Haven't had one of those in about 30 years (the Gifford's on Lee Highway in Arlington). My brothers would probably fly in from California if it turns out they're making the genuine article.

      15 Replies
      1. re: flavrmeistr

        He is. Real whipped cream, too and the Swiss chocolate is made inhouse.

        1. re: Joe H

          This is so interesting. My mom fondly remembers going to the original Gifford's in Silver Spring. My question is why is the Gifford's at various locations not the "original"? The recipes weren't kept as they were? Seems like they are perpetuating a fraud. I look forward to your reply.

          1. re: jac0077

            Please read the link I supplied above. It was written by John Gifford.

            1. re: Joe H

              Frankly, I'm surprised that John Gifford wrote what he wrote. If my family members had committed a fraud, I doubt I'd be all that willing to broadcast their actions for the world to see. Do you know the circumstances of how something written for a Writing Workshop got published on a blog?

          2. re: Joe H

            What do you mean by "the Swiss chocolate is made in house"?

            1. re: sacklunch

              They make it themselves. Gifford's Swiss chocolate was one of the things they were most famous for.

              1. re: Joe H

                You mean they make the chocolate sauce, or they actually get cacao beans and make the actual chocolate? Sorry, just trying to clarify here...

                1. re: sacklunch


                  This would be a great short story assuming it's factual which I'm not saying it isn't. Even if just lore, still a great, local tale. I am already salivating over the peppermint stick.

                  1. re: sacklunch

                    Gifford's made all their own ice cream and a variety of chocolates and candies in house. The Swiss sundae was made with chocolate or chocolate almond ice cream, whipped cream and served with a little pitcher of hot fudge sauce on the side. The fudge was very dark and rich. Exquisite. It was a sad day when I returned to the area in the mid-80's and found a schlubby chain pizza joint in the former Lee Highway Gifford's location. There was another Gifford's at Bailey's Crossroads, roughly where Full Kee is now located. Don't know if they all bit it at once, or one at a time, as I was out of the area. I'm excited about the reincarnation in Rockville.

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      The Bailey's Crossroads shop was the last of the Virginia Giffords to go. I think there's a dry cleaner there now. Joe's isn't bad pizza, but not really special either. It's not a chain, just two locations (there used to be a third one, on the other side of Leesburg Pike from the Bailey's Crossroads Giffords). Much as I liked Giffords, and I was at least a once-a-weeker with a half gallon of Swiss Chocolate in the freezer, today I wouldn't make a special trip to Rockville to have it again.

                      Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be.

                      1. re: MikeR

                        Nor is there any longer a surfeit of cheap marijuana as there was back in the day, which I suspect was a major enhancer of the Gifford's experience.

                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                          This might be the single funniest comment I have read on this board. There is speculation that the same factor explains the great loyalty for Krispy Kreme donuts at the old Route 1 location south of Alexandria.

                      2. re: flavrmeistr

                        Thanks for this thread, as I wouldn't have noticed he had opened otherwise. We went by today. I am not from this area and don't have any memory of the old Gifford's, but I tried a sundae with Swiss Chocolate ice cream and swiss chocolate sauce.... good, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it, personally. Must be one of those childhood tastes that you reminisce about. Mine is Malley's tin roof in Cleveland. Anyway, Cal was really, really nice, and I had tastes of many of the tropical flavors and will go back for them. Also, the Amaretto was pretty amazing. This is really rich, yummy ice cream, and there's nothing else like it around here that I know of. I'll add that he is not sure he wants to stay open in the winter, because the shop was freezing today and he's not looking forward to what it will be like to try to heat it in the winter. He needs more business, so get ye up to Rockville so he will stay open!! It is yummy stuff. I will definitely be going back... the passionfruit was really good. I will need to try soursop. I'm sorry I don't have the burning memory of the swiss chocolate, rum raisin etc. Also, I didn't notice pumpkin on the menu, but maybe overlooked it. I told him to get in with the Montgomery College crowd... he's walking distance from campus, and I would think he'd be popular with college kids!! Keep him open!

                        1. re: wookyluvr

                          Gifford's were relatively large stores. In mid July they would have 90 or 100 people sitting at tables with another 50 or so standing in line either for take out or waiting for a seat. In December they were empty.

                          Even today Carl's in Fredericksburg closes four or five months out of the year. I really hope that Cal's shop survives. Yes, it's a memory. But it's also really good ice cream.

            2. York Castle has been a longtime favorite of mine, but this really takes the cake. The guy obviously really cares about what he makes. The swiss sauce is unique and wonderful. The rum raisin is great. One bite is all you need to realize this is a special place: the raisins are moist from being soaked in Jamaican rum. If you get the rum raisin with the swiss sauce you'll be floating on a cloud.

              1. Thanks Joe, so good to know about this! We went to Gifford's a lot when I was little -- usually in Bethesda after a soccer game.

                Offhand, does anyone have the address?

                17 Replies
                  1. re: Joe H

                    I saw that address too, but FYI if you are using google maps it seemed to place 827 Hungerford roughly at the Giant shopping center, and you had to go a little further north.

                    I also enjoyed the ice cream very much (the pina colada also has jamaican rum-- delicious!)

                    1. re: Joe H

                      Went tonight with the family, and had a long talk with Cal.

                      In fact, all of the open lawsuits and such have been settled, and they are SOON GOING TO REOPEN THE SILVER SPRING STORE! The Rockville store was opened on a whim just so they could open sooner than the few months it will take to reopen in Silver Spring.

                      On Cal's recommendation, I had a sundae with Black Cherry ice cream and Swiss Chocolate sauce. Heaven.

                      1. re: DanielK

                        That's great news (except maybe for my arteries).

                        1. re: DanielK

                          A Swiss sundae with Black Cherry ice cream...and whipped cream and chopped nuts...and a cherry.

                          We'll be there tomorrow!

                          Daniel, did he say where in Silver Spring?

                          1. re: Joe H

                            Joe, I think he named the intersection, but I was a little too focused on my sundae to remember that level of detail!

                          2. re: DanielK

                            Wow, a Silver Spring location! I wonder where it will be. The original store is now a daycare center. Could it be a couple doors north, where there used to be a Polish deli/store?

                            1. re: DCDeb

                              I remember Gifford's in Silver Spring from my childhood. It was not the ice cream flavors I recall so much as it was the hot toppings --- especially the butterscotch! It was out of this world good!!

                              I will go to the new York Castle up by Montgomery College --- I do like the York Castle in Silver Spring. Very yummy and interesting flavors!

                              I can't keep up with all the discussion on what recipe is what and what's original but I can say I like York Castle's flavors and it not being a fancy place --- and I have not been impressed with Gifford's in its current guise. Have had a few scoops that were too icy. That might be a function of how the store equipment works or the ice cream is stored though.

                              1. re: gelato98

                                My wife (who grew up in Arlington) and I went today to York Castle in Rockville. Things have changed. It is not the exact same ice cream that I experienced a number of years ago-either for Gifford's or for York Castle. (We had many visits to the York Castle in Montgomery Hills in the '80's and '90's.) The Swiss sundae, butter pecan, perhaps even the base are different from Gifford's in the '70's and York Castle in the '80's and '90's. Having said this several flavors were exceptionately good: pumpkin (which was a GREAT flavor; different from Gifford's pumpkin but great in its own way), black cherry and passionfruit. I believe that with 25+ years of successful operation York Castle stands on its own as one of the D. C. area's best ice cream parlors. But, today, it is not the same as what we once knew as Gifford's. Growing up in D. C. Gifford's had seasonal flavors that helped build their reputation. Pumpkin and peach were their best. I personally thought Gifford's pumpkin was one of the best ice cream flavors I have ever had in a store. Cal, at York Castle, is doing pumpkin as a seasonal flavor. No, I don't think it's Gifford's pumpkin.

                                I actually think it's better. Gifford's never did passion fruit. They should have.

                                1. re: Joe H

                                  OK, so what's the real deal here? Is it NOT the original Giffords as you professed in your first post about this place (or did you visit a different York Castle in Rockville than the one you first reported)? Or have the recipes and manufacturing mutated somewhat over the years? Or has your memory faded a bit?

                                  I certainly can't say for sure that the Swiss Chocolate that I had last week is exactly the same as the Swiss Chocolate that I had 20 years ago at the Gifford's on Lee Highway. I couldn't even say if what I had 20 years ago was the same as what I had 25 years ago.

                                  What I can say is that what I had out freshly scooped last week tastes better to me than the Swiss Chocolate that I've bought in a pint container at the grocery store on occasion over the past couple of years. I expect that the ingredients and manufacturing process are different, though I wouldn't be surprised if the primary difference in taste has to do with the freshness, air content, and storage temperature.

                                  Gifford's or not, if it's chocolate, it's all good. I don't have a lot to say either way about pumpkin or peach.

                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    What we had yesterday was different from the York Castle I last had four or five years ago. Then, both my wife and I had Swiss sundaes in Montgomery Hills. The Swiss sundae yesterday was different. In combination with the article from John Gifford and an early post on Rockwell I had assumed that the ice cream served at the "new" York Castle in Rockville was the same as that served at the "old" York Castle in Montgomery Hills with the further confirmation for it being the original Gifford's article. ("You can get a scoop of real Gifford’s ice cream today thanks to Cal...") It is not. My guess is that the article was based on the same experience that we had in the '80's and '90's at York Castle and most recently confirmed four or five years ago, i.e. that it was the same. John Gifford, like ourselves, based his comment on the earlier York Castle-not the current one.

                                    Since then the base has changed as well as some of the flavorings. Therefore, it is not/no longer the original Gifford's nor original York Castle ice cream. in our opinion.

                                    Now, having said this it is indeed excellent ice cream with several flavors that are equal to any flavor that Gifford's had. Among them, the "new" pumpkin, black cherry and passion fruit. The Swiss sundae sauce was different as was the cream topping and lack of chopped nuts. For us the Swiss sundae was a huge disappointment-we both agreed that the fudge itself was different. But, again, we overlooked this with the several excellent flavors we did find.

                                    My point is very simple: on our first visit to the "new" York Castle we found an excellent ice cream parlor that is well worth a visit. Several of its flavors are among the best in the area. But this is not a trip to a parlor that has ice cream similar to the title that started this thread. That has changed. I did not know this. I doubt if John Gifford knew this when he wrote it over a year ago. I believe that both of us were thinking of the earlier Montgomery Hills York Castle.

                                    Again, the new York Castle is well worth a visit. But a visit for itself, not as a memory of what it once may have been. Some of that is gone.

                                    New York Cafe
                                    1425 New York Ave NW Lbby 2, Washington, DC 20005

                            2. re: DanielK

                              Hi DanielK.

                              I went to the new York Castle tonight. Cal was super nice and gave us samples of the new pumpkin and a bunch of other flavors. Yum! After talking a bit, Cal's associate, Joe, told me what happened with the old York Castle in Montgomery Hills. The woman who bought the store defaulted on the deal and started to make her own version of the ice cream. That's why it started to taste different from the classic York Castle/Giffords recipe. There was a big legal dispute and Cal will regain the old store.

                              So, the reopening that Cal told you about is at the Montgomery Hills store (not the old Gifford's location) on Georgia Avenue just south of Seminary Road before the turn for 16th Street.

                              In the mean time, Cal said he is going to roll out egg nog flavor soon. After that, he is taking a short vacation. I told him to give us some notice so I can stock up before his trip.

                              1. re: DCDeb

                                I had the pumpkin today, too. Yum. :)

                                1. re: DCDeb

                                  I, too had the pumpkin (pumpkin-pecan, actually) yesterday, as well as the banana. Both excellent; although the pumpkin got a little tiring after 15 or so bites. Tried the swiss chocloate sauce -- not my thing.

                                  Cal indicated that the reopening in SS will not be anytime soon -- after all the many legal problems are resolved. So, for now, it's Rockville or bust.

                                  1. re: MartyL

                                    I need to return and try the banana.

                                    1. re: MartyL

                                      How was the banana, Marty? I LOVE banana ice cream and it's extremely hard to find any banana ice cream worth the time spent eating it or money spent buying it.

                                      1. re: Smokey

                                        I'm eating it now (prepacked). It tastes like, uh, real bananas! (not the artificial banana flavor one so often encounters). I envy you Rockvillians.

                            3. So is the New York Cafe at 14th and New York in DC an ice cream parlor? How many flavors do they carry? Do they have the rum raisin and pina colada flavors made with rum? Do they have the Swiss Sauce as Cal makes in Rockville?

                              I love hearing about the history, but I am even more interested in what I can taste now.

                              New York Cafe
                              1425 New York Ave NW Lbby 2, Washington, DC 20005

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Steve

                                Yesterday the Swiss sauce was different from before.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  The New York Cafe is someplace completely different -- seems to be a weird Chowhound link tying to York Castle.