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artisan ice cream in Boston?

Hello Boston Chowhounders! My family recently relocated to the Cambridge area from the SF Bay Area and I am seeking some high quality ice cream. Creative flavors are nice but what I am really after is fresh ice cream that doesn't have weird fillers in it. Many people have recommended Toscanini's but according to the ingredient list on their cartons at Whole Foods it has some kind of gum product added to it. I've enjoyed "Batch" which meets these criteria but would love some other local options. Any ice cream shops out there (along the lines of Bi-Rite, Ici and Mr&Mrs Misc. in the SF area, or the Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ)I should try?

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    1. This isn't strictly to the point, but ...

      Use of a gum as a gelling or thickening agent in ice-cream isn't necessarily an indication that the product is an example of industrial chemistry that bears no resemblance to real ice-creams that are based on creme anglaise.

      Not all industrial techniques have the sole purpose of reducing costs: gums, glucose syrups, etc can actually improve the product (with those examples, to improve the texture or inhibit formation of ice crystals). Techniques used by modernist chefs often have their origins in industrial food manufacturing and preparation, and we celebrate their use by chefs; when used by an industrial manufacturer, they're no less beneficial.

      If the full list of Toscanini's ingredients resembles the below (a Unilever product), then certainly it is probably better not to eat it; otherwise, try it and see whether you like it.

      Dairy ingredients (reconstituted buttermilk and/or skim milk, whey powder)(cream and/or milkfat), cane sugar, wheat flour, vegetable oil, glucose syrup (from wheat, contains preservative 220), peanuts, cocoa, emulsifiers (471, soybean lecithin), vegetable gums (412, 410, 407, 401), gelatine, salt, flavours, colour (160b), malt extract (from barley).

      1. Besides Toscanini's, there's Christina's in Inman Square. There's no shortage of great ice cream in the area -- Richardson's, JP Licks, Emack & Bolio's.

        If all else fails, you can find Jeni's Ice Cream (winner of the "Best Ice Cream in America") at several shops in the area.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Boston_Otter

          I'd put Rancatore's Christina's and Toscanini's a step above Richardson's, JP Licks, Emack & Bolio's, though I like them all.

          Not sure what "artisan" ice cream would be. You're just dumping cream, salt and ice into a machine. Does using a hand crank make it an "artisanal" technique?

          1. re: Boston_Otter

            Where can Jeni's be found in the area? I don't think I've seen it? Thanks

            1. re: catsmeow

              Is that the ice cream from Columbus, OH? I think I saw it at Formaggio. Or was it Pemberton? One of those places. They're close to each other, so if it's not at Formaggio, swing over to Pemberton! Or, just call them, I guess.

              1. re: Alcachofa

                Jeni's is definitely at Formaggio and definitely not cheap.
                Graeter's is good too, available at Whole Foods.

                1. re: rknrll

                  I've had the latter one. It is very good.

          2. I don't know the ingredient list but Picco in the South End makes incredible ice cream -- really pure flavors (their coffee and cinnamon flavors come to mind).

            1. Nothing quite like Batch here - that stuff sounds like the bomb.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                Isn't Batch made in JP? I tried a few pints a few years ago. The flavors were a bit too muted for my taste. Although the flavors seemed promising, they didn't deliver, especially for the price.

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    The texture of HS's product just doesn't hold up compared to Tosci's. I'm sure you can make equally smooth and creamy ice cream that would be a worthy competitor without the use of nondairy/egg ingredients, but you'd have to handle it differently than they do at HS.

              2. I didn't mean to offend anyone by using the buzz-word "artisan," which I lifted directly from the Bent Spoon website. I'm generally looking for an absence of industrial processing and commitment to freshness. Homemade ice cream is my favorite but it's fun to visit ice cream shops too (especially if you have small kids!), and I'm simply seeking ideas for places to try here, so thanks for your suggestions! Batch is a local product but as far as I can tell they don't have a store, just sell pints. I tried Jeni's once in NYC and loved it, glad to hear it's also available to buy here. Also, FWIW, I think even the cynics might be converted into "artisan ice cream" enthusiasts if they tried some of the shops I mentioned!

                5 Replies
                1. re: satsumaimo

                  Toscanini's makes everything it sells at its store in a room next to the store, so don't know how you could get more "artisan" than that, whatever the hell that means.

                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                    Seriously where is the "industrial processing" in that? You can stand on the street and watch them make it. The gums used are only processed as much as the homogenized and pasteurized milk you'd find in any ice cream...

                    1. re: Luther

                      And aren't the gums used in ice cream just vegetable-based gums?

                      Whole foods had Graeter's on sale for $4.99/pint. I noticed it had some gum additives, but seemed quite wholesome overall. The texture was fine, maybe not quite as good as Ranc's or the other high-end places around. Boy did it have tons of chocolate chips in the black raspberry-chip!

                      Probably my favorite ice cream place is Meletharb in Wakefield. Talk about smooth and creamy, and the baklava ice cream is really sweet but still delicious. Unfortunately they don't list their ingredients on the web as far as I can tell.

                      1. re: bear

                        Yes but they are INDUSTRIAL and therefore not ARTISAN dude

                  2. re: satsumaimo

                    I've been to Bi-Rite and Ici...and I love Toscanini's. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. I much prefer Tosci's to what I had at Ici, and maybe about even with Bi-Rite (though it's been a few years -- I just remember being disappointed at Ici). Of course, I'm going on taste, texture, and flavor options, not on whether it has any additives.

                  3. imo, welcome to Boston. I know you'll find lots of foods to enjoy here, but i'm sure you also know that equalling SF is pretty impossible. But Boston does have so many wonderful features.

                    I have had Buy Rite's and that place across the street and a block west of the Buy Rite's in the Mission. Their ice creams were delicious but not superior to Toscanini's imo. Fiorello's,made in San Rafael,is fantastic.
                    I am not a fan of Ciao Bella products and I'm guessing you are not either. You might enjoy the gelati at Cafe dello Sport on Hanover in the North End (imported from Italy.)

                    And the 2 Formaggio Kitchen stores carry pints of a number of artisinal small batch ice creams.

                    Also, in case this might be helpful:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      Thanks for the wonderful link, looking forward to checking out some of these places!

                      If you make it back to the Bay Area Ici in Berkeley is definitely worth a try, wonderful homemade butter-cookie cones as well!

                    2. Visited the Bay area this past summer and stopped at Bi-Rite twice on that trip...that damn salted carmel was killer. Also really enjoyed the Three Twins which we now buy at Whole Foods once in a while.

                      This is not a retail packaged recommendation but my favorite ice cream in Boston is from Picco. Not sure if they use any fillers but I am usually blown away by the purity of flavor and how taking a bite makes you think your munching on pistachios etc. They also have a pretty nice beer selection and some of the better pizza in Boston so think of it as our version of a Bi-Rite/Delfina mashup.

                      Give it a try.