When the hot weather hits it’s not difficult to find an ice cream in most places in the world. In fact, these days there seem to be almost as many kinds of ice cream parlour as there are restaurants, catering to an ever broader range of choices, local preferences and dietary requirements.
What makes a good ice cream or gelato is of course down to individual taste, so we’ve picked a few frozen faves from a handful of our destinations, with an emphasis on variety and quality…
Covent Garden’s controversy-courting The Icecreamists are worth a visit as much as for their wares as their décor and the names of their products. Inside the shiny black and hot pink-trimmed interior, rock ‘n’ roll delights like the ‘Sex Bomb’ and ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert’ are served alongside ‘Vice Cream’ cocktails. Gimmicks aside, the flavours are actually very good, though we’ve never tried the notorious ‘Baby Googoo’.
A visit to Chin Chin Laboratorists in Camden is like attending a (fun) science lesson with a treat at the end. Being the only parlour in the country that creates its ice cream with the aid of liquid nitrogen, CCL’s set-up is more than a little different. Make your order and watch as the lab coat and goggle-wearing staff concoct your dessert in front of you, amidst glass mixing bowls, pipes and vapours. The result of the experimental approach – which they’ll happily explain to you – is uniquely smooth ice cream quite unlike anything else you’ll find in town.
Just round the corner from The Icecreamists, but at the other end of the spectrum, Scoop in Covent Garden abides by the motto “Natural Luxury”. Everything in this gelateria’s extensive range is free from artificial additives and made from the highest quality ingredients sourced from all over the world. Try the Tiramisu flavour made with genuine Italian mascarpone, or the Green Tea whose main ingredient is direct from Kyoto. Scoop’s second branch is in nearby Brewer St, Soho.
Even notorious fusspots Michael Winner and Gordon Ramsay are keen on Oddono’s in upmarket South Kensington. If this gimmick-free Italian-owned store is about one thing, it’s classic gelato, fresh and handmade daily on-site. There are other equally high quality options on offer though; delicious 0% fat sorbets and even soya-based gelati for a dairy-free alternative, not to mention very good coffee.
Since launching in 2008, Van Leeuwen have been putting smiles on the faces of New York City’s ice cream aficionados. Keeping things simple with ten regular flavours, their rich artisan product is made with hormone-free milk from local cows and is as creamy as it comes. Stores are in the East Village and Brooklyn’s Green Point and Boerum Hill neighbourhoods, but if you’re elsewhere in town, look out for their instantly recognisable cream-coloured vans or find out where they’re headed via Twitter. Our flavour tip for the best ice cold kick is ginger.
Since 1978, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has been the place to head for a freezing fix of a more exotic nature. Any place where red bean, peanut butter & jelly and green tea appear on the ‘regular’ flavours menu, has got to be worth a visit, right?
Inspired by a trip to Italy, Jon Snyder founded what has become one of the city’s biggest Gelato chains, Ciao Bella before selling it at the age of 25. The name of his second venture Il Laboratorio del Gelato gives something of a clue as to how serious he takes his craft. Tirelessly experimenting in his Lower East Side ‘lab’, he’s turned out 200 flavours of gelato and sorbet, from chestnut honey to cheddar cheese, licorice to lychee, all produced in small handmade batches. Where the novel meets the refined head on.
Another newish but staple stop in Brooklyn is the award-winning and super eco-friendly Blue Marble – also the only parlour to have a concession on Governor’s Island. Again, the company’s green ethos dictates that simple and classic flavours rule, with additions coming only according to ingredients’ seasonal availability. Even if you’re not in an ice cream mood (or the weather isn’t), both the Cobble Hill and Prospect Heights locations are great hangouts with teas, coffees and baked goods every bit as delicious as the cold stuff.
A sister store to the Mission District’s Bi-Rite organic food market, Bi-Rite Creamery works on the same responsible and sustainable principles, with spectacularly tasty results. Only house-made and locally-sourced ingredients go into the Bay Area’s purest ice cream indulgences, whose divine flavours include ‘Brown Butter Pecan’, ‘Coffee Toffee’ and ‘Roasted Banana’. Other tastes are catered for with daily changing sorbets and cupcakes.
Where else but SF would you expect to find the world’s most eccentric selection of flavours? Humphry Slocombe‘s rotational menu includes out-there varieties like the ‘Strawberry Candied Jalapeno’ and a host of booze-infused classics including the ‘Secret Breakfast’, which somehow manages to blend bourbon and corn flakes and make it work.
For a different kind of different again, Bombay Ice Cream, which doubles up as a great Indian fast food restaurant is the stop for wholesome but unusual ices. Among the sub-continental style ingredients are cashew and raisin, cardamom, chai and fig.
You’re not going to have trouble finding ice cream in sun-soaked Sin City, but you can’t beat your own, custom made selection. At Atomic #7 it’s all about goodness and choice: you can make up your own dessert with any combination of weird and wonderful flavours and it will be low-fat, 100% organic and even dairy-free. All served in biodegradable cups and bowls too – everybody’s happy.
For those who like things really rich and creamy, head off the Strip to Luv-It Frozen Custard. Made with an egg base, frozen custard is thicker than regular ice cream – and there must be something to its unique consistency as Luv-It have been trading here for 38 years already.
The best in the rest…
If you find yourself sweltering in some of our other destinations this summer, here’s a few more picks: If you’re in the Boston area head to Toscanini’s in Cambridge, which is said by People Magazine to serve the best vanilla ice-cream in all of the United States.
In Miami, Cuban-style Miami Copellia dishes up tropical flavours in retro sundae dishes – try a decadent Copa Lolita.
XTC Gelato in Hong Kong specialise in natural artisan gelato and sorbetto and everything’s made by hand.
In Los Angeles, Mashti Malone’s is run by two Iranian brothers and is a huge hit with all the local celebs – try an ice-cream sandwich with saffron-pistachio ice-cream stuffed between two wafers.
Vintage 84 year old parlour Rainbow Cone in Chicago serves enormous carry-out cakes featuring five different flavours alongside its normal range, and Max’s Best in Washington DC’s Glover Park neighbourhood rotates through 200 different flavours, including spicy pumpkin, blueberry cream and mochachino.