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May 5, 2010 10:22 AM   Subscribe

What is it with New England and ice cream? I've heard it as a stereotype that loving ice cream (to the extent that it towers above other dessert options) is a defining feature of New England. Have you found that to be the case? Do other regions have defining desserts?
posted by dame to Society & Culture (105 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've lived in New England all my life, and I didn't know that we're defined as ice cream lovers. That said, though, the main selling point of the house we bought last year, for me, was that it's in walking distance of my favorite ice cream place. And, now that I think about it, my daughter does have ice cream for dessert every night...
posted by Ruki at 10:25 AM on May 5, 2010 know, my first reaction to this was, "Dude, who DOESN'T love ice cream?" But then, I spent the first 18 years of my life in the Boston area, and have planned entire evenings around going for ice cream, and have engaged in heated debates on the relative merits of Four Seas (Centerville) and the Polar Cave (Mashpee).... perhaps that's telling.

(If you want to be ULTRA New England about it, Maple Walnut is the way to go.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:27 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

New York loves the hell out of cupcakes, especially gourmet/gimmick/exotic ones. One of Philly's big things are Tastykakes (headquartered there, I believe). Pinkberry was born in LA. San Francisco has Ghirardelli chocolate.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2010

I've never heard that stereotype either. Ice cream is popular in alot of places. I mean, in the midwest US frozen custard gets a bit more play, but it's essentially same idea in my mind. Plus, in some other countries, it's just as popular. I remember street carts with ice cream in Antigua Guatemala, for example.
posted by cabingirl at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2010

I went out for ice cream more in my 4 months living in Boston than anywhere else I've ever lived. It is definitely A Thing. (Granted, I lived near the ice cream shop dubbed "the best ice cream in the world" by the NYT.)

I am also curious to know the answer. You'd think New Englanders would be busy feeling cold...
posted by seesaw at 10:30 AM on May 5, 2010

If this is the case, it would explain a whole lot about me and why I've always loved ice cream more than anyone else I know except my dad and sister. I lived in New England til about age 10, and my dad lived there his whole life til recently. He used to go on and on about Friendly's, which was basically our weekly dinner out--and dinner always ended with ice cream. We are ice creams crazies in my family, seriously. I had no idea this was regional.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:30 AM on May 5, 2010

I have heard that New England has the highest per capita ice cream consumption...but I've heard all kinds of things that turn out not to be true, so who knows.

I live in Boston now, and my Boston-born friends do seem to REALLY love ice cream. It does make sense to me that a place with a coldish winter would appreciate ice cream more than a place with a more mild winter, but then you'd think that the upper Midwest would ice cream us in ice cream eating?
posted by teragram at 10:31 AM on May 5, 2010

I'm a born and bred New Englander and I've never heard that either. We have a family joke though that we're allowed to eat left-over birthday cake for breakfast because it's in keeping with the old Yankee tradition of eating apple pie for breakfast (cakes and pies are approximately similar, right? Right?).
posted by colfax at 10:31 AM on May 5, 2010

Here's a theory: maybe it's because of all the cows and thus dairy consumption?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've never heard it, but man, do we have a lot of ice cream places, now that I think of it. There was Stinson's and Russ Treadwell's (down the street from my high school) and Chandler's (down the street the other way from my high school), Forbes' in Wells, ME, a couple of random ice-cream smorgasbord places up there, Friendly's, the Dairy Barn in Saugus where a friend of mine worked in HS...

OK, yeah, I guess we must like ice cream.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:37 AM on May 5, 2010

I've never heard of New England as being more in to ice cream than other places I've lived. We've got some fabulous ice cream, but so did Wisconsin (and it was cheaper there). Maybe people are conflating Ben & Jerry's with a regional preference?
posted by ldthomps at 10:38 AM on May 5, 2010

Mackinac Island Fudge. And to a lesser extent in many other touristy areas in Michigan. Although I don't know whether that's really a big thing with the locals or something that's mainly just done for the tourists. But they do have an actual fudge festival.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:38 AM on May 5, 2010

What is it with New England and ice cream?

Those evil bastards Ben and Jerry?

Cupcakes seem pretty trendy all over, but fading a little. Down in S.C., peach cobbler was pretty ubiquitous.
posted by anti social order at 10:39 AM on May 5, 2010

I spent part of my childhood in Boston, and I have to admit that a major highlight of every single trip back there has been going to my favorite ice cream joints (and Boston seems to have a million of them).
posted by spinto at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2010

Grew up and went to college in Mass. with some time in Vt. and it wasn't until I moved away that it became clear to me what ice cream freaks New Englanders are - and I say this only because I realized how much good ice cream was close at hand my entire early life and I didn't even know it.

Herrell's in Northampton is a stand out in the ice cream world but then, Erikson's in Maynard is a quintessential local ice cream place. Nothing comes close where I live now.

I don't know about other places and other food or beverages beyond the obvious.
posted by nnk at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you're not crazy. I think you have to have lived there to understand.

I lived in Boston. Coming from California I was amazed at the obsession with ice cream (and not just in the doesnt-everybody-love-ice-cream sense) with people getting into major debates about (at that time) the merits of Toscanini's vs. Steve's and all that stuff.

So, yes, I can back you up. New England, or at least Boston, has a weird ice cream obsession. And, no, having lived in San Francisco, San Diego and NYC too - there is no equivalent dessert obsession.
posted by vacapinta at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2010

Grew up in MA. Never heard that stereotype, but my home town of 30,000 had more than five ice cream places, so I can't argue with it too much. Ice cream isn't my go-to treat, I'm more of a cookie person.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2010

It's a longstanding stereotype, whether it's true or not. But there does appear to be some truth to it: According to the University of Guelph Food Science Department Massachusetts is the fifth-highest producer of ice cream in the United States. It is, however, only fifteenth in population.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2010

Grew up in New England, and never once heard that. However, I will note that Ben and Jerry's is in Vermont, and is the greatest ice cream evar.
posted by General Malaise at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2010

I'm the daughter of two New Englanders who were "exiled" (for purposes of cold treats) to Minnesota for the first 9 years of my life, and I remember that they were surprised that you could only buy vanilla and chocolate ice cream in the supermarkets (this was in the 1970s). We too had to make pilgrimmages to Friendly's whenever we went East. Now that I've resettled as a New Englander, I too find it completely normal to frequently test the relative merits of the local creameries and have a son who doesn't really like cookies or cake but craves ice cream, especially at Friendly's.

Unfortunately, the rest of Friendly's food really sucks. But the ice cream is still excellent.
posted by Sukey Says at 10:45 AM on May 5, 2010

I've never heard this, but I have lived my whole life in New England and growing up my summers (actually, now that I think about it, my life) did revolve a lot around ice cream. We'd ride our bikes the few miles to town to get ice cream, we *always* stopped for an ice cream novelty when my dad was bringing us home and my father is *CRAZY* about the ice cream maker he bought a couple years ago (he makes some awesome ice cream).

I still love the stuff, but have to go for a Lactaid now before I bite in, so it isn't quite as common a treat for me as it used to be.
posted by chiefthe at 10:45 AM on May 5, 2010

I think we need more opinions from Non-NewEnglanders. I grew up in suburban NY which is not in New England but we ate ice cream all the time, along with everyone I've ever heard of and continue to do so after moving away. I don't understand anything about this question or the answers given.
posted by amethysts at 10:46 AM on May 5, 2010

The other thing that surprises me about Mass. is how popular donuts are -- and even before the explosion of Dunkin Donuts. I think of Mass. as being progressive and kind of healthy except then, donuts. Weird.
posted by nnk at 10:46 AM on May 5, 2010

I personally think that people love ice cream. Period. You want for example great hand-made, gelato, and a huge variety of organic/goat milk based, come visit the Seattle area sometime. (For some reason, sunglasses are popular here too.)

But I do think of cobbler as a typically southern dessert (though quite a regular on the menu here in berry rich Pacific NW too), and Key Lime pie as being -- doh! - a big Florida item.
posted by bearwife at 10:46 AM on May 5, 2010

amethysts - I think it's the notion of ice cream as an event - that is, going out for ice cream, special, favorite places for ice cream etc.
posted by nnk at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2010

Ben & Jerry's is really quite new to the ice cream scene, relatively speaking.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2010

I am a New Yorker. I like ice cream. A lot! I loves me some soft Carvel chocolate. I eat no dessert at a restaurant other than ice cream.

Is this a rhetorical question?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2010

Funny, I'd never heard that stereotype about New Englanders either, but I was born and raised in Rhode Island, and we did go out for ice cream a lot. We also would go out to a restaurant just for dessert, which when I've done here in VA, I've gotten wierd looks.
posted by cottonswab at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2010

I think New England's ice cream fixation is due partly to Tom Carvel (alternately, their fixation is part of the reason for his success.) There's probably not a soul up there who hasn't had a Carvel ice cream cake for their birthday at least once.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:50 AM on May 5, 2010

I'm not sure what makes something a "defining dessert." Certainly the Michoacana Paleta is "defining."

Here in Southern California, I think of froyo as "ours," even though I eat it maybe twice a month.

I've lived in Central and Southern California all my life, in or near the top three strawberry producing cities in the world, so strawberry anything is sort of defining... though it's not on menus everywhere, the go-to dessert in my family has often been angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:56 AM on May 5, 2010

In the Boston metro area, there are a lot of local, mom-and-pop or small chain, funky boutique-style ice cream shops (just off the top of my head: Toscanini's, JP Licks, Christina's, Cabot's, Emack and Bolio's) located in the squares, so ice cream is kind of an urban, public, happy, event thing rather than a supermarket, alone, sad, at home thing. Also: frappes.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2010

I've never heard of it as a stereotype. However, I moved to the Boston area last year, and there really is a spectacular variety of ice cream around here. Last summer I went to an event where you could taste samples from six or seven different local ice cream shops and vote for your favorite. (Licorice! Someone had licorice ice cream! It was awesome!)

Chicago, where I lived for several years prior, squarely beats Boston in most junk-food categories, but they don't have anywhere near the fantastic ice cream selection.

My interpretation is that Bostonians aren't any more obsessed with ice cream than the rest of the nation, just that they have better options than Baskin Robbins and Cold Stone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2010

I suspect the common belief that New Englanders still eat more ice cream than anyone got its genesis in this 1958 snippet from the Lewiston (ME) Evening News.

That said, I miss Emack & Bolio's like whoa.
posted by catlet at 10:59 AM on May 5, 2010

Another New Englander with a profound love of ice cream here. I know one of the ice cream companies, Hood, offers a variety of New England state-specific flavors (e.g., Maine Blueberry). Hood, Breyers, Carvel, Friendly's, and Ben & Jerry's are all from New England.

Having lived in other parts of the U.S., I've seen that there are other dessert options that are favored. I have no idea if they are as ubiquitous as ice cream in New England, but for what they're worth:

Washington, DC, is stupidly obsessed with cupcakes. I think they probably stole it from NYC.

New Orleans has so many delicious things that it's hard to pick one representative dessert, but I remember snoballs (known everywhere else as snow cones) being pretty big. There's also pralines and beignets.

I lived in Williamsburg, VA for a while, and there were several ice cream stands that sold some kind of weird thing that was a flavored ice slushy with frozen yogurt in it.

I've never lived in the Midwest, but there's also this.
posted by jalexc at 10:59 AM on May 5, 2010

Hmm. ChurchHatesTucker. Carvel definitely has a place in New England, those ads were enough to give me nightmares, but Carvel is not ice cream. Carvel is frozen dessert. I like Carvel, I like Dairy Queen, but neither of them are ice cream for me. For me, the real legacy of New England ice cream is the local ice cream stand.
posted by nnk at 10:59 AM on May 5, 2010

I grew up in New Jersey and I don't remember there being as much of an ice cream craze there as there appears to be in the Boston area. We had water ice over ice cream, but I think the more important point is that, in New Jersey, all the ice cream shops closed during winter. Every ice cream place I've seen around here is open all year long.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:00 AM on May 5, 2010

I'm not from New England, and have barely spent any time there, but I have never heard of this stereotype/defining characteristic. I can tell you that we love the hell out of some ice cream in Texas, but that's probably because it's hotter than fuck out for like 3/4 of the year. Actually, by late summer, it's too hot to want anything to do with dairy, and snow cones become the thing, so maybe that's why it's not a defining characteristic of the South/Texas.
posted by ishotjr at 11:02 AM on May 5, 2010

Baltimore love sno balls.

Savanah loves pecan pie and key lime pie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 AM on May 5, 2010

As a long time New Englander I have picked up on this belief along the way, however I don't see a lot of hard proof, merely ancedotal. You will see a number of articles quoating that NE has the highest per capita consumption in the US (22 pints is a number I've seen).

The International Dairy Foods Association has a media kit on Ice Cream sales and figures, but I couldn't find anything on consumption, just production. According to the USDA no New England state is in the top 7 producers of ice cream.

With a lack of data, everything else would seem to be conjecture. So my theory is a bit wacky and not particularly well thought out, in fact I'm just making it up as I type. So it goes like this: NE has a strong Puritan heritage still and this heritage seems to value "hard work" above "pleasure". So ice cream is relatively hard to make (especially when it was not automated). Perhaps the Puritan type can only truly enjoy something that involved a significant amount of toil?
posted by jeremias at 11:02 AM on May 5, 2010

New Englander here. There are some excellent ice-cream shops there, to be sure, and like everybody else I had never heard of this stereotype. My dad gets all giddy whenever he gets the chance to visit the Ben and Jerry's factory in VT. I'm a bit more cynical, but I still like ice-cream. At the factory they have all these cute, rhyming signs telling you about the place. I noticed, though, that nobody came up with anything cute and rhymey about flushing tampons. Maybe...

Enjoy your vanilla or butter pecan
But don't let your tampons clog up the john
posted by stinker at 11:04 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

... adding to the above, growing up, it wasn't so much ordering ice cream as a dessert after a restaurant meal as it was (bored summer afternoon): Let's go out for a cone!
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:05 AM on May 5, 2010

The defining moment of being able to speak Danish is when you're able to pronounce the name of Denmark's national dessert: "rødgrød med fløde" (foreigners trying to). It's always served with (non-ice) cream.
posted by flif at 11:07 AM on May 5, 2010

St. Louis area transplant, New England resident for almost 14 years. I never heard this before but it makes tremendous sense. I can name at least three or four places near where I live in Connecticut that are famous for their homemade ice cream. The only equivalent I can think of from the midwest was Ted Drewes, for frozen custard (and by God, there's a place not far from me here that touts that its frozen custard--the only FC I know in CT--as modeled on Ted Drewes!).
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:10 AM on May 5, 2010

I live in the Pioneer Valley of MA (and grew up in NH) and you can't throw a rock without hitting a local dairy that produces its own ice cream. I know of several dairy farms that have turned to making ice cream to stay financially solvent. Dairy farms have had a tough run here in New England in the last thirty years - they've all but disappeared. It's almost impossible for a small, independent dairy to put out milk that is competitive price-wise with the milk giants. So, many started making ice cream as a way to keep their farms, many several generations old, in business.
posted by missmary6 at 11:12 AM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

As another New Englander with anecdotal evidence, I'll agree that there's definitely a thing about ice cream, and that it's a thing about going out for ice cream, not eating it in your home. I lived on the West coast for years and live in the Midwest now and in neither place is there even close to the abundance of awesome local ice cream that I used to take for granted. Moreover, when my friends and I do go out for ice cream, it's usually at the suggestion of either me or my friend who grew up in Connecticut.

Also lacking in both places: grape nut ice cream, which is the most delicious stuff ever.
posted by dizziest at 11:19 AM on May 5, 2010

amethysts - I think it's the notion of ice cream as an event - that is, going out for ice cream, special, favorite places for ice cream etc.

Also ice cream socials (typically fundraisers) of a bygone era and home gatherings centered around making the ice cream. Plus, it was a way to use up the fruits of summer before freezers were commonplace. (There's only so much canning and jam/jelly/preserve and pie making -- those are heat-producing activities.)
posted by jgirl at 11:20 AM on May 5, 2010

In North Carolina people are obsessed with pecan pie, peach cobbler, and of course Krispy Kreme doughnuts. All of this, of course, goes better with a scoop of ice cream, which we do not shy away from because it gets HOT in the south.

I personally remember homemade strawberry ice cream and strawberry shortcake being a daily staple in my house in the summer. So I'd say fruit-based desserts are the biggest regionally significant thing. Cocunut and pineapple cake. Key lime pie on the coast, as well...
mmm so hongry
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:23 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Baltimore love sno balls.

Oh hells yeah. It's a freakin' obsession. Snoball stands pop up like weeds every spring.

I've yet to see an Old Bay flavored snoball, but I'm sure it's out there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:24 AM on May 5, 2010

When I think of Southern desserts, I think pie, in many different varieties, but of course sweet potato pie.
posted by caddis at 11:24 AM on May 5, 2010

I moved from SF to WMass, and I can confirm that there is way more ice cream here than I ever dreamed of, with attendant local rivalries. (Herrell's vs. Bart's, go!) I can think of several local dairies that offer their own ice cream, and a large number of seemingly unrelated businesses that offer ice cream. (My favorite is the sign for arc welding and soft serve.)

It's not that my family and friends in the Bay Area didn't like ice cream, but there were plenty of other desserts too, you know? Ice cream is exciting when it comes in a special flavor (say, avocado) or as part of some distinct dessert (say, the It's-It), but here in New England ice cream by itself is exciting all the time. Apparently. My SO's coworkers keep inviting her out to ice cream, over and over, and I never noticed that happening in California.
posted by sineala at 11:24 AM on May 5, 2010

I've lived in New England most of my life. Pretty much everyone I know likes ice cream, but the only person I know who LOVES it is my dad. He always has a few in the freezer and will frequently go out to ice cream stands. There are also a lot of farms that make their own ice cream and have stands. I've also lived in upstate NY and the SF bay area, and I don't recall anything similar to these ice cream stands.
posted by disaster77 at 11:36 AM on May 5, 2010

Every year the first time you go out for ice cream once the weather gets better and the creemee [soft serve] places are open is a notable day. Sort of like first robin of spring or first snow. I've lived in New England most of my life and this has always been the case. In fact it's sort of like a seder where every year on First Day of Ice Cream you talk about all the other ice cream that you have known and loved on past First Day of Ice Cream days. Here's a photo from this year. That day was this past weekend. I always thought that it was a bit of a dairy-culture thing since I've seen it a lot in Wisconsin too.
posted by jessamyn at 11:37 AM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Thirty-five years gone from Pioneer Valley, and ... damn. Sudden gust of nostalgia. It was summer for reals when Friendly's rolled out the watermelon sherbet. Damn.
posted by cairnish at 11:37 AM on May 5, 2010

There are more Ice Cream places (both roadside stand and chains) in New England than there have been in any other place I've lived (that being the Northeast, the Midwest, Southern California, and the Northwest).

Purely anecdotal, I know, but the stereotype holds true in my experience.
posted by madajb at 11:42 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was struck by the large number of ice cream places in Boston--but I grew up in Connecticut, and we didn't have a huge number of ice cream places there. I'm not sure it's a New England thing. It may be a Boston or a Massachusetts thing.
posted by phoenixy at 11:42 AM on May 5, 2010

I have always thought about this as part of the same continuum that produces firemen who chain-smoke. It's very satisfying to take control over the one thing (fire/ice) that otherwise runs a large part of your life.
posted by range at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just for a litle historic perspective, I'll add that the ice cream selection around the New England area has gotten way, way better fairly recently. When my family moved to New England from Kentucky, way back in the dark ages of the late 60s, the only local ice cream places were Brighams and Baileys (and do either still exist?) Ben & Jerry's, Emack & Bolio, Steve's and so forth pretty much all date from 1977 and later.

Also, I remember when (80s) you couldn't go anywhere on the upper West Side of Manhattan, and hardly anywhere on the upper East Side, without running into a cookies and ice cream place. EVERY one went out for ice cream and cookies. Hagen Daz was as ubiquitous as Starbucks today.

Ice cream is good. When it is reasonably warm, we eat around here a lot too. We have a lot of good dairy in the Pacific NW, ergo a lot of decent local creations here too.
posted by bearwife at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2010

Lifelong New Englander here. Yes, we love ice cream.
There's a certain grim Calvinist pleasure in waiting in line for an ice cream as the wet snow descends...
posted by pentagoet at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Boston definitely does have some weird thing about ice cream. I live within three blocks of at least five ice cream places (Emack and Bolios, Ben and Jerrys, Coldstone, JP Licks, a second Ben and Jerrys). Though I've never heard the per capita consumption statistic before, I would believe it in a second.


I've yet to see an Old Bay flavored snoball, but I'm sure it's out there.

ChurchHatesTucker - I actually found one last summer in Pasadena, MD (on the bay, just south of Baltimore). I didn't try it because it sounded so awful - not that I don't love me some Old Bay most of the time. I think snoballs are one of the things I miss most about summer on the bay - maybe even more than crab feasts.
posted by CharlieSue at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sure seems true to me, an ex-New Englander. My brother (who worked at a Friendly's and a Newport Creamery) told me that people in the US ate more ice cream per capita than any other country, and that people in Massachusetts ate more ice cream per capita than any other state. I don't know if it is true, but, again, it seems plausible.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:53 AM on May 5, 2010

I've lived off and on in Boston for about 7 years total. I also lived in NYC, and as far as I could tell New Yorkers don't care nearly as much about ice cream as Boston-ites (or whatever you call Boston people). Like CharlieSue, I live in walking distance of a few ice cream joints (including JP Licks and Emack and Bolios), and I can easily get to more with a quick train ride (two or three more JP Licks, Toscanini's, Christina's--longish walk to that one, but worth it--and more I'm probably forgetting). And ice cream places here are generally relatively fancy and make their own ice cream. Toscanini's and Christina's are frequently cited as having some of the best ice cream in the country.

I've also heard Boston-ites eat the most ice cream per person in the country, but I have nothing to back that up.

Damn, I think I might have to go get some ice cream...

New York, on the other hand, is lousy with crap iced treats, like Mr. Softie (Softy?) and those damn fat-free sugarless frozen yogurt places that are everywhere which I'm forgetting the name of...

Not to say you can't get really excellent ice cream in NYC (and gelato, oh man), but it just doesn't seem to be the dominant paradigm like it is in Boston.
posted by dubitable at 12:04 PM on May 5, 2010

I grew up in Connecticut, and we didn't have a huge number of ice cream places there.

We Do Now. Initially my mind only went to the real high-quality homemade places, but if you add in the chains, my GOD do we have a lot of ice cream places.

Every year the first time you go out for ice cream once the weather gets better and the creemee [soft serve] places are open is a notable day. Sort of like first robin of spring or first snow.

In my town, hell yeah. It's not spring until the Dairy Queen (walk-up only, no seating) opens.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:04 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and Herrell's, I do love me some Herrell's hot fudge...
posted by dubitable at 12:05 PM on May 5, 2010

Midwesterner here. SERIOUS ice cream lover. Always have been. Not sure of any typical Midwestern dessert. Apple crisp?

One of my favorite things growing up was getting a half gallon of Neapolitan in the cardboard box. Open up the entire box, all sides, then use a knife to slice the ice cream so you got a square with three equal stripes of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. :) Yum!
posted by wwartorff at 12:05 PM on May 5, 2010

...but I grew up in Connecticut, and we didn't have a huge number of ice cream places there.

The frak? Where'd you grow up? Winfield?

The defining Massachusetts moment for me is going to P-town and getting a Frappé.

It's like the most disappointing milkshake you've ever had.

Also, is everyone else really hankering for some decent ice cream?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:13 PM on May 5, 2010

In college we used to plan our spring events are the various "Free Cone Day!" promotions at the five (5!!!) ice cream shops within a quarter mile of the dorms.

I've heard often that "New England is ice cream country. The South is pudding country" and I think that's true. People don't "go get ice cream" and walk around with it in Alabama. But they'll eat the hell out of banana pudding after supper.
posted by jefficator at 12:15 PM on May 5, 2010

Yes, serious ice cream in Western, MA without the foodie snobbiness. Flayvors at Cook's Farm in Hadley is straight from the cows right there. Flayvors ice cream is best eaten while strolling near the cow barns or staring at the Holyoke Range while cows moo and bay in front of you. Maple soft ice cream at the Hadley Sugar Shack is another serious danger food but only available when the Sugar Shack farm stand reopens in late August. Discovered that in Jane and Michael Stern's "Road Food." Local ice cream here helped me get acclimated after living overseas and having frequent access to Berthillon in Paris (too precious and IMHO not as good as Flayvors). New England ice cream stands trigger a kind of Sunday-drive-let's-get-ice cream-dopamine rush. You NEED this ice cream when you thought you just needed a bag of charcoal.
posted by Elsie at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

New York, on the other hand, is lousy with crap iced treats, like Mr. Softie (Softy?) and those damn fat-free sugarless frozen yogurt places that are everywhere which I'm forgetting the name of...

Astoria, up by Ditmars Blvd, had two ice cream shops up until that blasted week-long blackout that occurred in 2006. Lost Emack & Bolio's (tragic) and a fairly new Cold Stone Creamery (slightly less tragic, but still). However, the area has tons of other dessert options, like about seven Italian and Greek bakeries, some of which offer gelato and/or Italian ice.

I grew up in central Connecticut and never thought of ice cream as a thing we were particularly obsessed with. However, now that I think about it, ice cream cakes were always really popular, especially from Carvel (and no, it does not matter that Carvel is "not ice cream" - kids love that stuff), and going out for ice cream with the team after a Little League baseball game happened fairly regularly once it got really hot out. I could never stomach it very often myself, but it was definitely a thing people did. In New York City, people will, say, buy a container of Haagen-Dazs at the grocery store like everyone else does, or get a couple scoops of ice cream for dessert, but going out for ice cream isn't such an event.

I'm wondering if it's because of the extreme seasonal changes - frigid, snowy winters and then the brutally humid summers, coupled with having a lot of dairy farms in the area?
posted by wondermouse at 12:39 PM on May 5, 2010

Midwestern dessert? Well there is cool whip based desserts like watergate salad and other fluff desserts. I remember having some in Utah too during a tournament. It was all about cool whip and jello but man, they were all surprisingly tasty but weird looking.
posted by jadepearl at 12:42 PM on May 5, 2010

As a self-professed ice cream snob and someone moving to Portland, ME in a couple months I am excited to hear I may be moving to ice cream central.
posted by monkeymadness at 12:43 PM on May 5, 2010

"New England, as ever, remains the epicenter of this national obsession; modern gourmet ice cream is widely considered to have been born at the original Steve’s in Boston....The influence of New England’s gourmet groundbreakers can be felt across the country at spots that value high-quality ingredients, freshness, and guilt-free indulgence. These ice cream parlors, America’s best, are all about keeping it real and, of course, homemade."*
posted by ericb at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2010

dlugoczaj, Ted Drewes is famous among St. Louisans, and almost unknown by anyone who hasn't lived there at least for a little while. (I wonder if your CT Drewes-wannabe was started by another expatriate.) There are plenty of other frozen custard vendors, though; Culver's is one of the more widespread.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2010

nthing that ice cream is an integral part of New England. It's definitely a dairy country thing, with the quintessential farm stand creameries. Ben & Jerry's is for tourists, though. The best ice cream is made by Lake Champlain Chocolates.
posted by vortex genie 2 at 12:46 PM on May 5, 2010

If you've ever had ice cream 'straight from the cow,' you'll know there's just *no* comparison. Perhaps it's just that we're overly endowed with dairy cows? What I've never understood is why people northeasterners are partial to cold food and southeasterners are partial to hot. This is particularly noticeable with subs/hoagies. You'd think it would be just the other way around!
posted by Ys at 12:46 PM on May 5, 2010

Rhode Island has Del's Frozen Lemonade, plus a zillion knock-offs.

I am a Minnesotan married to a Rhode Islander, and I had to beg and plead for us to get an ice cream maker for the house. When I lived up in Boston there were, indeed, many good ice cream shops. Friendly's, however, isn't very good ice cream. Down in Rhodey we have a lot of ice cream stands (current favorite: Lincoln Creamery), most of which advertise which small producer's stuff they sell (Hershey's, Bliss Dairy, etc.).

I learned in the 1990s that Wisconsin (maybe M'waukee only?) was mad for frozen yogurt. I tried it and was underwhlemed, though it beats a big helping of Nothing At All For Dessert.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:02 PM on May 5, 2010

I've yet to see an Old Bay flavored snoball, but I'm sure it's out there.

Brings to mind lobster ice cream.
posted by ericb at 1:05 PM on May 5, 2010

I grew up in Oregon. I am CRAZY about ice cream; this was established far before I went to college in Western Mass. I have never heard of this stereotype. New England is definitely home to the "mix-in" concept.
posted by emkelley at 1:08 PM on May 5, 2010

New England is home to "mix in" idea because it started at Steve's in Somerville. In 1973. When there was just one Steve's. Before Steve sold out and then became defunct. *sniff*

We were all awed by the idea of getting candy and ice cream together in one cone.
posted by bearwife at 1:19 PM on May 5, 2010

A number of years ago I met the founders of Emack & Bolio's at a dinner party. The husband and wife team are self-described "hippie lawyers." They named the business after two homeless guys for whom they did pro bono work. Emack and Bolio were given laminated passes for a lifetime of free ice cream.
posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can check my compiled MeFi State Food list for dessert entries.
posted by zamboni at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2010

Before Steve sold out and then became defunct. *sniff*

Well, Steve Herrell is still making ice cream at selling it at his ice cream parlors -- Herrell's.
posted by ericb at 1:23 PM on May 5, 2010

It may be more Massachusetts or the Boston area rather than New England in general. I've seen the overall ice cream production figures, which don't bear out the stereotype, but I'm not sure how much those numbers actually reflect local consumption - I mean, for example, there are a bunch of ice cream companies in Wisconsin that ship stuff out all over the Midwest, but the amount of ice cream they make and ship isn't necessarily related to how much is eaten in state.

I think it is pretty safe to say that people in Boston have high standards for their ice cream, though, and get much less of their ice cream from supermarkets and chains. Going out to get ice cream is very popular, and there are not only a great many ice cream stores but also a great many small, local stores making their own ice cream and experimenting with crazy flavors. I mean, how many other places can you try not just well-done traditional flavors but also saffron or chili chocolate-chip or ginger or cucumber or Guinness or lemon poppyseed ice cream? And not only at one specialty store, but at half a dozen or more different places, all within easy walking distance?

Chicago, where I lived for several years prior, squarely beats Boston in most junk-food categories, but they don't have anywhere near the fantastic ice cream selection.

Oh God, I second that. I have seriously considered getting some Tosci's shipped out here. No matter how much it costs. Chicagoans seem to think they're getting adventurous with, I dunno, mint or coffee ice cream - and that's at the few places that actually make their own, rather than ship it in from somewhere.
posted by ubersturm at 1:26 PM on May 5, 2010

Okay, I've been reading up on ice cream history (cites to come). The stumbling block for people is that it's cold in New England. Except that this actually explains it: New England had a huge ice industry as early as the mid 19th century and apparently was exporting ice. The crank freezer ice cream maker was invited by Nancy somebody in 1848. As I said, cites to come when I can find a better source.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:46 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's probably not a soul up there who hasn't had a Carvel ice cream cake for their birthday at least once.

Ah, Fudgie the Whale, Cookie Puss and Hug Me the Bear.

Carvel definitely has a place in New England, those ads were enough to give me nightmares...

Carvel Ice Cream Cakes, Valentine's Cakes and Carvel Santa and Chanukah cakes (note: the Santa Cake is actually Fudgie the Whale turned upside-down!).
posted by ericb at 1:58 PM on May 5, 2010

As a native Angelena, we definitely had ice cream growing up in the 70's (and frozen yogurt - not the new fro-yo kind but actual frozen YOGURT). But it wasn't really a thing.

The only reasons I can think of are possibly

a) a greater population of dairy cows

b) the ability to walk to a "corner store"

Things are just too spread out in L.A., we don't get on our bikes and ride or walk nearly as much as Easterners do.
posted by Sophie1 at 2:03 PM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: It's definitely true. I think that many people who don't believe New England is unusually rich in ice cream resources may not have enough basis for comparison. I grew up in NJ (plenty of ice cream) and in East Texas (fair amount of ice cream) and have lived my adult life in New England (a ridiculous amount of ice cream). I think there are several factors:

-dairy country. New England's rocky soil - especially Northern New England - is badly suited to agriculture but has always been well suited to pasturing. New England states have been dairying states and dairies find ice cream to be an excellent value-added product. The oldest ice cream places in NE are mom-and-pop places that were once, or are still, associated with a specific dairy from which the cream originated.

-ice country. New England was a major exporter of ice during the nineteenth century, when ice cream as a treat really took hold. The supply of ice annually was steady and almost unbroken; it was easy to get ice year-round, and it was fairly cheap, unlike in more southerly regions where all ice had to be imported by ship.

-tourism country. New England is full of tourist towns. Between summer shore travel and fall foliage and winter skiing, New England is always full of people looking for a good time and for ways to spend their money. Ice cream has a festive, make-a-day-special feel that people get into on vacation,or even at home for fun.

So I think combination of factors explains it - the historical roots (we had the resources handy) plus present-day cultural factors (tourists and regional identity) plus the simple fact that ice cream is awesome enough for locals to want to enjoy it, too, account for this pretty well.
posted by Miko at 2:32 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm from Iceland and I live in Rhode Island. Now, Icelanders love ice cream. I quite like good ice cream. However I don't like to drink beer and eat ice cream at the same time (two substances that froth mixing together do not make my stomach happy). In Iceland, no one questions that, in Rhode Island, I get weird looks and some of my friends mock me as an ice-cream-hater even though I eat ice cream at non-beer occasions.

So yeah, the New Englanders around me have a special bond with ice cream.
posted by Kattullus at 2:44 PM on May 5, 2010

Every New Mexican style restaurant (and even most of the diners in NM) serves flan. Biscochitos are ubiquitous around Christmastime, also.
posted by vorfeed at 3:07 PM on May 5, 2010

Another New Englander here: I love ice cream. I can eat ice cream any time, any place, any weather, any temperature.

And Mt. Tom's in Easthampton beats Herrell's and Bart's anyday.
posted by otters walk among us at 4:24 PM on May 5, 2010

Well, Steve Herrell is still making ice cream at selling it at his ice cream parlors -- Herrell's.

Oh, great to know. By 1980 I was out of Boston and working in NYC.
posted by bearwife at 5:41 PM on May 5, 2010

Every New Mexican style restaurant (and even most of the diners in NM) serves flan. Biscochitos are ubiquitous around Christmastime, also.

I'd say the ubiquitous New Mexican dessert is a sopapilla with honey. I have been to many NM style restaurants that do not serve flan.

The bizcochito, as New Mexico's state cookie, could be argued to be defined as the region's defining dessert. Not a frequent restaurant menu staple, although I seem to recall having seen it as a Taos Cow Ice Cream flavor, complete with little cookies.

There is an ice cream specialty that I rarely cross paths with, which I've never seen in other areas, and that is fried ice cream. Do they serve this in other places?
posted by yohko at 5:53 PM on May 5, 2010

I'd say the ubiquitous New Mexican dessert is a sopapilla with honey.

Good call... this is so ubiquitous that I don't really think of it as "dessert", especially since it usually comes with the meal.
posted by vorfeed at 5:55 PM on May 5, 2010

On second thought, vorfeed's comment is probably quite accurate for northern NM cuisine. I am less familiar with that area.
posted by yohko at 5:55 PM on May 5, 2010

Simultaneous comment confusion! vorfeed's comment about the flan, that is.
posted by yohko at 5:57 PM on May 5, 2010

Well, I may have exaggerated for effect. Not every single NM style restaurant around here serves flan (some don't serve dessert at all, and there are a few which serve diner style pie-or-cake desserts). But it's close enough to count, I think.

hmm... this calls for further research! Perhaps around dinnertime...
posted by vorfeed at 6:20 PM on May 5, 2010

I grew up in Connecticut, and we didn't have a huge number of ice cream places there.

This surprised me. I've lived in the New Haven area all my life and aside from the obligatory Friendly's restaurants, Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins and Carvel storefronts, we have the wonderful Ashley's shops (named for the famous frisbee catching Whippet), and lots of neighborhood drive-ins that lacked a famous name but had plenty of their own charm. In fact, the little place that our family used to visit after my brothers' little league games is still open and still a part of family traditions.

It never occurred to me that the social ritual of going out for ice cream might be a regional activity.
posted by contrariwise at 6:56 PM on May 5, 2010

This surprised me.

Me too; I used to live in Southeastern CT and would often have outings with friends within a 10-to 30-minute drive to Sea Swirl, Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, the Mystic Ice Cream & Sweet Shop (newish, directly across from Mystic Drawbridge), DQ in Saybrook and Niantic, Michael's Dairy in New London (wonderful old-school spot), Scoops in Centerbrook, Dusty's in Westerly, RI, and St. Clair Annex in Watch Hill. There were also some Friendly's outings but I don't count those, as it's more of a family restaurant.

Here's a big long list of CT ice cream places.

There may be big swaths of CT with no ice cream culture, but overall, I think it adheres to the New England stereotype. It's just hard to perceive if it's the water you've always been swimming in.

I think the best ice creams come from the family-run older-style dairy one-off places. But there is a small regional chain that knocks my socks off, so here's a plug for them: Ben & Bill's. I've been to 3 of the locations (Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, Bar Harbor, and Falmouth) and they are all spectacular.
posted by Miko at 7:24 PM on May 5, 2010

There may be big swaths of CT with no ice cream culture...

There are. We call them State Parks.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:43 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

One of my good friends in college who grew up in Newton, Ma convinced me that whenever I go on (went on) a first date or blind date to a restaurant for a meal that you order dessert first and ice cream at that. Then you have your meal. His exclamation is that no matter how much the date may suck and even if it sucks so bad you come up with an excuse to end it after the first course, that course is always ice cream so you are happy. I have done this on several occasions and I can say that I have never been unhappy with the choice, that my dates have all been surprised but willing and always it leads to easy conversation and that most waiters have a hard time grasping the concept of, "No drinks while we are waiting, but we would like two scoops of the chocolate and two of the cinnamon ice cream while we decide." I even had the chef come out of the back to meet me just so he could see the ice cream first guy. Not sure if the idea is original, but I think it says a lot about New Englanders and ice cream.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:58 PM on May 5, 2010

I'm from Massachusetts and I love the ice cream. I don't understand what's so great about Cold Stone Creamery when there's so much great local stuff. And that's not even including the farmstands.

As to why, I guess it's an indoctrination of Friendly's/Brigham's/Baskin Robbins plus the fact that when a warm day shows up, the best way is to celebrate with ice cream. I'd also guess that townie ice cream stands were a natural meeting spot so everyone would eventually hang out there. Plus, farmstand ice cream is damn good and comes in ridiculous portions.

I only discovered a few years ago that my hometown had another ice cream stand (including Friendly's, that's 4 but one closed so now we're down to 3) but have had a difficult time finding it. Their current feature flavor is Maple Bacon!
posted by zix at 9:02 PM on May 5, 2010

this is so ubiquitous that I don't really think of it as "dessert", especially since it usually comes with the meal.

Yeah, it's rare for sopapillas to be relegated to the dessert menu in NM (though you don't usually see bizcochitos there either, despite their role as the State Cookie). Outside of the state, though, people seem to look at you funny if you ask for them with the meal...assuming you can find them at all. New Mexican food is really hard to find in Northern California.

I don't think New Mexico really has any One True Dessert Item, but flan is pretty common.

(100+ posts in and nobody's mentioned shave ice for Hawaii? It was everywhere when I was there.)
posted by Lazlo at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2010

I never realized that this was a New England thing, but yes, I'm from Maine and I love ice cream. I could eat ice cream for every meal. I could eat all the ice cream in the world. There's no real way to express how much I like it. Give me some now.

Out, we ate Gifford's. Sometimes Beal's, once we moved to Southern Maine. Or whatever local farm stand place. From the grocery store, Hood. I had some tasty root beer flavored ice cream at Smiling Hill Farm once. In some coastal towns, you can get lobster ice cream. When I was little, I liked bubble gum flavor, but you could only get it in the summer. Also, Smurf.

It's in my blood. We'd go to Governor's, and we'd all get ice cream for desert, and my grandfather would eat a whole banana split, then finish both mine and my sister's.

Also...sugar cones. Hello.
posted by lampoil at 9:23 PM on May 5, 2010

zamboni, not to thread-derail, but if you ever have reason to update your state food list, add the horseshoe sandwich for southern Illinois.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:12 AM on May 6, 2010

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