Ask the grumpies: Ice cream preferences

Leah asks:

Hard scoop ice cream or soft serve? Best flavors? What about things like cold stone, DQ, etc?

I remember the first time I had soft serve ice cream.  It was from a food truck at a lake where we went camping in Northern California.  It was a revelation to me.

Later I had soft serve places like McDonalds and similar food places.  It was… not as good.

Then I had soft serve ice cream from a food truck in San Francisco maybe half a decade ago and it all came back to me.  It was the Northern CA high quality soft-serve that was good, not my memories that were wrong.  Inferior soft serve is not as good as hard scoop, but superior soft-serve is better than superior hard scoop.  Since then we’ve found a single food truck in the city closest to ours that has similarly good soft-serve… I don’t know if it is still in business though.

Just straight-up vanilla for soft serve.  Or a vanilla chocolate twist.  Yeah, the vanilla chocolate twist is best.

For hard scoop I like lots of flavors– probably my favorite is anything with mint and chocolate.  But I also like chocolate with other things as well.  And I like fruit ice creams and gelatos.  I mean… it’s all good.

Not crazy about cold stone– I think it’s overpriced.  Mixins are interesting, but I’d rather have them mixed in during churning or on top.  The last time I had DQ I was six months pregnant with DC1 (driving from grad school city to work city) and threw it up so I haven’t been able to eat it since.

Man, I LOVE ice cream.  Here are more posts about ice cream.

21 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Ice cream preferences”

  1. Gwinne Says:

    Premium hard scoop all the way. I mean, in theory I like the novelty of blizzard type mixin desserts…. in reality it’s never as good as good hard scoop. Maybe I haven’t yet had the equivalent of your food truck? But we have two local places that make their own Hard ice cream on site. Really can’t beat that.

  2. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    Lactose intolerant, so I haven’t had real ice cream for years. There’s a vegetarian Indian restaurant near my house that serves a good coconut milk-based “nice cream” though.

  3. bogart Says:

    Hard ice cream all the way, and we too have good local on-site made option though I think are down to just one. Otherwise I’m mostly Breyers for quality/value but have nothing against the fancier options. I’m also a fan of the basic ice cream bar, usually Hagen-Daaz or Costco. Oh! We have a great local popsicle place also … I am not a huge fan of the popsicle usually, but these are wonderful.

    For fancy fancy ice cream presentation (and yumminess), fond memories of visiting a shop similar to this one while wandering the streets of this or perhaps a similar city, some years ago: https://gelartorosa.com/en/ (scroll down a bit).

  4. ccerebrations Says:

    My go to is typically hard mint chocolate chip. But I am sucker for a good banana flavored ice cream. I think Cold Stone (which I agree is expensive so I don’t go often) does a really great take on this – it tastes more naturally banana than say Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey (which I am still more than happy to eat). But I do try to avoid dairy so I’ve been big on the SO Delicious Dairy Free cashew milk bananas foster. I am also a fan of Trader Joe’s non-dairy chocolate fudge oat bars.

    One of my coworkers has been stocking our breakroom freezer with giant Costco boxes of Haagen-Dazs vanilla milk chocolate almond ice cream bars. I don’t dig into it too often but it’s truly the perfect mid afternoon treat to get you through a work slump!

    • Debbie M Says:

      You might like that thing where you stick frozen bananas in a blender and eat it like banana-flavored soft serve. Definitely a natural banana flavor! And with no dairy at all! For me, it only tastes good when the bananas are the perfect ripeness.

  5. xykademiqz Says:

    My husband is a big ice-cream fan, which is a bummer since he’s developed milk intolerance a few years ago and can’t have it anymore. I don’t hate ice cream, but I can take it or leave it. (I’m like that with potato chips, too.) So I buy strawberry sorbet with coconut oil that looks fluffy and appetizing for my youngest, who’s always been allergic to milk, and some dairy-free ice-cream varieties for husband (So Delicious has good chocolate ice cream with coconut milk; Ben and Jerry have dairy-free fudge brownie ice cream that DH says is OK.)

    • Linda Says:

      If your husband is lactose intolerant (as opposed to a milk allergy) then I highly recommend Beckon ice cream. It’s a lactose free premium brand that I find at Whole Foods. The options for flavors are limited (my local Whole Foods only stocks 4), but it’s wonderful to have a vanilla ice cream option that has a true vanilla flavor rather than the disappointing artificial vanilla flavor.

  6. Steph Says:

    Definitely hard scoop ice cream for me. I enjoy when it has crunchy bits mixed in, but only if they’re mixed in as part of the ice cream. Cold stone-type mixed ice cream is too melty for me by the time I actually get it. There was a creamery near my undergrad that made fabulous and funky flavors, and I still miss them.

    I enjoy soft-serve sometimes – I have fond memories of making soft-serve + sugary cereal sundaes in college. I don’t think I have strong opinions on quality, though.

    My biggest complaint about ice cream is that not enough companies make interesting non-chocolate flavors, especially beyond plain strawberry or caramel. My all-time favorite, Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns, is increasingly hard to find. Now that I’m back in PA, Turkey Hill has some interesting ones that I’ve found at the grocery store though, like Party Cake.

  7. Alice Says:

    Back when we went places, we went to a soft-serve yogurt place where you put any mix of flavors you wanted in the cup, added any toppings you wanted, and paid by weight. This was mostly because there was one of those places near where we picked up my stepdaughter, so it made a nice periodic pre- or post-transition option. That particular spot closed and became a soup place, though. Not sure if we’ll bother seeking out an alternate when we become more open to going places.

    Nowadays we’re only doing grocery store ice cream. And when we’re feeling fancy, we do DIY magic shell. (Peppermint or peanut butter, mostly.)

  8. Socal dendrite Says:

    We lucky enough to have an amazing, award-winning gelato place half a mile from my house. It is not uncommon to see boxes of ripe fruit stacked up outside, waiting to be transformed into the latest delicious creation. He’s most famous for some slightly weird flavors (goat’s milk and cacao nib; yogurt and olive oil…) which are indeed yummy, but my favorite flavors are the hazelnut and the lemon. Mmmm mmm mmmmm. Expensive, but a tasty treat :)

  9. rose Says:

    You totally did not mention WI frozen custard……. really NICE!

  10. omdg Says:

    Honestly, Italian Gelato in a variety of fruit flavors that they don’t carry in the US at all is my favorite. You get 12-24 hand scoops of whatever flavors you want in a large Styrofoam container and then take it home to enjoy over the next several days. In the US I prefer hard scoop ice cream. Favorite is probably coffee or some sort of vanilla with heath bars or toffee mixed in. Soft serve is yummy too though, especially if dipped in chocolate or sprinkles. Yum.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Glad I’m not the first to prefer gelato. Freshly made gelato is the best for sure. I’m not the biggest fan of ice cream, though – I like it fine but it’s not my favorite. We have a really great soft serve food truck near us that is amazing. I’d definitely prefer to go there or the gelato place over a hard scoop ice cream place based on what’s available here. But I do keep a few varieties of Tilamook ice cream in our freezer. If I have a scoop of ice cream at home, it has to have a cherry on top.

  12. Debbie M Says:

    Thank you, I did not know there was such a thing as superior soft-serve! I will certainly not back off from trying such a thing in the future if it becomes handy.

    As for favorites, part of me agrees with what a friend of mine thinks about food in general: “Anything handy is pretty favorite.” But I do have favorites. In general, I am one of those pro-chocolate-in-all-its-forms people. Including gelato. But now I want only-shade grown chocolate (as opposed to the conventional rainforest-destroying varieties). So here’s what I get the most:
    * Vanilla hard scoop – especially good on pie or with chocolate syrup and nuts on top. This is the main thing I buy.
    * Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie nut one–I like both the ice cream and the frozen yogurt. (Most or all of their stuff is Fair Trade now, which for chocolate means shade-grown). I also tried and liked the Americone Dream flavor. I buy this when it’s on sale. And once I toured the factory and tried whatever random flavor was avialable.
    * HEB Creamy Creations Poteet strawberry – this is from my local grocery store (with strawberries from the town of Poteet, Texas), and it’s basically just ice cream with actual strawberries in it. At first I thought it was actually surprisingly good. I do think I want another bite. Indefinitely. I buy this when it’s in season.
    * For a while there was this super expensive brand that I never would have tried except they had a free sample (strawberry cheesecake) and so I learned that crazy expensive ice cream can be worth the extra money just like crazy expensive amusement parks (Disney World) can.
    * I first tried Magnum ice cream bars in Belgium, and the chocolate coating is actually delicious. Now they sell them in the US, too, but they are pricey.
    * At summer camp we made all kinds of flavors, just my mixing nearly random things in. Of course I like Girl Scout cookie ice cream (any flavor). But I also learned I like peppermint ice cream (it’s just barely pink unless you add food coloring) and grape soda ice cream, of all things. (It’s more obvious that root beer ice cream would be good, as in root beer floats.) And I don’t remember making hazelnut ice cream, but I do have it in my head that I like all nut-butter-flavored ice creams.
    * Amy’s is our most popular mix-in place. When my dad visited, he liked to order one of everything. I thought that would be crazy expensive, but they just put in a small amount of each mix-in and charged him a sundae price. In his later days, he decided he wasn’t up for all that anymore, but it’s still part of the family lore.

    I do not like the ones where they whip extra air into it (like Halo Top). I mean, it tastes fine, but it’s not satisfying, so I eat a lot more. Sadly, whipping air into it does not fool me.

    I’m also not a fan of adding caramel to everything (it tastes good, but is even more evil than my other favorites) or adding salt to sweet things (same problem).

  13. gwinne Says:

    I should say one of our pandemic indulgences was ordering a shipment of Jenis ice cream. Once for us, once for my mom. Super fun.

  14. teresa Says:

    Gelato > hard scoop ice cream >>>soft serve ice cream.
    But in fairness I don’t think I’ve ever had superior soft serve. This is a good reminder to try to fancy soft serve place that’s now around the corner from me.
    Recently I’ve been eating a lot of Alden’s key lime ice cream sandwiches.

  15. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    I have terrible discernment between great and so so foods sometimes and I think ice cream is one of those things I like so much, I don’t care if it’s a McDonald’s soft serve or a $5 Mr Softee, I’m happy to have ice cream. Or maybe it’s actually not that I can’t tell the difference, I just don’t care.

    There is a pretty amazing ice cream shop we found, the name escapes me, but they had lots of fun flavors. We had their strawberry sprinkle ice cream and it was really really good, I’m tempted to try a few more flavors. But at $6 a scoop, I’ll wait until it’s actually hot to truly enjoy.


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