I moved to this area from the Boston suburbs in 1990; when my first experience going “out for ice cream” in the area led to Dairy Queen, I was appauled. I asked one of the people I was with if there were any real ice cream shoppes around; he could only give me a puzzled look and shrug. And while I learned to appreciate the cookie dough Blizzard, I still dreampt of childhood days at Emack & Bolios, Brigham’s and of course, Steve’s, the greatest ice cream shop ever created.
If you are not familiar with the Steve’s legend, it is a ice cream franchise started outside Boston in the early 70’s by a guy named Steve Herrell, who is most famous for inventing the “mix-in”, where pieces of candy and other confections (Heath Bars, Reese’s and Oreos were some of the first) were mixed inside the ice cream. (Others put it on top, not in.) The original Steve’s laid out the ice cream on a cold slab of granite, mixed in the candy, and served up perfection. It is lesser known that Herrell created his unique brand of rich, creamy ice cream by mechanically altering a small, commercial batch freezer, and that this freezer has become the standard to which manufacturers now design. It should also be noted that Ben and Jerry (yep, the actual guys) credit Herrell as their inspiration, for both the production method of the ice cream and the flavor creations. Not bad, eh? (Read more about Steve and Herrell’s, his current business.)
A year or two ago, I started to hear buzz about two new ice cream franchises in the area — Cold Stone and Maggie Moo’s. Seems they had this radical new idea… put ice cream on cold slabs of granite, mix in candy, and sell it! My reaction was a mix of skepticism and promise — skeptical that it took so long for this method of ice cream making to travel 6 freakin hours down I95, hopeful that my days in ice cream purgatory were ending. Unfortunately, though I tried, and though it was better than any other option, Cold Stone never lived up to the hype for me. I loved that I could get brownies or heath bar or pretty much anything else mixed in, but their ice cream just isn’t that good. Though the original Steve’s turned me into a person who thinks plain IC (without a mix-in) is too boring to bother with, I realized that the quality of the stuff was more important than I thought.
This summer, however, things have changed…
Bruster’s, a nationwide chain originally started in Bridgewater, PA, came to Frazer. I can say without hesitation that Bruster’s chocolate shake is the single best milk shake I have tasted since I left the last Brigham’s (king of the Boston frappes) behind in ’90. And although they don’t have mix-ins, the “Stick in the Mud” — chocolate ice cream with a fudge ripple and chocolate-covered pretzels — holds up to any combination I could come up with on my own. If you splurge on one caloric ice cream binge this summer, make sure it includes Bruster’s rich, flavorful goodness. 102 Lancaster Ave. 610-408-0883
Handel’s in Berwyn ain’t bad either — great homemade ice cream that reminds me of rainy summer nights in The Hub. The “Dark Chocolate Chunk” is one of the most decadent flavors I’ve ever eaten. 576 Lancaster Ave. (610) 640-1606
Of course, if you want the real thing, make sure to visit Steve the next time you’re up in Northampton, MA. You won’t regret it.
(Or, if you find yourself on the other side of the pond, stop in here. But that’s another story for another time…)