Gracie’s carries standard flavors, like mint chip and cookies and cream, but also does limited-edition runs of the unexpected, such as this ube (purple yam) ice cream.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Gracie's
Why does New England have so much amazing ice cream? Credit our long tradition of dairy farming and, paradoxically, our cold climate. Historically, longer winters meant it was easier for the average New Englander to maintain a year-round supply of ice. So dairy met ice, and an ice cream culture was born — one that eventually begat Hoodsie Cups, Ben & Jerry’s, and Herrell’s.
Today, I know I can count on finding a great scoop wherever I travel in New England, but there are a few producers that I particularly love. Call them the cream of the cream. And here they are, state by state …
We’ve honored its cheeses. We’ve adored its farm-to-table restaurants. But when we tried the premium ice cream produced by Litchfield County’s Arethusa Farm, we found ice cream nirvana. The farm is the passion project of George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis, co-owners of luxury shoe company Manolo Blahnik USA — and while their side hustle may seem unlikely, we’re all eating much better for it. Try the strawberry, hazelnut, and chocolate, but truly, they’re all fantastic.
Our only complaint about Parlor is that there’s no single shop where you can sample every flavor. Instead, owner Jacqueline Dole, a trained pastry chef, sells her ice creams by the pint in retail shops around Portland and Greater Boston, at pop-up events, and at top restaurants. But boy is it worth the effort to source her intensely creamy product. Dole appreciates the critical role that a hint of salt can play in balancing out a sweet treat, so her Boston cream pie, piña colada, blueberry buckle, and coffee milk flavors all sing with bright intensity.
Honorable mention:Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
Best Ice Cream in Massachusetts–Greater Boston: Gracie’s
A stop at Gracie’s is a must for any Boston food crawl. Named after owner Aaron Cohen’s daughter, the Somerville shop has a charmingly homespun vibe and a steady stream of loyal customers. Cohen may be a stickler for quality, but he’s got a great imagination, too — hence flavors like salty whiskey (a perpetual favorite), fluffernutterbutter, and ube (purple yam, a Filipino ice cream mainstay).
Honorable mention: Forge Baking Company
Liquid nitrogen is the medium for flash-freezing this Hudson microcreamery’s made-from-scratch base (the milk comes from local cows). This method is colder and quicker and produces a super-creamy texture with no discernible ice crystals, one that’s “silky as a puppy’s ear,” as they like to say. We love the cookie dough (all house-made), the peanut butter banana fluff, the s’mores, and the strawberry basil. There are vegan flavors, too. And attention, Bostonians: There’s now a scoop shop in Cambridge.
Honorable mention:SoCo Creamery
Using milk from local farms and a base mix made from scratch, the super-premium and all-natural ice cream churned by the folks at Walpole Creamery is the ultimate scoop. The real maple walnut is a personal favorite, but there’s also Fijan ginger, black raspberry, udder joy (coconut ice cream with chocolate chunks and crunchy almonds), and seasonal specials like fresh peach in late summer and pumpkin spice in early fall.
Honorable mention:Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream
Three Sisters is a Providence restaurant that also happens to serve ice cream — and we’re talking great ice cream. We’ve praised their khulfi (a popular Southeast Asian flavor with cardamom, cinnamon, and pistachio), and the cake batter, mud pie, and black raspberry are also excellent. Just take it easy on the all-day breakfast menu so you’ll still have room for dessert.
Honorable mention:Gray’s Ice Cream
It makes sense that one of the country’s leading chocolatiers would make a fantastic Belgian chocolate ice cream. And many of the ingredients are sourced locally. But the true can’t-miss flavor at this Burlington mainstay is the distinctly tropical mango sorbet. In Vermont? Go figure.
Where are your favorite New England ice cream spots? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.