The Weekend ReTREAT : NYC Ice Cream

9.22.17

Welcome to my fall series The Weekend Retreat! My mug cake series was under the same title but I love the word play so much, and am too lazy to come up with a new one! Since I’ll be traveling a bunch this fall, I wanted to come up with an idea that would allow me to showcase desserts, but I wouldn’t have to bake them all.  So I’ll be curating tours around the city that focus on one thing.  This gave me an excuse to try new places, eat delicious things, and hang out with my friends. The inaugural tour is ice cream! It’s not just for the summer, which I proved earlier this week. Welcome to The Weekend Retreat!

Some things I learned on this tour, which informed me for future tours:

  • Telling people your mission can garner some great samples.

  • Most people working in ice cream stores are very jolly.

  • The public transit in NYC can royally screw your plans.  I had wanted to travel more through the boroughs, but weekend train schedules made it basically impossible.  So we stayed around the Lower East Side area, which oddly has the majority of all the ice cream in NYC anyway.

  • I felt super sick after eating ice cream for about three hours.  Maybe six places was overkill.  I think I may top out at five in the future.  Seriously, I had a hard time imagining ever eating again.

The people I tricked into this lactose intolerant nightmare trip? My friends Aaron, Erin (they’re married, not kidding), Michael, Natalie, Miranda, as well as my husband Phil.

And in bold jewel tones (apparently), we began our journey.

Gelarto 9th & Avenue A

It was actually locked when Phil and I showed up. Not sure what was going on, so we grabbed a bite next door for lunch while we waited for our friends. When we finished lunch and tried again, the door was open! So highlights are:

  • This place imports all their gelato from Turin, Italy.  It is legit.

  • There is a huge selection.

  • The guy who was working was super friendly and the place had a fun, kitchy Italian vibe.

  • We tried Stracciatella and mango. The mango was especially refreshing. Stracciatella is my go-to with gelato and it also did not disappoint.

Overall this was a nice spot to grab a little taste of Italy.  They advertise that they’re opened at 11, but I’d try going after 1pm so you don’t run into the same problem we did.  As we finished up, our friends Aaron and Erin arrived, tried a bite, and we headed on our way.

Davey’s 1st Avenue between St. Marks and 9th

This place takes pride in their classics, with a few special flavors that rotate. It smelled incredible. As soon as we walked in everyone was overcome with the delicious aroma throughout the store, we immediately wanted to eat everything.  

 

  • The staff was the highlight of our visit.  They were so incredibly warm and helpful.  And once they found out we were on an ice cream tour they let us try a bunch of flavors. 

  • The salted caramel was a perfect balance of sweet and salty. The double chocolate was like an ice cream version of a brownie.

  • A Davey’s secret? Try the roasted pistachio with Mike’s Hot Honey (as in spicy). Recommended by the employee, Julius, he knew he sounded crazy. So he let us try it, and he was right! It was a great combo.

  • I also tried the speculoos, which I could always eat out of a jar.  If I wasn’t sampling my friends bowls on this stop, that would’ve been the one I’d have bought.

Need a great vanilla or rich chocolate? Want to find out you actually enjoy pistachio? This is the place to go. Michael joined us here, and stuck with us for the rest of the tour.

Bingbox Snow Cream 2nd Avenue between 7th and St. Marks

I wanted to try a variety of styles and flavors on this tour, which is easy to find in the lower east side. So this stop was focused on something none of us had every tried before. Bingbox specializes in Korean finely shaved flavored ice with different toppings. You can choose between pre-made “boxes” or create your own. We bought two of the pre-made flavor combinations. Thank god that’s all we got, they are HUGE. Maybe on the verge of too big? Natalie joined us here and between six of us we still couldn’t finish the two.

  • Flavor one: Matcha with mochi and red beans. Bringing these Korean flavors together makes sense, but is not a flavor combination for everyone.  I was one of the only ones who could take it all on one spoon, the friends were not fans of the red beans.

  • Flavor two: Milk Tea with bubbles (tapioca pearls) and mochi.  This was more favored among the group.  To be fair, the ice cream on both was delicious, but the add ons were a little much.  Maybe we’re old, but it just was overwhelming for us.  

  • Quote from Natalie “That looks the contents of a 6yr olds stomach.” She wasn’t wrong.

  • The staff wasn’t overly friendly, but not rude. Though with the past two places we were used to extremely cheerful humans. But guess what, they did their job and served us fast, they are not there for our entertainment!! 

It was fun to try a new place that’s in the world of very Instagrammable food. 

Van Leeuwen 2nd Avenue between 6th and 7th

I decided before the tour began, that traveling to Brooklyn over the weekend would be our own piece of hell. I was sad we wouldn’t get to the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck in Williamsburg as I had hoped.  BUT then I realized they have a store in the Lower East Side. I had my heart set on their earl grey ice cream, and I was determined to try it. This was a place that a lot of my friends indulged in fun variations of ice cream, and Miranda joined us.  She had her own piece of hell traveling from Queens to meet us. Seriously. The MTA on the weekends is like a cruel farce.

  • I got my earl grey, and it was SO WORTH IT. I’m not really a tea drinker but earl grey flavored treats are some of my favs. If you only have room for one thing here, try the earl grey!

  • Michael indulged in the honeycomb, and it was so so good!  It’s made locally in small batches and the quality in the taste was obvious.  It doesn’t take a million ingredients to make deliciousness.

  • Phil got a root beer float and Natalie got a affogato! “This affogato is really afekhkjdfh [insert attempt at word pun here]……it’s great” – Natalie, on her treat. Phil got to live out his malt shop dreams with the float and was not disappointed.

  • Erin went classic with vanilla, but it was outstanding.  Why? Because there’s real vanilla bean in there. You just can’t compete with the real thing, vanilla bean always enhances the flavor and makes almost any treat better.

  • The girl who served us was back to the cheery ice cream employee disposition we knew and loved.  Why are they all so nice? We voted epic sugar high.

I’m so glad we made this a stop! I was ready to write it off when we didn’t go to Brooklyn, but this may have ended up being my favorite! They also have a ton of vegan flavors that sound just as yummy. I knew we still had a ways to go so I could only limit myself to one flavor.

10BelowIceCream Allen between Rivington and Delancy

As we neared the end of our journey, we all begin feeling a little full.  And by little I mean a lot.  However, that didn’t seem to matter as we ordered three of the flavors from this Thai inspired ice cream spot in Chinatown.  After reading their background story and watching them in action, it’s no wonder this was also one of my other favorites overall: all pure ingredients, and it’s made right in front of you. 

  • We bought the Latte, S’mores, and Cookies and Cream flavors.  They were all delicious.  But the S’mores was a solid first for me.  Milk chocolate with graham crackers and a torched marshmallow on top.  

  • We were the only people in there the entire time we hung out.  It was a weird realization how few people were getting ice cream in NYC on a Saturday. Granted it wasn’t 95 degrees but it was still warm all afternoon.  

  • The staff was friendly as we ordered but went into the back as soon as we had our ice cream, which left us as the only people in the main area, it was a little odd feeling

The rolled aesthetic was really cool, and surprisingly light. Even thought we were already reaching our limit on eating ice cream, the flavors and quality of this place came through, and we basically finished all three bowls.  It’s definitely unique, but also just straight up delicious.

Taiyaki Baxter Street between Canal and Hester

Talk about hype! This is the place you’ve seen all over Instagram with its fish shaped waffle cones. It’s the only place that had a line, and it was out the door! It was our grand finale, and a little tricky to find in the depths between Chinatown and Little Italy.  It’s sandwiched on a tiny street, and the place itself is small, but they work fast and everyone is so tickled when they get their treat.  You can even get a unicorn float, in….a unicorn float (the kind you put in a pool). Erin and Aaron headed out before this place, but everyone else stuck with it, and had opinions. 

  • Overall I was really happy with this place, it’s simple, but there are a few things that stood out. It’s basically just soft serve ice cream.  So prepare yourself that while there are a few unique flavors available, they’re limited.  You can get two of them swirled if you’re feeling crazy. 

  • They add a custard inside of their cones. I loved that! It’s something that makes them a little different.  

  • The waffle cone it actually more like an actual waffle, it’s soft and pastry like.  I really enjoy it, but as we also learned from Natalie’s encounter with it, it can become soggy relatively quickly. Natalie was not amused, not impressed and not interested by the end.  Direct quote from Natalie “This is the most over-hyped, under-actually-giving-me-anything….yeah” So I present to you, Natalie at Taiyaki in three acts.

She started out so joyful, so full of hope.  But her happiness quickly melted just as her ice cream had all over her hands, turning her cone into a damp mess. I learned from her misstep and tried to eat mine faster to avoid that situation. 

In the end, after having a ton of ice cream, the soft serve was a welcomed change for me.  And it’s great soft serve! If the line is around the block, maybe try another time, this ice cream will not change your life. But if you’re willing to wait a little and need that epic Instagram of the fish ice cream cone, go for it.  It’s a refreshing treat when the sun is out, as long as you’re willing to soldier your way through the stressful throngs of people in Chinatown to get there.

Did you notice Miranda wore a cherry dress? Like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae! Themed outfits, that’s how awesome this tour was!

And there you have it! Six different places in NYC with some really great ice cream! If you need a recommendation when you’re trolling around the city I hope you think of this post for ideas! There were so many other places I would’ve loved to try, like Mikey Likes It, The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Ample Hills Creamery, Eddie’s Sweet Shop, Blue Marble Ice Cream, to name a FEW.  Yes, there is that much ice cream in NYC.  Go explore and make your own tour! I definitely couldn’t look at ice cream afterwards but the experience of spending an afternoon walking around with friends was in itself worth the adventure.

I’m starting to brainstorm my next tour, so keep a look out.  And if I can squeeze in a few recipes in between, I will!

 

We all deserve a little treat.....share!
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