This past Saturday was the 11th Annual New Jersey State Ice Cream Festival. With over a dozen local vendors offering up samples of their latest concoctions at just a mere seven dollars for a tasting kit, I decided to brave the heat and head on down to Toms River.
By the time I got to the festival, the temperature gauge in my car said it was 99 degrees. Unfortunately, what this meant is that most of the ice cream I got to sample was either partially or totally melted by the time it traveled from the vendors’ coolers into my mouth. Yes, it was that kind of hot. But while I did, for the most part, have trouble judging the contestants’ offerings based on texture, the universally semi-melted nature of the ice cream allowed me to really focus on flavor alone.
Now I sampled over a dozen flavors at the festival, some more innovative and appealing than others. And based on what I ate, I’ve narrowed down my favorites into the following top three:
Nasto’s Cappuccino Crunch (Newark, NJ)
For me, coffee-based flavors are generally very hit or miss. I don’t like being smacked over the head with the taste of coffee, and in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. The coffee flavoring is there, but not so much so that it adds that degree of bitterness you’ll sometimes find in similar flavors. And the crunchy cookie mix-in adds a really nice contrast while enhancing the coffee base. (Grade: B)
2 Sisters Lemon Crème (Beachwood, NJ)
The photo alone doesn’t do this flavor justice, because not only is this one of the best ice creams I tasted that day, but it’s also one of the most refreshing flavors I’ve had all year. I don’t know how they did it, but of all the vendors, 2 Sisters managed to keep their ice cream the coldest, which meant I actually got to enjoy this flavor’s light, almost fluffy texture. And the lemon flavor was present in that perfect but not overwhelming way—so much so that I didn’t even miss the mix-ins I usually crave. In fact, sampling this ice cream was like eating an airy, satisfying slice of lemon meringue pie. (Grade: A)
Gifford’s Campfire S’mores (Skowhegan, Maine)
A lot of companies are attempting to recreate the iconic, classically delicious S’more in ice cream form these days, and unfortunately, many are striking out by adding elements that make their flavors far too sweet. Not Gifford’s. The marshmallow-graham base does a great job of capturing that wonderful S’mores flavor without being cloyingly sweet. And the chocolate crunch mix-in complements the base perfectly, adding just the right amount of contrast while really building up that S’mores flavor. If you’re a fan of S’mores, this one’s definitely a winner. (Grade: A)
Thanks for sharing Mo!