Five Faves: Ice creams worth screaming for
Posted June 28
Ahead of Fourth of July weekend, it feels like the Triangle has already experienced some of its toughest July heat. Luckily, that means I was more than ready to go head first into trying out the best ice cream joints around to get a taste of the best treats to help stay cool through the true heat of summer.
It’s worth noting that these ice creams are all homemade, so the difference in taste and texture in the ice creams is as instantly noticeable as the care the employees of each of these places show people when they walk through the door. It’s also good to know these are available at many of the summer events – festivals, food truck rodeos, RailHawks games and more – by way of their ice cream trucks, too. So keep an eye out for these names as you go other places.
Lumpy’s (Wake Forest) – This one isn’t really a secret, or at least it sure doesn’t seem that way. I was equally impressed by the number of “Best of,” awards on display above the freezer/ice cream case as I was the line of people at Lumpy’s when I walked in the door.
Once I got past those things, more original flavors than I could literally think of were in front of me to choose from – so obviously, I used Five Faves as an excuse to sample more flavors than anyone ever should try in one visit. I HAD to try Betty’s Brown Sugar and Tipper’s Apple Wine first, both of which I loved because of how light the flavors were. It’s clear there’s nothing artificial I nibbled Armond’s Almond Joy, too, and had the same reaction, but was met with just the right amount of pieces of chocolate and almonds.
I settled on ordering April’s Apricot and Georgie's Fuzzy Peach Dream and the chunks of fruit were HUGE!
The sign behind the cash register (which might as not be there – the staff seems to know the prices of everything by heart) says the store uses Maple View Farms milk to make its ice cream.
Lumpy’s flavors are full, but light enough to not leave you feeling like ice cream was maybe a mistake. The MOST important thing to know about Lumpy’s? Don’t make the mistake I made of committing to just a couple flavors. Lumpy’s has a sample plate that gives you SIX golf-ball sized scoops of ice cream, for those of us that can’t narrow it down. (If only I’d not gotten too excited to actually read the menu once I saw the flavors in front of me..)
Oh! I did see that menu offers free coffee, if you’re into a pick-up with your cool-down.
The Parlour (Durham) – What the Parlour lacks in easy parking, it makes up for inside. The environment, size and seating might be the best there is in the Triangle, in my opinion.
The Parlour’s best-seller is its salted caramel flavor, closely followed by the cookies & cream – emphasis on CREAM! If this is one of your all-time fave flavors, you will not be disappointed. The Parlour lists its flavor options to the left as soon as you step in the door. This place should be the flagship location vegan ice cream. I had vegan roasted pineapple and it lacked NOTHING – not fullness, a creamy texture or natural sweetness and flavor. The sorbet is as light as any I’ve ever had. Surprisingly, the rosewater and the lavender were as full in flavor as the cookies and cream.
The Parlour offered a coffee (hot and cold) selection and had a case of vegan baked goods which proved to blow my mind just as the vegan ice cream did. The brownie with nuts was so rich that I divided it into several sessions for eating, just think “moist-rich-dense-sweet-chocolately goodness.” That brownie was the real surprise of the day, but the ice cream fulfilled all hopes and expectations, too.
Treat (downtown Raleigh) – Treat is in the heart of the capitol city, so it’s fitting that Banana Puddin’ and Carolina Crunch (vanilla ice cream loaded with different chocolate candy pieces) are the favorites of both the roughly 10 people who filled the small location with me and of every person I know who has been there. Treat serves Maple View ice cream in a closer-to-home and more hustle-and-bustle location that still packs the sweet, heavy, full-force flavor that is the well-known signature of Maple View.
My advice? Get less than you normally would, Maple View ice cream skips on nothing. Eat it slow, savor it and be proud when you finish your cup or cone!
Maple View Farm (Hillsbrough/Chapel Hill) – Maple View has the view that is well worth the drive. This was a staple for UNC-ers when I was a student there and for good reason. The little drive out sets the tone for the peaceful and delicious break from all things fast and hectic and hot and overwhelming. Rocking chairs on the porch are the way to go to really get the Maple View experience.
The ice cream is as good as the environment, if not better. This ice cream is indulgence in a cone (or cup) – even the “lighter,” flavors (a sorbet or fruit, for example) are thick and rich and full and totally filling. Try Maple View one way or another..walk it off if you’re downtown, or take your time letting it sit. Rest and rock away at the Hillsborough escape.
Sunni Sky's (Angier) - A finalist for last year's WRAL Out and About Voters' Choice Award for "Worth the Drive," this shop has more than 100 flavors available and all are made in house. Try the banana pudding! Feeling adventurous? Try their super spicy "Cold Sweat" flavor - so hot you have to sign a waiver before sampling.
These ice cream shops do offer take-home options, but if you’re more into running to the grocery store for a better-than-mass-consumer brand, I suggest the following:
To keep at home – Talenti and Ciao Bella pints. Sorry Ben & Jerry’s fans, but if splurging for ice cream (or gelato or sorbet or sherbert) is your heart’s desires, these two brands are the way to go. Simply, Talenti has the BEST rich, creamy, thick flavors of gelatos that include anything with chocolate, mint, coffee, caramel or mimic perfectly deserts ranging from tiramisu to key lime pie. Want a rich take-home treat? Talenti.
Sorbets and fruit flavors are my weak spot year round, but especially feel right in the summer. Ciao Bella does it at an unparalleled level. Hands down the best mango sorbet(to) I’ve ever had (at a shop or store bought or handmade) in my life – the texture and flavor is so close to biting a mango that it’s hard to believe you aren’t. Light, juicy, intense, bright, true-to-origin fruity (and flowery, the Bartlett pear hibiscus is fun) – Ciao Bella is the bar-none best consistent fruit brand sweet-treat maker I’ve ever tried.
Bonus: If you care to know, the Ciao Bella products have very friendly nutrition facts, as far as store-bought ice creams go.