Getting the Scoop

There’s something about ice cream that appeals to just about everyone. Certainly there’s the taste. We all know it probably has too many calories but most of us don’t care – it’s just too scrumptious. Maybe it’s the atmosphere of the ice cream places. They’re just plain fun.

For sure it’s the people we are with when we indulge. “Let’s go for ice cream” is high on my list of favorite summertime phrases. We all seem to find time to fit this into busy schedules. We relax, share some conversation, and laugh. I’m convinced you can’t eat ice cream without feeling happier.

July is National Ice Cream Month, during which the third Sunday is National Ice Cream Day, designated in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. For 2009, it falls on Sunday, July 19, making it the 25th anniversary of this favorite day of mine. According to the International Dairy Foods Association website, www.idfa.org, 90 percent of the nation’s population indulges in this cold, creamy treat.

Personally, I need one of those bumper stickers that says, “I brake for ice cream.” I’ve done my share of tasting as I’ve traveled around our pretty Finger Lakes region. Here’s my certainly not all-inclusive list of wonderful ice cream places we have in our area. These are in no particular order, as they are just the latest finds in my quest to visit them all.

Village Soft Serve, Seneca County
In the quaint little town of Lodi, the Village Soft Serve sits right in the middle, with a lovely old church in the background and plenty of grass around the stand to give you a lot of room for relaxing while you eat. Its sister stand of the same name is up the road in Ovid. I had a double scoop in a waffle cone, with good-size chunks of strawberries in my bottom scoop and yummy chocolate on the top. I admit, I couldn’t finish it all but I sure enjoyed trying.

It’s the kind of place where it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. We chatted with limo driver Bob Guzman as he found the perfect way to spend his break. I overheard one customer as he made a point to stop back at the window to give compliments. “Best Moose Tracks I’ve ever had,” he said. High praise indeed!

Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor, Steuben County
If you want an old-fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, this is the place to visit. Located on the Village Square in Hammondsport, it’s a pretty place with ivy crawling up the sign and tables on the sidewalk for those hot summer nights. Inside you’ll find the antiquated counter with the scratched wooden surface that has seen countless ice cream seasons. I can envision all the children who must have sat on the swivel bar stools with their legs dangling and their feet swinging while ice cream drips down their chins. The booths and tables fill the room, and antique ice cream paraphernalia lines the shelves and walls. My double-scoop cone was huge (I can’t ever seem to try just one flavor!) and I once again lost the battle to finish every drop.

Cream at the Top, Cayuga County
I found Cream at the Top as I drove Route 34B on the east side of Cayuga Lake in King Ferry. I love the American flags along the road, the spacious grounds with the picnic tables, and the Adirondack chairs that give plenty of room to relax. The building may be small but there is nothing small about the choices, with a lot of hard ice cream flavors, flurries and soft custard cones.

I also like the local ice cream they serve, offering both Purity and Cornell Ice Cream made in Ithaca. I tried Cornell’s Bavarian Raspberry Fudge with another scoop of strawberry (love those double scoops!). It was really delicious, and it tasted even better to me, knowing it was made just down the road!

Seneca Farms and Mr. Twistees, Yates County
On this particular road trip, my partners in (calorie) crime were my husband and his brother, and we had a delicious dilemma in picking which of these two ice cream stands to visit, so we flipped a coin and decided that both would win. We started at Seneca Farms on Route 54A in Penn Yan. They’ve been at it for 58 years, producing their own fabulous ice cream and frozen custard. Their flavor of that week was Funkie Munkie which makes you want to taste it because of the name alone! They have a great décor, with lots of Coca-Cola memorabilia, red booths and high-top tables.

I was saving my appetite for the other stop, but my brother-in-law had no reservations, ordering a huge banana split, complete with extra spoon since he knew I could not resist tasting his. My husband decided to go light, ordering a single scoop of strawberry ice cream. That thought lasted only until he hit the bottom of the bowl. While we laughed, he got up and ordered another bowlful, mumbling, “That’s just too good to have that little bit!” This place is fun, delicious, and a Finger Lakes’ treasure.

We drove around the corner to Dresden, where we stopped at Mr. Twistees. With a panorama of the countryside for the backdrop, this is the place to get a great view of our beautiful region. There is also a children’s play area, complete with fire truck, swings, and a two-story playhouse.

It’s a busy place even during our mid-afternoon stop, a testament to the popularity of this roadside stand. They serve Hershey’s hard ice cream, and soft ice cream from Upstate Farms out of Buffalo, New York. Their Bavarian Fudge is all their own, and that’s the one I tried in a waffle bowl. A pretty summer day, a table with a view, and a bowl of yummy ice cream makes for a pretty sweet afternoon.

The Ice Cream Caboose, Tompkins County
The first time I drove by the big red caboose along Route 38 in Groton, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. But spotting the crowd and the fun mural painted along the side of it, my curiosity turned into the delightful discovery of this eye-catching ice cream stand. I have to admit, I really didn’t care what the ice cream tasted like, I mean…it was a red caboose! I am happy to report it was delicious. They serve up a wide assortment of flavors and frozen treats, from hard and soft-serve cones to flurries, milkshakes, floats, sundaes and their “glacier.” This is a great ice cream stop in a charming little town.

The Big Dipper, Tioga County
In my own Tioga County, I am a regular at the Big Dipper in Apalachin. And I am not alone – it’s a pretty busy place. I’ve tried a lot of different things but my favorite is a chocolate soft-serve dipped in a peanut butter topping. My husband is a big fan of their blueberry milkshake. Their servings are huge! Even the ever-hungry teenage boy would have trouble finishing a large cone.

It has plenty of picnic tables and a pretty gazebo where you can sit and enjoy your treats. There’s also a huge gumball machine, a penny pincher machine, and a few mechanical rides for children. Located right off exit 66 from Route 17, it’s well worth it to take a break from your highway drive to pay them a visit.

I’ll be on the road this summer continuing my search for the perfect scoop. And on July 19, make sure to visit your own favorite roadside stand where you can wish the other chill seekers a “Happy Ice Cream Day!”
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It’s almost impossible to include every ice cream shop in the Finger Lakes within the confines of this article, but we’d like to list a few more. Please visit your local favorite shop and enjoy the summer!

Hokey Pokey
Corning, Steuben County

Glen Dairy Bar
Watkins Glen, Schuyler County

Jones Cones
Rushville, Yates County

The Great Escape
Watkins Glen, Schuyler County

Shark Ice Cream
Bloomfield, Ontario County


by Cindy Ruggieri