Taste: In Search of … Vanilla Ice Cream

I scream, you scream … you know the resT. America consumes a billion gallons of ice cream annually, and Philadelphia contributes heftily to this cause. So we wanted to see how some of our local and regional ice creams would fare in a blind tasting. I invited the ice-cream experts: my wife and a bunch of her rowdy girlfriends. We emerged from our sugar comas in time to provide these results, in order of preference.

 1  Turkey Hill
Cost per serving:
16¢*
Available at: Almost every major
grocery store
Before we started, one of the girls asked, “Did you include any run-of-the-mill ice creams, like Turkey Hill?” Turns out Turkey Hill’s Original Vanilla, judged “very creamy,” with “well-balanced vanilla flavor” and “nice, even-handed sweetness,” is anything but run-of-the-mill. Manufactured in Lancaster County.


 2  Chilly Philly
Cost per serving:
41¢
Available at: Area Whole Foods
This microbatch offering from a Mount Airy husband-and-wife team that donates much of its revenue to charity evoked various orgasmic sounds from around the table due to its “in-your-face richness” and “potent vanilla flavor,” although other tasters found these same qualities “overwhelming.” Still, buying local gives us a good feeling.

 3  Nelson’s
Cost per serving:
37¢
Available at: Smaller grocery stores, primarily in Montgomery County
Nelson’s, located in Royersford, is the only large-scale manufacturer anywhere near the city. (In fact, Chilly Philly uses Nelson’s facilities.) A few tasters found Nelson’s “bland,” “artificial-tasting” and reminiscent “of soft-serve.” Others thought it tasted “homemade” and had a “great milky flavor.”


 4  Miel
Cost per serving:
75¢
Available at: Miel Patisserie, 1990 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, and 204 South 17th Street
Pastry chef Bobby Bennett has gotten into the ice-cream game, and at great expense to the customer. His “übersweet, and not in a good way” ice cream had few fans, due to an “overly thick and phlegmy” consistency, a taste “similar to wedding-cake icing” and a “bad aftertaste.”

 5  Hershey’s
Cost per serving:
22¢
Available at: Primarily, mom-and-pop grocers throughout the Delaware Valley
Maybe Hershey’s would have placed better if we’d been tasting chocolate ice cream. Its vanilla needs to be disguised in a root beer float or by gobs of the company’s chocolate syrup. The ice cream had a “strong alcohol flavor,” reminded one taster of “diet-friendly Atkins ice cream,” and drew consistent blechs.


 6  Bassetts
Cost per serving:
44¢
Available at: Reading Terminal Market and area Wawas
We were shocked, astonished, aghast and downright befuddled when this ice cream passed our lips. Bassetts has been enjoyed at the Reading Terminal Market for decades—although the product is now made some four hours west of Philly. Perhaps the company’s recent expansion into pints on Wawa’s shelves has tarnished the brand. “Awful,” “off flavor” and “slimy” are some of the tamer indicators of the girls’ feelings.

  • Jahk

    No Breyer’s?