Summer Food: The Tastes of Summer

Fireworks, the Orchestra at the Mann, and a week at the Shore. It’s more than 90-degree temperatures and Friday-night traffic.

Summer in Philadelphia is the Yards ale you’re sipping at that Fourth of July barbecue, the picnic from Di Bruno’s you tote to the Mann, and all those irresistible Boardwalk treats. (Our favorite this year: yummy, gooey monkey bread.) It’s the born-in-Philly Bassetts ice cream that beats the city heat, and the side-of-the-road farm stands that punctuate your long drive to Sea Isle with marble-sized blueberries, juicy strawberries, and those justifiably famous Jersey tomatoes. In the depths of winter, it’s these flavors — from water ice to watermelon — that we crave when we crave summer. July’s here, and so are the peaches. Let’s eat.

THIS WEEK: We saved the best for last.

Ice Cream

It seems ice cream alone is no longer enough to make us scream. This year, classic flavors get some help from the pastry case.

At Twist Ice Cream Parlor in Paoli (39 East Lancaster Avenue, Paoli; 610-640-1800), vanilla gets gussied up with fresh blueberries and hunks of cheesecake.

Pie crust pieces and vanilla icing are chilled with banana ice cream at Mount Laurel’s Lollypops Homemade Ice Cream (200 Larchmont Boulevard, Mount Laurel; 856-231-7677).

At Reading Terminal’s Bassetts Ice Cream (12th and Arch streets; 215-925-4315), chocolate ice cream is mixed with caramel, chocolate chunks and peanut-butter brownies, a creation called Gadzooks!, from the prank-addled minds of WMMR morning DJs Preston and Steve.

Water Ice

With more than 360 stores from Rhode Island to Ohio to Florida — and 130 in the Delaware Valley alone — Rita’s Water Ice ( is the undisputed king of the paradoxically named, Philly-born treat. This summer, the franchise debuts Island Fusion, a tropical-punch medley of mango, passion fruit and coconut. It’s a nod to the newfound popularity of the mango, which last year surpassed longtime champ cherry as Rita’s top seller.

Strawberry Shortcake

Go north to New England or west across the Mississippi, and strawberry shortcake is a shortcut of a dessert, a biscuit sandwiching whipped cream and sweet berries. But in Philly, the classic shortcake is a more elaborate affair, with layers of spongy cake, light vanilla cream and strawberries, frosted smooth with more cream. This European-influenced version has been a mainstay of the Old Original Bookbinder’s menu since it was the old, original Bookbinder’s (125 Walnut Street; 215-925-7027). July is prime time for local berries, and the Bookbinder’s kitchen will turn out more than 30 cakes a week to meet customer cravings for the three pounds of fresh berries and four cups of whipped cream in every one.

Root Beer Floats

Like the turn-of-the-century decor, root beer floats at the Franklin Fountain (116 Market Street, 215-627-1899; are quirky and authentic. Sidle up to the ingenious “fold-down” fountain seats for the best view as homemade­vanilla-bean ice cream is scooped into tall 22-ounce mugs. After experiments with­various kegged root beers, the proprietors decided Briar’s all-natural birch beer delivers the best flavor and the fewest foaming explosions.