ice cream
ice cream
Photo courtesy of chirapbogdan via Shutterstock

To most people, any ice cream qualifies as a tasty treat, but to the ice cream connoisseur, such an unexamined belief and practice is tantamount to blasphemy. Artisanal ice cream is usually made in smaller, more closely watched and cared-for batches, with higher quality ingredients that come from local farms — a detail that adds to the economic vibrancy and sustainability of the region from which the ice cream, its makers, and its eaters hail.

Most importantly, however, artisanal ice cream tastes much better than the mass-produced, commercially-prepared kind, with a flavor, texture and appearance that can rival art. If you love ice cream enough to only eat the best, here are six artisanal ice cream shops you need to take the time to visit.

1. Ample Hills Creamery, Brooklyn, NY

Started by a man who used to write for the Syfy channel, this Brooklyn-based ice cream shop began its life as a humble food cart. These days, Ample Hills Creamery has three Brooklyn locations in addition to a couple of carts, and their made-from-scratch ice cream is selling like hotcakes. Using only milk and eggs from local, hormone-free, grass-fed cows and chickens, respectively, Ample Hills Creamery’s ice cream is crafted in small, painstaking batches that yield exceptional flavor. Try the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake or the Mexican Hot Chocolate — a dark chocolate ice cream flavored with Saigon cinnamon and chili flakes.

2. Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco, CA

While it’s been open less than 10 years, Bi-Rite Creamery has already attained cult status in San Francisco, and it’s hard not to agree with how deserving they are. They stick to using Straus Family Creamery dairy exclusively, which guarantees their ice cream bases are local, fresh and delicious. They also have amazing baked goods that make it into their ice cream from time to time or that can be purchased separately if your sweet tooth needs something other than a frozen delicacy. Try the Honey Lavender, and by all means, the next time you have a party, get one of their ice cream cakes for the occasion.

3. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams Columbus, OH

When you ponder where great ice cream can be found, it’s probably not Columbus, Ohio that pops into your mind, but Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams just may change that. Local ingredients like sweet corn, cherries, blueberries and goat cheese are combined in some of the creamiest, most flavorful ice creams that have ever existed. There’s almost always a line out the door — even in the dead of winter — because their ice cream is so exceptional. With sorbet and frozen yogurt available, too, you’ll swoon even if you’re watching your calorie intake or avoiding dairy. Try the Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk or the Sweet Potato With Torched Marshmallows.

ice cream
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4. Odd Fellows Ice Cream, Brooklyn, NY

Another Brooklyn shop that’s making small batch ice cream from scratch, Odd Fellows Ice Cream uses milk and cream from New York-based Battenkill Valley Creamery, and they get as much of their produce as they can from local sources as well. So far, they’ve made and sold over 100 different varieties of ice cream, and their menu, which has anywhere from 12-24 different flavors on it, changes each season.

One of the best features of Odd Fellows’ ice cream is the unique freezing technique that’s employed in some of the flavors. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze ingredients like jelly that, when it’s folded into peanut butter ice cream, shatters and creates a marbled look and taste that’s truly exceptional.

5. Crank and Boom, Lexington, KY

Craft ice cream that’s made in small batches in the heart of horse and bourbon country, Crank and Boom got its start when the daughter of Thai immigrants, but who was born in Lexington, wanted to replicate the coconut ice cream she loved to eat when visiting Thailand. Committed to sustainable ingredients and the local food economy, this handcrafted ice cream is deceptively simple. Sold at the Lexington Farmer’s Market, the Berea Farmer’s Market and a handful of fine, local restaurants and grocery stores, if you get a chance to try some Crank and Boom, go for the Kentucky Blackberry and Buttermilk.

6. Pumphouse Creamery, Minneapolis, MN

Pumphouse Creamery buys everything it uses from local sources from the grains in their waffle cones to the dairy and eggs in their ice cream base. In addition to their commitment to locally sourcing their ingredients, their milk and cream are also organic. They’re also one of the few artisanal ice cream makers who provide an ice cream option for dogs. While known for their unusual flavors, the Rum Raisin — as quaint as it sounds — is especially heavenly.

So, eat some ice cream, but make sure you only take in the best. From Brooklyn to San Francisco, these six ice cream shops are redefining what it means to indulge.

Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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