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Summer takes a licking to keep on ticking

  • The rum raisin ice cream from Richardson's Farm also has maraschino cherries in it, which give it a little extra sweetness and a pinkish hue. (Kae McGann / Monitor staff)

    The rum raisin ice cream from Richardson's Farm also has maraschino cherries in it, which give it a little extra sweetness and a pinkish hue. (Kae McGann / Monitor staff)

  • The rum raisin ice cream from Richardson's Farm also has maraschino cherries in it, which give it a little extra sweetness and a pinkish hue. (Kae McGann / Monitor staff)

Summer is waning, but this is no time to switch your focus to fall. Savor these last few weeks of warm weather, beach days and flip-flops. Don’t go gently into those cool nights and rushed school mornings; forge on through these lazy, do-what-you-want days, and eat plenty of ice cream.

We used the Granite State Dairy Promotion’s 2014 Ice Cream Trail promotion to send five reporters out in search of unusual flavors and day-trip worthy tastes we could share here to help get you jazzed up to end summer on a sweet note.

The Ice Cream Trail is a list of 43 ice cream shops that aim to raise awareness and support for New Hampshire’s dairy industry one lick at a time. Print out an Ice Cream Trail passport at nhdairypromo.org, then visit each participating ice cream shop and collect a cow sticker from staff. When you’ve been to every one, mail your passport to the address printed on the side and you’ll be entered to win a basket of New Hampshire-made goodies. You’ve got until Oct. 8 to finish.

Forty-three ice cream shops in just eight weeks, you say? It’s possible. And even if you don’t manage to hit them all, it sure will be fun trying.

Beyond vanilla and back again

The needling is well-worn at this point. I’ve been teased by co-workers, by family members, by college roommates. Even so, I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I’m a steadfast vanilla ice cream devotee. No other flavor tops it in my mind.

Still, I’m no ice cream reactionary. So when I trekked up to Jordan’s Ice Creamery on Route 106 in Belmont the other day, I opted for something different.

Owner Craig Jordan gave me a cup of a flavor called salted caramel crunch. It’s a candy lover’s dream. It has a salted caramel base topped with chocolate chips, chocolate-covered pretzels and a caramel swirl. Jordan said it’s one of his most popular flavors, which doesn’t come as a surprise.

The chocolate chips and pretzels superbly complement the caramel base. And none of the ingredients overwhelms another, which helps to give it a nice, sweet taste. It has the perfect balance.

Business is good at Jordan’s, which opened for its 20th season this year. Sales are up, and the shop is expected to close later than normal this season.

And accolades keep pouring in. Jordan’s consistently tops New Hampshire ice cream parlor rankings, and this year it was chosen in a WMUR poll as having the best ice cream in the state.

“It’s been a very, very good season,” Jordan told me. He is a man whose world, more or less, revolves around ice cream. He makes it fresh every day the shop is open and comes up with the 300 or so different homemade flavors Jordan’s serves over the course of a season. Salted caramel crunch was introduced last year.

And it’s quite delicious.

Yet as I was getting ready to leave the shop, I asked Jordan if I could take another flavor for the road.

My choice?

Vanilla.

It was a good decision. It was rich and creamy – the kind of vanilla you can’t find prepackaged in a grocery store freezer – and among the best I’ve ever had.

And there’s nothing vanilla about that.

Come for the Krunch, not the cornmeal

I went to Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook with lofty expectations.

An old farmhouse serves as the ice cream shop, featuring big exposed beams and rustic, uneven flooring.

I was unprepared for the selection of ice cream. An overwhelming assortment of flavors from which to choose. Indian Pudding? Never heard of it. Might as well give it a try.

It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t the best thing I’d ever tasted, either. It’s described as “Vintage vanilla ice cream flavored with molasses, cornmeal and vanilla.” They should have put cornmeal in all caps.

I just couldn’t escape the texture. It was very mealy. The actual flavor wasn’t bad. It tasted like molasses and vanilla, as advertised. But I’m a big texture guy.

I’d definitely go back again, but maybe next time I’ll try the Coconut Snowflake or Kate’s Krunch.

Hidden treasure

The Granite State Candy Shoppe has an enormous selection of chocolate and candy – but the hidden treasures are behind the ice cream counter.

With more than 30 flavors from which to choose, the shop can satisfy any sweet tooth’s craving. For anyone seeking an unconventional flavor, the Indian Pudding tastes like a gingerbread house masquerading as ice cream. It’s made with a vanilla base, and molasses and corn meal flavors complete the unique blend. Regardless of your selection, no dish is complete without a dash of chocolate shavings available at the toppings counter.

Granite State is on Warren Street in downtown Concord.

The place to go

It was with a little trepidation that I took my first bite of rum raisin ice cream. I had always avoided it. I like rum. I even like raisins. But together in an ice cream? Could it ever beat chocolate brownie, replace black raspberry or stand a chance against a good old-fashioned vanilla?

It turns out it can’t, but it doesn’t need to. It’s in a league of its own – at least at Richardson’s Farm in Boscawen.

The Richardsons – who’ve been in the ice cream business for decades – make small batches using milk and cream from Hatchland Farm in North Haverhill and only high-quality ingredients. The result is hard to describe in words that do it justice. It’s the way ice cream should always taste, and it’s little wonder that with just one bite, people like me can become big fans of flavors like rum raisin.

Martha Vendt of Boscawen, who happened to be getting an ice cream while I was there, summed up Richardson’s Farm the best, the simplest and without a doubt: “This is the place to go.”

It’s a bit off the beaten track of Interstate 93, but oh so worth it (170 Water Street in Boscawen). A small cone or cup will run you $2.75, a medium $3.50 and a large $4

There farm offers more than three dozen ice cream flavors, but some unique ones include gingersnap and strawberry-rhubarb. They also have several sherberts.

All aboard for Graham Central Station

Between my love of ice cream and my indecisiveness, I could not choose just one flavor to taste at Lang’s in Pembroke. Lang’s serves ice cream from Blake’s Creamery, a popular ice cream company. But despite its popularity, I had not tried many of Blake’s flavors, so I asked for suggestions from the manager at Lang’s, Miles Tobin.

Tobin suggested his favorites: Bear Claw, a rich chocolate ice cream with caramel and chocolate covered cashews; and Graham Central Station, a graham cracker-flavored ice cream with pieces of graham cracker and chocolate covered crisp candies in it that give the ice cream a little crutch, mimicking the crunch of a graham cracker.

I assumed that of the two, Bear Claw would be my preferred choice, but I found a new favorite in Graham Central Station. Although I love chocolate, the graham cracker flavored ice cream was a refreshing alternative to mint chocolate chip or Oreo ice cream. It still has a small hint of chocolate from the candies mixed into the ice cream, but the graham cracker overpowers it in what is an unexpectedly delicious way.

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