Ahh, summer in Maine, the season for going on hot, humid hikes, swimming in cool lakes and soaking up lots of sunshine.
And for eating ice cream. So much ice cream. A hot, sticky season needs a sweet and creamy treat, just for balance. Luckily for locals and visitors to the Pine Tree State, Maine has an abundance of ice cream makers. Those folks don’t mess around, either. They don’t skimp on classics such as chocolate and vanilla, but they do let their creativity take wing in the kitchen, as they dream up all the flavors you can imagine (and maybe some you can’t). This isn’t a comprehensive survey — it is impossible to include all of Maine’s amazing ice cream options in one go. But without further ado, here are some of the unusual flavors that Mainers love to sample at some of their favorite ice cream shops.
Espresso Anise Swirl at John’s Ice Cream, Liberty
For many visitors to Maine (and locals, too), summer wouldn’t be complete without a stop at John’s on Route 3 for a scoop or two of rich and creamy ice cream. With the motto “If you can dream it — we can make it!,” John’s doesn’t lack for imaginative offerings, but Espresso Anise Swirl is one that is close to founder John Ascrizzi’s heart. “It’s an espresso ice cream with a swirl of marshmallow and anise flavor,” the Italian-American ice cream maker said. “Growing up, we always sweetened the espresso with anisette [an anise-flavored liqueur popular in Mediterranean countries]. That’s a good combination. It’s a very European thing.”
510 Belfast-Augusta Road, Liberty.
Kelp Crunch at Morton’s Moo, Ellsworth
Back in 2016, Morton’s Moo partnered up with Maine Coast Sea Vegetables in Hancock on a special flavor they made for the 2016 Acadia National Park Centennial celebration: Kelp Crunch. The ice cream is made with crushed-up kelp bars in a vanilla base, and it’s a little bit salty and savory, according to co-owner Greg Winston. It’s not for everyone, but it is popular enough that it has remained in the rotation at the artisanal ice cream shop.
9 School Street, Ellsworth (behind Flexit Cafe).
Blueberry Basil Sorbet at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, Bar Harbor and Portland
It’s tough to single out just one unique flavor to sample at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, known for its innovative offerings, but we’ll take a crack at it and boldly state that Blueberry Basil Sorbet is a must-try when it’s in the rotation. “I think it’s kind of like reinventing sweet,” Parker told the BDN in 2009. “You give sweet another form. Take basil. Basil, to me, isn’t that far from mint, but people associate it with Italian food, with a savory taste. We pair it with blueberry in a sorbet, and it’s wonderful.”
325 Main Street and 7 Firefly Lane, both in Bar Harbor, and 51 Exchange Street in Portland.
Oak With Whiskey Sauce at Pugnuts Ice Cream Shop, Surry
Owners Karl Holmes and Eric Treworgy were looking for flavors that would set their made-from-scratch ice cream and gelato shop apart from the crowd, and they surely succeeded when Holmes dreamed up Oak With Whiskey Sauce. It’s made by steeping oak chips in the milk they use to make gelato overnight before cooking up the recipe. They found that oak-flavored gelato alone wasn’t captivating enough, so they decided to swirl in a sweet sauce made with whiskey. “It has the smoky flavor of an aged whiskey barrel, and that is only reinforced by the whiskey sauce,” Holmes said. “Once we put the whiskey with the oak, it turned into a real best-seller.”
1276 Surry Road (Route 172) at the intersection of Surry Road and Wharf and North Bend Roads.
Blueberry Rhubarb Pie at Spencer’s Ice Cream, Bradley
Spencer’s has been an ice cream-lover’s destination since 1933. But this year, a big change came to the venerable ice cream shop when 18-year-old Jack Watkins purchased the business just before graduating high school. When the teen first took the reins, customers came in and asked him to make strawberry rhubarb ice cream, and when he did, he found it sold out quickly. At a recent family gathering, he tasted blueberry rhubarb pie and figured that would make a great ice cream, too. It features blueberries, rhubarb and graham crackers in a blueberry ice cream base.
77 Main St., Bradley.
Dark & Stormy at Stone Fox Farm Creamery, Monroe
When Kathy and Bruce Chamberlain of Stone Fox Farm Creamery have an evening cocktail, chances are it will be a dark & stormy, a spicy yet smooth concoction made with dark rum and ginger beer. They decided to try their hand replicating the popular beverage in an ice cream, using Myers’s dark rum, ginger juice and a cream base, and found that it worked. “It’s a big hit,” Kathy Chamberlain said. “People just love it. For people that know what a dark & stormy is, their reaction is always the same: ‘Yeah, you nailed it.’”
Stone Fox Farm ice creams are available at stores around Maine and New Hampshire, including the Natural Living Center in Bangor, the Belfast Co-op, Tiller & Rye in Brewer and Bow Street Market in Freeport.
Chocolate Spitfire at The Ice Cream Lady, Brooklin
Nancy Veilleux at The Ice Cream Lady in Brooklin makes small-batch ice cream using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and even uses eggs from her own chickens to make her premium ice creams. Chocolate Spitfire is chocolate ice cream made with cayenne pepper. “It’s for people who like a little bite to their food, and even their ice cream,” she said. “The flavors go really well together.”
Ice cream is available at various Maine locations including Tradewinds Market Place in Blue Hill, the Brooklin General Store, T&C Grocery in Castine, The Galley in Deer Isle, Dot’s in Lincolnville Beach, the Eggemoggin Country Store in Sedgwick, and Harbor View and Burnt Cove markets in Stonington.
Limey Joe at Wild Cow Creamery, Bangor and Belfast
Sarah Wilder and Ryan Cowan of Wild Cow Creamery like lemon ice cream but had never had a lime ice cream. One winter when they were testing flavors, they decided to try it, and added all-natural vanilla cookies to balance the tanginess of the lime. The combination worked, so the popular flavor Limey Joe, made with freshly juiced limes and plenty of sugar, has been added to their rotation, Wilder said.
Locations include Front Street on the Bangor waterfront and along the Belfast Harbor Walk at 31B Front Street in Belfast.
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