On one of the hottest June days in the state’s history, CT Examiner visited six of south-central Connecticut’s most celebrated homemade ice cream shops to beat the heat.
Walnut Beach Creamery, Milford
Steps from the sandy Walnut Beach in Milford, the single-batch Walnut Beach Creamery serves creative, refreshing flavors perfect for cooling down after a day relaxing by the sea. From baklava, ginger, and pistachio to honey vanilla and thai rice pudding, the shop thinks out of the box for savory, subtle flavors that somehow just work.
We ordered a waffle cone with two flavors: lavender and fig, and berry good, a special with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Both flavors were highly textured, with actual pieces of fig, lavender, and berries. The chocolate chunks were large, and on the sweeter side. Both flavors tasted natural, neither trying to be overly sweet or intense.
The waffle cone was very thin, and our order came with a cup, because the cone began to break immediately, and served more as a topping for the ice cream rather than a container for it. The cone tasted sweet, but caramelized, more of honey and brown sugar than a simple syrup.
Sweet Claude’s, Cheshire
This classic, cash-only ice cream shop in a converted old house has a flavor for everyone. Their assortment of homemade ice cream includes all of the standards, and popular specials like nutella crunch and salty pretzel.
We ordered a waffle cone with two flavors: the black raspberry, and the sole adults-only flavor: a Bailey’s Irish Cream. Both flavors had a smooth, almost-whipped consistency, and the raspberry managed to be sweet but not cloying. The Bailey’s flavor was rich, but still refreshing on a hot summer day. The homemade waffle cone was structurally sound and not particularly sweet, letting the ice cream speak for itself.
Wentworth Ice Cream, Hamden
Steps from Sleeping Giant State Park, this classic ice cream parlor serves all of the standards, alongside popular specialties like Toasted Coconut and Maple Walnut. We ordered one very generous scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone, split into two flavors: chocolate salted caramel oreo and black raspberry.
The chocolate salted caramel oreo was the perfect balance of salty and sweet, and even on a hot summer day, the heavy flavors still felt light and refreshing. The ice cream texture was creamy and fluffy, and held up even as the sun beat down, with relatively little melting. The Black Raspberry tasted light and fresh, erring on the side of sour. Wentworth’s homemade waffle cone held up well, and was pure-sugar sweet.
Wells Hollow Creamery, Shelton
Wells Hollow Creamery is far more than just an ice cream parlor. While waiting for your ice cream on the open air patio, say hello to the chickens and rooster, remnants of the venue’s original use: the shop is a renovated chicken barn.
The creamery offers more than 70 flavors of ice cream, along with frozen yogurt, sorbet, italian ice, and smoothies. We ordered a waffle cone with a new blueberry muffin flavor. The ice cream consistency was perfect, neither too melty nor too thick, and the flavor was as sweet as sweet can be. The waffle cone was not homemade, but perfectly standard for a generic cone.
Arethusa Farm Dairy, New Haven, Bantam and West Hartford
At Arethusa Farm Dairy in New Haven, pictures of some of the very cows that helped create the shop’s decadent ice cream hang on the walls. These cows produce some of the most celebrated dairy in Connecticut, leading to products like butter, cheese, yogurt, buttermilk and more that are available to purchase in the New Haven shop.
We ordered a waffle cone with two flavors: a summer special sour cherry with dark chocolate chunks, and the classic, ever-popular sweet cream. The ice cream held up in the heat, not melting at all, though it did sacrifice some creaminess, as it had more of a crumbly and icy texture. The sour cherry flavor was particularly tart and strong, and the sweet cream was as sugar-sweet and milky as it gets. The dark chocolate flecks were high quality, extra-dark, and balanced out the sourness of the cherry. The homemade waffle cone was extra thick and sweet, and very structurally sound for the generous serving of ice cream.
Milkcraft, New Haven, Fairfield and West Hartford
Milkcraft, a small batch creamery that utilizes liquid nitrogen, offers cups and waffle bowls, but sells “nearly 95 percent” of their ice cream in “bubble waffles.” The made-to-order waffles are melt-in-your-mouth soft and of the caliber of a fancy brunch restaurant, but they are also very hot, and melt the ice cream immediately, particularly on a day with record-breaking temperatures.
We ordered two flavors, sea salted caramel and strawberry balsamic. The latter is just strawberry ice cream with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top, and while strawberry and balsamic go together well on a salad, and the flavors could work if mixed, the effect creates a dissonance that does not quite work. Vinegar aside, the strawberry ice cream is high quality, with a completely fresh strawberry flavor rather than the traditional artificial strawberry ice cream taste. The sea salted caramel comes with kettle corn, and is incredibly salty. Both flavors, as well as others on their menu like peanut butter & jelly roasted banana and toasted almond butter, lean heavily towards the savory.