Many ancient civilizations were onto the pleasures of super-cold food. The Chinese served frozen milk and rice around 200 BC. The Roman emperor Nero (37–68 BC) topped mountain ice with fruit. People in the Persian Empire enjoyed concentrated grape juice poured over snow—an early (400 BC) prototype of the snow-cone. So it’s no surprise that ice cream remains one of our most beloved foods; it’s special enough for a treat but humble enough for an afternoon scoop on a random weekday. It’s comforting, nostalgic, easy to eat and just plain yummy. Here are some of our favorite local ice cream dishes—as if you needed any encouragement. PB&J MALT Snuffy’s Malt Shop Get a solid burger or healthy sandwich to justify an order of Snuffy’s decadent PB&J malt. Malt is made from germinated cereal grains, most often barley, dried in a process called “malting.” It has a distinctive nutty-earthy flavor that people love—malted milk balls, anyone? The original malt beverage appears to have been developed in the early 1920s by an intrepid soda jerk. Snuffy’s PB&J malt combines strawberry ice cream and smooth peanut butter—a classic combination that effortlessly makes the translation into frozen dessert land. $3.65, $4.65 full. 17519 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.475.1850 DOUBLE SCOOP IN A CUP Licks Unlimited Licks Unlimited in Excelsior is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that has been delighting young and old alike for more than 32 years. Made in the vast dairy paradise known as Wisconsin, there are more than 30 flavors of ice cream to choose from. A visit to Licks is an adventure on every level: The aroma of waffle cones will make your head spin—as will the agony of choosing a flavor. (Spare yourself the torture of choice and pick two flavors.) There will be a long line, too. Take a deep breath and queue up; it moves quickly. The final challenge is to slow down while you eat your treat so you don’t get brain freeze; have a seat by the lake and savor. We loved the not-too-intense chocolate paired with a refreshing mountain mint chip. $4.50. 31 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.4791 TOY TRUCK Tommy’s Tonka Trolley Here you can get a scoop or two and rent a kayak or paddleboard for a cruise around the lake. Go ahead and get an extra scoop; you’ll need the fuel! The ice cream in question is the Twin Cities’ beloved Sebastian Joe’s, which often snags “best ice cream in Minnesota” awards. The adorable wagon-wheeled cart offers your ’scream in waffle cone, sugar cone, wafer cone or dish; a cone is fun to eat outside because you needn’t worry about the dreaded tip drip. One of the most famous of Sebastian Joe’s unique flavor combinations is Nicollet Avenue Pothole. Salt-infused fudge represents a ribbon of road tar; Heath Bar chunks approximate gravel. It’s more than just a cute name: It’s delicious too—crunchy, creamy, slightly salty and deeply chocolatey. 379 Lake St., Excelsior; 952.220.0101; tonkatrolley.com VERMONSTER Ben and Jerry’s The 1980s saw the advent of premium ice cream—thicker texture with a higher fat content—and Vermont-based Ben and Jerry’s was one of the pioneers. The chain just celebrated 35 successful years of slinging ice cream and inventing wacky flavor combinations like Cherry Garcia (cherry ice cream with chocolate chips), Chunky Monkey (banana ice cream with chocolate chips and walnuts) and Chubby Hubby (vanilla malt ice cream with peanut-butter-filled pretzels and fudge ripples). Try your hand(s) at the Vermonster—a monster of a sundae—built from 20 scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, banana, cookies, house-baked brownies and four more toppings of your choosing. The wussies can order the Mini Vermonster, which is only four scoops of ice cream with the brownie, cookie, banana, fudge, whipped cream, etc. $35. 539 E. Lake St., Wayzata; 952.473.1705; benjerry.com TRUFFLE PIE Adele’s Frozen Custard Adele’s Frozen Custard was founded in 1988 by a woman named, natch, Adele. Frozen custard is very similar to ice cream but it incorporates egg yolk for a richer, smoother and denser product. Visit Adele’s online custard calendar to see what the flavors of the day are, or just show up and allow extra time to marvel, sample and decide. We were intrigued by Bear Paw (caramel custard with pecans and truffle chocolate), Dirt and Worms (use your imagination on that one) and Shark Attack (blueberry custard with raspberries and gummy sharks). There are about 80 more fun mixtures to consider; take your time. In the end, we were drawn to a relatively simple ice cream pie and chose the Truffle Pie: a crushed-Oreo crust filled with fudge, chocolate custard, raspberries and truffle drizzle. Gorgeous, delicious, cold and creamy. $22. 800 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.470.0035; adelescustard.com TEMPURA ICE CREAM Origami West Fried ice cream is a rare treat, and not something we are likely to attempt making at home. At Origami West, sweet green-tea ice cream is filled with sweet azuki beans, dipped in a light tempura batter and deep-fried. What you get is a piping-hot crisp shell filled with astonishingly cold ice cream that seems to defy the laws of physics. Even though it’s deep-fried, it’s a remarkably light dessert, perfect after a few rounds of sushi. $6.50. 12305 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.746.3393; origamirestaurant.com TIN ROOF SUNDAE Bacio Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream; it has a lower milk-fat content and a silkier texture than regular ice cream. Bacio’s makes their gelato in-house and serves it on its own or as the base layer in an outrageous tin roof sundae. Invented in a New York soda fountain in 1893, the tin roof combines vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and candied peanuts, which approximate the sound of rain falling on a tin roof. Bacio throws gelato in the mix and creates an artful plate of squiggles of sauce and a scattering of nuts. $8. 1571 Plymouth Rd., Minnetonka; 952.544.7000; baciomn.com GRASSHOPPER Gianni’s Steakhouse Gianni’s boasts a fun menu of old-school ice cream drinks like the pink squirrel and brandy alexander. We adore a good grasshopper, which we liken to a pint of mint chocolate chip with a kick of crème de cacao, chocolate liqueur and crème de menthe. The minty pond-scum-green treat was born in New Orleans and popular in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s an ideal grown-up dessert for those who want to linger and keep the conversation lively. $9.50. 635 E. Lake St., Wayzata; 952.404.1100; giannis-steakhouse.com
Review: Minnetonka Ice Cream
The best ice cream dishes around.