Ohio – The Ice Cream Capital of the Universe
Some people travel for great food, others for perfect wine. For me, it’s always ice cream. Even if I’m taking a day trip, having a big scoop of ice cream makes me feel like I’m on vacation.
In Ohio, you can find tried-and-true, old-fashioned ice cream parlors, and you can test your tastebuds with some truly unexpected flavor combinations. And compared to the rest of the states, Ohio’s ice cream parlors consistently rank at the top of America’s best ice cream lists.
For the true gourmet, there’s no spot better than Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, based in Columbus, with nine locations around the state. There’s no such thing as plain vanilla at Jeni’s – you’ll have to settle for the amazingly rich Ugandan Vanilla Bean. Jeni’s uses the finest organic Ohio grass-fed dairy, and adds in locally sourced fruits, herbs and yes – vegetables – to create a symphony of one-of-a-kind flavors. At one of Jeni’s five stylish locations, try some of my favorites: Goat Cheese with Roasted Cherries, Saigon Cinnamon or the Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry for an unforgettable ice cream experience. Lucky for me (or maybe dangerously…) a Jeni’s just opened between my house and the gym in Columbus’ German Village.
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream and Yogurt is a Youngstown-area favorite that has expanded to locations throughout northeast and central Ohio. It’s tough to find a smoother, more creamy ice cream anywhere. I love that Handel’s never skimps on ingredients – everything is fresh and at the peak of its flavor, so don’t expect to find peach ice cream in February. Chocolate Pecan is a top flavor, but I love the fruit flavors available in the summer. Servings are generous, but you really won’t want to share.
Can you think of a better place to get an ice cream cone than Licking County? The Velvet Ice Cream Company has retail shops around central Ohio, but to get the full experience, you have to visit Ye Olde Mill in Licking County’s Utica, where all the ice cream is made. My favorite flavor here is the Ohio Black Walnut – as rich and creamy as a vanilla base can be, with satifyingly bitter bits of black walnut mixed in. Make sure you bring cash. If you’re a true fan, you can’t miss the Utica Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival, held annually on Memorial Day Weekend. With an ice cream eating contest, factory tours, a huge parade and great entertainment, it’s the perfect way to start off the summer.
I really could go on and on. Other great Ohio ice cream parlors include Toft’s in the Sandusky area; Graeter’s and Aglamesis Brothers, both based in Cincinnati; Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl in Zanesville. As ice cream season kicks into high gear, let me know where else in the state I can get a great scoop of ice cream, and what your favorite flavors are!