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Around The Grange
No disappointments on ice cream travels
 

By Joan Gordon, Norwich Bulletin (7/13/11)

  JULY 24, 2011 --

The Brown Cow Café
227 Ekonk Hill Road
Sterling
(860) 564-0248 or visit www.farmfreshicecream.com

Hours: For detailed information see website. Open year round. Summer hours, weekdays 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; weekends 9 a.m.-9 p.m. September-October weekdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., weekends, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ra Ra’s Ice Cream Parlor
Allen Street
Moosup
(860) 546-3930 or visit www.rarasicecream.com

Hours: Seasonal, mid-March to mid-October. Open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

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Summer means ice cream, and every couple of years I’ve tried to make at least one warm weather excursion to sample various locally-made concoctions.

Most are offered at just one stand. A few vendors may have a couple of other locations, but to be included in my survey all the ice cream must be made just for them — no large chain, supermarket or mass-market stuff allowed. 

To properly evaluate the different preparations, all have to be tasted the same day. Our first trip totaled 225 miles — all in Eastern Connecticut — so, we’ve plotted our routes to minimize driving ever since.

After having gone to a lot of places in Southeastern Connecticut before, this time we decided to concentrate on the northeast: the Quiet Corner.

We had two very willing collaborators, Theresa and Paul. Paul insisted he be allowed to have sprinkles. Sure, Paul. Off we went.  

All the places we tried (except for the University of Connecticut Dairy Bar. For that, see Part 2 of this review next week) we purchased an unflavored base as a starter. Of course, all 16 percent butterfat bases are not exactly alike, but the real key is what they do with it afterward. You don’t want to taste the base itself.

My personal ice cream benchmark is vanilla, and not one of the six I tried that day had the real bean intensity of a great vanilla. The best of the lot was at UConn.

Our first stop was The Brown Cow Café at the Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling. On a visit to the family-run operation last year, we tasted two new creations, cucumber and corn ice creams. They sound strange, but both were wonderful.

This year, we were not disappointed. Elena Hermonot, esteemed ice cream maker and baker, gets blue ribbons across the board. Blossom Delight, named for her Jersey cow, had the sublime creaminess of rich butter pecan with butterscotch chips and vanilla cake crunch for texture. We sighed, deeply. The cucumber was elegant and garnered raves. The black raspberry was deep and not overly sweet. Only the chocolate was a little weak.

Trays of fresh baked goods kept coming out, piled with Elena’s pies, muffins, cookies and maybe the best cider donuts on Earth. She makes three kinds of those — cinnamon, sugar coated and plain. Theresa went back the next day for a dozen.

Ekonk’s chalkboard listed other delights, including sandwiches and turkey salad. Organically-raised turkeys, chicken and beef were available in refrigerated cases, along with the most colorful organic eggs we’ve seen. The store features Connecticut-made jams, local honey and other products.  

An adjoining barn held four little pink piggies, plus baby and fledgling chickens. Turkeys were in a pen outside.

From there, it was off to the shocking, pink-trimmed Ra-Ra’s Ice Cream Parlor in Moosup. Genial owners Sandy and Curt Havens’ ice creams are not made on the premises, but they are made in Connecticut to their specifications. The flavors are excellent and many are unusual. Rum raisin is made with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, and one of the coffee flavors is mixed with vodka and Kahlua. Do not miss the chocolate mixed with Reese’s peanut butter cups, chocolate brownie dough, Moosup Lake with dark chocolate shavings or the intensely flavored white pistachio. 

Ra-Ra’s offers at least 25 different toppings at an additional charge. There is no charge for sprinkles. Their hot fudge is a winner. For special occasions when only an ice cream cake will do, pick your own combination of flavors and Sandy will make it to your specifications. 

Should you need some “regular” food, salads, tacos, burritos, wings and hot dogs are on the menu.  

 

Note:  Elena Hermonot is a member of Ekonk Community Grange.

 
 
 
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