Katherine Curry’s Journal News Ice Cream Odyssey took her on a delicious journey all around the Lower Hudson Valley this summer. Here are her picks for great ice cream in Yorktown and Cortlandt, and, when available, links to her original blog posts on these venues. Take it away, Katherine:
The Blue Pig
Like many ice cream lovers, I was pretty excited when I heard that Croton’s ice cream shop, The Blue Pig, re-opened last spring under new ownership, with a renewed focus on natural, homemade ice cream.
When The Blue Pig debuted in the summer of 2001, it was a real treat to visit — friendly service and excellent high-quality, small-batch ice cream. But eventually things changed, and not for the better. After a change in ownership, years of inconsistency — and some downright bad ice cream — plagued the Pig. Many of us stopped going.
So the news that Croton resident Lisa Moir had bought the business in the upper village, and that she planned on serving all-natural, homemade ice cream, suggested that the establishment was back on track.
Lisa’s ice cream is like nothing else in the area. She’s dedicated to using Hudson Valley Fresh dairy milk, focusing on local ingredients (coffee from Croton’s The Black Cow, seasonal fruit), and using less sugar, with no artificial colors and flavors. The business just received a “snail of approval” award from Westchester Slow Food. This focus on high-quality and seasonal ingredients, and the resulting ice cream, reminds me very much, in texture and taste, of the Brooklyn-based artisan ice cream company Van Leeuwen.
Flavors range from the traditional (vanilla, chocolate, Oreo cookies and cream, coffee, strawberry) to the seasonal and eclectic (ginger, green tea, and a feature flavor one week that could quite literally knock your socks off: Caribbean Hellfire, made with a fruit-based hot sauce from a local foodie.) There are also fruit ices, which I’ve yet to try.
The ice cream’s flavors are true — strawberry tastes of fresh fruit, vanilla is subtle enough to let the incredible taste of fresh dairy shine through, pistachio is as nutty as a handful of fresh nuts.
If you didn’t know that The Blue Pig wasn’t using stabilizers or mixes, the ice cream’s texture alone would tip you off. There’s none of the gumminess or stretchiness of the less natural ice cream you can find elsewhere in the county. (That being said, the chocolate ice cream’s texture isn’t as creamy as I’d like.)
I’ve yet to sample the homemade hot fudge sauce or the “original sundaes,” which include a tempting coffee ice cream with warm maple syrup and toasted walnuts. There are shakes and fresh waffle cones, and other toppings — 60 cents each — including fresh caramel, sprinkles and whipped cream. A small cup is $2.95, medium $3.95, and large $4.95.
The Blue Pig is still working out some kinks. On some visits, a small cup of ice cream was such a woefully small serving that I almost went back for seconds, but on other visits, a small was an abundant cup of deliciousness. Some flavors have had textural problems such as ice crystals. However, the guiding principles here remain clear, making The Blue Pig a must-visit for area ice cream lovers.
My favorite flavors so far are the vanilla Oreo, and a cherry vanilla filled with an abundance of the fresh fruit, which I was told was picked nearby. Other special seasonal flavors are a refreshing basil ice cream, made with basil from Stone Barns, and a wonderful blueberry ice cream.
On a warm summer afternoon, I enjoyed a cup of cherry vanilla in the garden, a well-tended little area adjacent to the Pig (there are also a few seats inside, and some benches right in front of the shop). The cherries were sweet and flavorful, and the ice cream itself was redolent of fresh cream — a glorious moment of early summer in the Hudson Valley translated into a dessert as fleeting as the season.
Details: 121 Maple St., Croton, 914-271-3850.
More local picks, after the jump.
Let’s cut to the chase: we love Abbott’s. Their frozen custard, made in small batches, is legendary in upstate New York, and the Shrub Oak franchise, just off the Taconic, upholds the same high standards. Don’t miss the chocolate almond, studded with crispy, robust almonds that provide an addictive contrast to the smooth cold custard. Or the banana, redolent of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Details: 1143 E. Main St., Shrub Oak, 845-282-1761.
A sweet little gelateria and espresso bar — part of, but next door to Ossining Pizzeria — that serves 24 flavors of gelato and sorbet made in-house. Our favorite is Bounty, a crema gelato laced with dark chocolate, coconut and hazelnut, the smoothness of the gelato punctuated by crunchy bits of nuts and chocolate.
Details: 181 Croton Ave., Ossining, 914-762-1455.
The Purple Monkey
These kid-friendly, cheerful ice cream outposts in Ossining and Croton each sport a colorful mural of the shop’s eponymous mascot. Both shops serve Gifford’s ice cream from Maine. Flavors like the alarmingly blue Smurf, a cotton candy flavor, and the Moose Tracks, vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and fudge, are a hit with the kids but are way too sweet for my palate. Even the berry-laced Maine Blueberry is wincingly sugary.
Details: 238 South Highland Ave., Ossining, 914-488-5534; 171 S. Riverside Ave., Croton, 914-862-0622
Overflowing with vintage toys and trains, this old-time candy store/ice cream parlor/toy store has a counter and soda fountain, where Perry’s ice cream, from upstate New York, is served. The ice cream’s nothing special, but the 1940s soda fountain is a honey. Grab a seat and have an ice cream soda or milkshake.
Details: 21 S. Division St., Peekskill, 914-788-4141.