Bresca and the Honey Bee, Outlet Beach on Sabbathday Lake, Maine. August 30, 2019
I had forgotten the way that swimming in a crisp mountain lake can make you feel. I don’t remember learning how to swim, well actually, I can’t remember not being able to swim. There is something so grounding, so comforting, so much like home, letting yourself float face up to the sky in a natural body of water. My sister and I made the short drive up to Sabbathday Lake to go for a swim on the last Friday before things start to shift, school goes back in session, and fall starts to make its beautiful appearance. Outlet beach was such a great place to spend the afternoon, it had everything we needed to really kick back, relax, and enjoy ourselves for a day on the lake. Also, it had a snack shack called Bresca and the Honey Bee. Their ice cream menu was full of adventurous flavor combinations and all of their ingredients are locally sourced from nearby farms. It was exceptional.
I am going to make a pretty bold claim, one that I would be open to being challenged: This was the BEST ICE CREAM I HAVE EVER HAD. I had Maine Peach with wildflower honey and orange soaked madeline cookie ice cream. I am not even sure what else to say. I tried bites of the Maine wild blueberry and dark chocolate as well as the birthday cake with sprinkles. It was perfect, everything, this place, this day, this tiny homey lake beach with picnic tables and inner tubes for rent, everything. Summer, please don’t go so soon.
Toots, North Yarmouth, Maine. August 17, 2019
Farms in New England make me happy in a way that I never anticipated before actually spending time on a farm. In most of the places I had lived prior to Maine, farms were not really a place that you go visit, unless you wanted to be horrified by the realities of factory farming. The images burned in my mind of farms were that of massive chicken farms in Arkansas, filling the air with their stench, or the vast cattle operations that I would drive through on my way to and from New Mexico when I was in college. Miles and miles of cows as far as the eye could see. Those farms were a long ways away from the farms that I read about as a child in some of my favorite books. Farms where a menagerie of animals coexisted in peace were a stark contrast to the extractionist practices that I witnessed in my young adulthood.
In Maine, though, many of the farms, even the larger ones are striving to be sustainable, most are family run, and many are “open” meaning during regular hours you can come visit and stop by their farm stand to buy something grown or made there on site. It is magic. “I want to go back to Toots and try again.” I told my husband the other day. Our first attempt at visiting the farm in North Yarmouth that serves small batch ice cream out of an old train car was successful in that we did, eventually, get ice cream. Yet it was unsuccessful in that by the time we made it there, then into town to an ATM for cash, then back, the sun had gone down, the animals were asleep, and my children were up way past bedtime.
Bring cash to Toots, don’t be like us.
So on our second attempt, we were successful in all things; ice cream, photos, and a farm visit. The ice cream? It was delicious, but the farm animals stole the show. My favorite was the horse, I believe his name was Hank. My husband bonded with Strawberry, the pig. My kids had the most amazing time, seeing the animals, eating the ice cream, playing on the toys, they were so sad to leave we basically had to coax them out of there in tears. They have asked to go back no less than one million times.
Twist, Portland, Maine. July 28, 2019
The closer we get to the end of the summer, which is not for a little while, but I’m not ready to admit is inevitable, the more we try to squeeze every last drop from every single moment of these long days. Sometimes, with two small children in tow, the days feel so long. It’s good to remind myself when I’ve become weary from trying to keep up with activity after activity where moments seem to stretch out, that this is something to be celebrated. I forget sometimes to relax a little and just enjoy my time with my family, we don’t have to be doing anything at all, just exploring. We had a busy weekend and decided to make our way to the back cove where we knew that the Twist Portland ice cream truck was parked and serving up their fancy soft serve ice cream. We arrived to find that it was absolutely perfect out. Bright and sunny, with a gentle breeze coming off the water.
I ordered a Strawberry soft serve with some sort of strawberry cookie crumb on top, served with a strawberry Pocky on the side, guys, it was bonkers. So delicious. My husband tried “Pebbles the Redhead” which was also crazy good. It was a special treat at a true gem of a location. We took a walk near the water, played on some obstacle course equipment and enjoyed the vibrance of our city, while families and soccer teams and every kind of person took full advantage of a truly beautiful evening.
Mt. Desert Ice Cream, Portland, Maine, June 9, 2019
These latest days of spring and are starting to really feel like summer…finally. It was a hot and sunny day, about as perfect a day as one could get. Perfect days are not always perfect, though. Our days’ activities had swung us through the whole spectrum of toddler emotions. Our perfect kite flying picnic was cut short when our kite went sailing away, straight into the ocean, to destroy the ecosystem, no doubt. Lunch was a little too late, nap time never quite took hold, but even with all of the events of the day both good and bad, it still felt like summer, glorious summer. In Maine, summer is the reward we get for suffering through winter, and we have learned quickly to revel in all of its wonders. Especially the abundance and appropriateness of ice cream. We had avoided the crowds of the last Old Port Festival all day and cautiously made our way down the old port to stop in to Mt. Desert Ice Cream after the festival was closing up for the day. Parking was abundant, a rarity in the old port, or in Portland in general. Luck was definitely smiling on us.
Only Mt. Desert Ice cream is not your average ice cream shop. Their origin story is the stuff of modern Americana legend.
Their ice cream? Oh yes, it is an exceptional treat. With flavors like, “bay of figs,” “the dude,” and “girlscouts gone wild” their flavors are far from boring, but if you’re a purist, you can definitely get a plain ol’ vanilla with hot fudge if you want. My four year old was brave and ordered a scoop of sea salt caramel, which I thought was amazing, but guys, she’s four and it just didn’t fly. So here, at this wonderful ice cream shop, on this wonderful day, my daughter broke the rule and showed us that you can, in fact, be sad and eat ice cream, but not for long.
My husband can’t bear to see our daughter sad and traded cones with her, much to her delight. Saving the day.
Our son on the other hand found there to be nothing but delicious joy in his cone of blueberry ice cream.
I was dazzled by my Nutella flavor ice cream in a waffle cone, so much, that I didn’t get a picture of it until it was nearly gone. Mt. Desert Ice Cream is a must have if you are ever in Maine, or D.C. it’s so good. We are so lucky.
Lib’s Dairy Treats, Portland, Maine. April 25 2019
It’s a little goddamn cold to be eating ice cream in the evening here, but that hasn’t stopped any of the ice cream spots from opening up for “the season.” It had been a delightful bright sunny day, temperatures nearly in the 50’s so we are starting to feel like the winter is loosening its grasp and spring, glorious spring, is finally here. The grackles are back to work finding worms in our yard day and night, and the crocuses, or rather the crocuses that haven’t been feasted upon by various squirrels and groundhogs, are starting to make an appearance. I am ready for the change of seasons. This winter has been the hardest one yet, while the weather wasn’t the most intense, it was cold and very icy this year. That, paired with a devastating injury left me literally trapped in my home for nearly three months, unable to traverse out of my own front door without a great deal of assistance. After dinner, we made our way to Lib’s Dairy Treats. Nestled into a wedge shaped block off of Washington in the North Deering Neighborhood of Portland, Lib’s boasts not only soft serve, but Gifford’s hard serve ice cream. They also serve my beloved Dole Whip. I was tempted to get a Dole Whip, but decided to stick with my favorite, soft serve with hot fudge. It was basically hot fudge served on a cloud. As the sun dipped down and we said goodbye to such a beautiful day we delighted in our delicious treats and shivered as the temperature dropped, Lib’s tastes like childhood memories. Let the warm weather begin, 2019, we are ready for some fun now.
Momofuku Milk Bar, Manhattan. September 23, 2018.
I am going to be honest in this post. I am sad about this one. Sad because I absolutely hate not loving the ice cream places that I visit. I have been hearing all about Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk bar for the last few years. The menu sounded incredible, the aesthetic and playful attitude pulled me in, and I could not resist the allure of “cereal milk” flavored ice cream. I’ve seen the write-ups, the episode of “Chef’s Table” dedicated to Momofuku, and heard through friends how good it was. So, on our recent trip to New York, we made a point of visiting. This little bakery has grown in a big way, opening up locations throughout New York and then venturing to D.C., Toronto, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
Perhaps it was the arduous nature of traveling around New York with two small children. Perhaps it was that we left the quaint sweetness of the Central Park Zoo to venture through the chaos of Manhattan when the United Nations and our 45th President were being ushered through that very part of the city at the very time we were trying to navigate our way. Perhaps it has more to do with what happens when small businesses that are full of personality grow too big too fast, but Momofuku Milk Bar left us a bit disappointed. Was my ice cream good? Yes. Did it taste like the promised “cereal milk?” Nope. More like a weak vanilla malted. My daughter’s “chocolate pretzel” didn’t even have a hint of pretzel flavor. We struggled to find the location, there was no sign so we walked around and around trying to find it. The service was friendly, but $20 for three smallish cups of soft serve later and we felt a bit bamboozled. For all the positive press and reviews, it certainly didn’t deliver. That is a bummer, in such a major way. I want this project to be happy and positive and celebrate and eat the ice cream because life is short and the world is terrible. Would I eat this ice cream again? Probably not. Three things I liked about it: The neon sign. The lighting. The sprinkles.
Ben and Jerry's at LL Bean, Freeport, Maine. August 26th, 2018.
There is not much I can say about Ben and Jerry's that hasn't already been said. We found ourselves in Freeport on a hot summer day so we stopped by for a treat. Much to our surprise, the annual Dog Days of Summer, Dock Dogs competition was happening. It was so cute and such a great memory.
Dairy Queen. South Portland, Maine. August 22, 2018.
Nestled between two busy streets, the Cash Corner Dairy Queen in South Portland has been in this spot for over 60 years. They serve all of the classics, my favorite being the butterscotch dip cone. The parking lot is busy and there is often a line, but this DQ has a really small town feel, echoing the community that it has served for decades. They have seen their city grow and change over the years, and are a stop for a summertime treat that generations have enjoyed.
Smiling Hill Farm. Westbrook, Maine. August 9, 2018.
Sitting high atop a hill, overlooking a lush pasture, the ice cream barn at Smiing Hill Farm is one of my favorite places. You can get a scoop, or lunch for that matter, sit outside, take a walk through the petting zoo, let your kids play in the playground, peruse their beautiful test garden We arrived around sunset, got our treats, and walked around the farm. We got to see the actual cows that made the milk that made our ice cream grazing and check out their insanely giant sunflowers. Supporting local farms is one of my passions, and getting ice cream at Smiling Hill is about as local as it gets.
Red's Dairy Freeze. South Portland, Maine. August 2, 2018
Every spring when Red's Dairy Freeze opens up in South Portland, we breathe a sigh of relief, winter is on its way out. Beckoning us with their bright red roof, Red's has delicious soft serve. On any given summertime evening you'll find a line full of families, friends, dogs, kids, and adults all patiently waiting for their treats.