Have you ever tried Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Chocolate Chunk ice cream? If you don't have a Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop where you live, then your answer, I'm sorry to say, will most likely be no. If I can blame Ben and Jerry's for one thing, it's this... They get you addicted to a flavor, and you can't get it anywhere else. How's that for a marketing ploy?
I stumbled onto a Scoop Shop while I was vacationing in Cape Cod. For better or for worse, the shop was about a two minute drive from the hotel where my husband and I were staying, so every night after the beach, we'd be more than ready for Ben & Jerry's.
As anyone who's ever tried their packaged pints can tell you, Ben & Jerry's has wonderful ice cream. Preservatives beware. This is the real stuff, as signs around the store proudly proclaim. The proof is, of course, in the taste.
The quality of the ice cream is exceptional. It is perfectly textured -- creamy, and smooth, and creamy. Oh, and did I mention that it's very, very creamy? Their vanilla is probably the best tasting vanilla I've encountered in my extensive ice cream travels...and wait until you see the size of the chunks in their Vanilla Chocolate Chunk.
What's nice about Ben & Jerry's is the variety of their flavors. Although I'm pretty much a vanilla and/or chocolate kind of gal, even I couldn't resist reading all the descriptions of their flavors. They're amazingly inventive, and worth a second glance, if not a taste. Even the names are one hundred percent original. Chubby Hubby. Phish Food. Chunky Monkey. Don't forget the classic New York Super Fudge Chunk, and who could resist a flavor named after Jerry Garcia? There is even an ice cream with little chocolate cows in it. Now how's that for originality? The point is that there's something at Ben & Jerry's for everyone. If you can't find a flavor there that you like, then the quest is hopeless.
For the health conscious, Ben & Jerry's also offers low fat yogurts, some in many of the same flavors as the ice cream, and sorbets in luscious tropical fruit flavors. Why not pick a sorbet flavor and have it made into a smoothie? What better treat on a hot summer afternoon?
But ice cream aside (as if that's possible), the Scoop Shops are just plain old fun. The tables are plastered with information about the company, the flavors, and fun facts about Ben & Jerry's. One wall had a timeline of the company's "greatest moments". Just the reading material kept me coming back, though I admit, I'm one of those people who'll be happy to read the back of a cereal box if there's nothing else around to fasten my eyes onto.
The staff -- at least at the Ben & Jerry's we frequented -- was great. They were friendly, efficient, and even went so far as to assure me that the sundae's calories would all be negated if I went ahead and ordered that Diet Coke. Now that's service.
And what else can I say? The waffle cones are made fresh daily. The toppings are superb and varied -- you can even get a cookie sundae. The hot fudge is smooth and hot, which is more than I can say for many an ice cream stand. And to top it off, they even had a no sugar added flavor each night, which was perfect for my husband, who can't have refined sugars. You can even buy Ben & Jerry's tee-shirts and mugs, though I personally, would rather shell out my money for ice cream.
If that's not enough, well then you might like to know what a community-friendly bunch that Ben & Jerry's are. The company is big on giving back to the communities that make them money. Check out some of the pamphlets available at the scoop shop, or their web site. You can even subscribe to an electronic Ben & Jerry's newsletter.
There are only two negatives that I found. One is that some flavors are only available at the Scoop Shops and are not prepackaged in pints. Alas, such is the case with my beloved Vanilla Chocolate Chunk. I won't be seeing it until vacation next year (though happily, Chocolate Fudge Brownie is available in my grocer's freezer). The other negative is the price. Take out a second mortgage before you order that hot fudge sundae, because these prices are steep. For one waffle cone, and one small dish, my husband and I shelled out over six dollars.
I do have to give them credit for one thing though. As steep as the prices may be, I can assure you -- you'll enjoy every penny's worth. After all, I think I found the meaning of life -- in an ice cream flavor.