I scream, you scream ...
Why is everybody screaming?
Seriously, there is no need to make a ruckus, because I'll bet that you're not the only cowboy at the rodeo who is enthusiastic about ice cream. Cold, sweet and creamy is a gustatory experience with wide-ranging appeal. Ice cream is not only fun to eat, but it is also a symbol of fun itself. Like surprise parties and Liberace and Valleyfair, ice cream isn't necessary for human survival, but that is precisely what makes it so great. Its gratuitous joy is associated with nostalgia for our carefree youth, familial comfort and celebrations of every stripe. Its appearance also tends to coincide with summer -- aka "awesome season" in Minny -- which we try to pack chock-full of every possible outdoor activity and sport imaginable, from fishing to stooping.
Here we present a guide to our favorite ice cream joints in the Twin Cities. Whether you are a La Belle Vie foie gras ice cream (served last March!) kind of gal, or a Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait dude, it's all good. Because with ice cream, you always win. Flavors vary, so call ahead if you have your heart set on a peculiar flavor fetish.
Conny's Creamy Cone
Conny's is a freaking adorable roadside shack with a giant ice cream cone reclining on its roof. It is a North End neighborhood hangout -- kind of like "Cheers" but with ice cream and families instead of boozers and a depressing theme song. Richard Noren, a precociously wise employee, shared his punditry with me while I sampled flavors at one of the red and white-striped picnic tables. Queen for a day!
Conny's uses a special "24-flavor system" to produce an especially soft soft-serve base, which is then flavored using extracts and mechanical wizardry on a cone-by-cone basis. The result of all this mad science is surreal: plasticine-smooth dollops of soft-serve in Frank Gaard-worthy colors. Dripping is a side effect of the supersoftness, so be prepared with back-up napkins.
Flavors bifurcate into adult vs. kid favorites. The adult camp goes for a smooth, deep and natural-tasting caramel, a muted glowing green pistachio and a bold beige rum. And the kidlets love the (electric) robin's egg blue Cotton Candy, which tastes a bit like voluntarily immersing one's face in a cotton candy machine. Tutti Frutti smacked of red Jell-O mix and that rascally Hawaiian Punch cartoon surfer guy. But hey -- you only get to be a kid once.
- Where: 1197 N. Dale St., St. Paul
- Phone: 651-488-4150
- Web: www.connyscreamycone.com
- Best features: Vibrant soft-serve in 24 flavors; low prices; friendly staff; fried mac 'n' cheese wedges ($2.45 for five and ridiculous-good).
- Fave flavors: Pistachio, tutti frutti, rum, caramel.
- Prices: Small: $1.79, medium $2.09, large $2.39.
- Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. spring and fall; 11 a.m.-9:45 p.m. summer. Open March to October.
Purists, rejoice! Pumphouse is a quaint shop with melon-colored walls, a rustic table and photos of the local farmers who provide the ingredients for owner Barb Zapzalka's organic, all-natural ice creams. Her ethical sourcing is omnipresent: The strawberries come from Natura Farm in the St. Croix Valley; the dark chocolate ice cream uses fair-trade chocolate; even the cookies 'n' cream uses Newman-O's in lieu of the standard Oreos. The result is ice cream with refreshingly clean flavor and natural texture, in pretty muted colors. Vanilla is elegant and rhubarb resonates with vegetal, tart sweetness. The lavender is a bit much for me, only because it reminds me of eating an Aveda facial. But the lemon champagne sorbet is spectacular, all sweet bubbly and citrus zing.