Best of New Haven: Ice Cream

Meet the motley crew of Purple Crayon members that is Nick Brown, Dan Grollman, Jane Leibrock, Jon Bettin and Marvin Astorga. A motley crew, but their love for ice cream brought them together one Saturday afternoon as they took to the streets of New Haven — plastic spoons in hand — in search of the city’s best ice cream.

Their journey began at Ashley’s on York Street. A sign outside the shop claimed it had the “Best Ice Cream in Connecticut,” but these five doyens of frozen desserts would have something to say about that.

Nick emerged as the group’s leader and set the guidelines for flavor selection: vanilla, chocolate and a specialty flavor, which he insisted be decided upon by the one of the institution’s own. So he turned to Talia, an ever-effervescent scooper, who suggested dulce de leche, or “sweetness of milk.”

Three heaping cups of ice cream soon arrived at the table, and within seconds, the spoons they were a-shovelin’.

The vanilla received rave reviews. Dan likened it to an M & M.

“It’s very nice,” he said. “It melts in your mouth.”

Meanwhile, Jane found herself floating away.

“It’s buoyant,” she said.

Dan thought the chocolate left something to be desired. But, oddly enough, he continued to scarf down the spoonfuls.

“You have to eat more of it to get rid of the aftertaste,” he said.

Nick gave the definitive word: “Dulce de leche was the pick of the lot. There is no ‘dulce’ or ‘leche,’ but the ‘de’ is definitely there.”

And so, after scraping the cups clean, the group moved on to Yorkside, a pizzeria and restaurant conveniently located next door to Toad’s.

The vanilla, for some, was lethally good.

“It’s incredibly sweet,” he said. “It would kill a diabetic.”

The chocolate, on the other hand, did not exactly tickle the group’s taste buds.

“It’s much better than Ashley’s, but it tastes like feces,” Nick said. Quick to exonerate Yorkside, Nick added, “It’s not anyone’s fault, you just can only eat so much chocolate.”

No consultation was necessary for the specialty flavor here — moose tracks, a vanilla fudge swirl with peanut butter cups well-known for its milkshake form. But the group ironically had difficulty tracking down the tracks.

“Rather than strolling, the moose sprinted by,” Marvin deduced.

Indeed, as Jane so eloquently put it, “The moose was too nimble.”

Dan found looking for tracks a most adventuresome task.

“They are like special treasures,” he said. “In fact, I think the next Disney movie should be ‘Treasure Moose Tracks,’ like ‘Treasure Planet.’”

The day’s sugar intake had finally caught up with the group.

On the way to its final destination — Chapel Sweet Shoppe — Nick broke out in a German rendition of the “Ducktales” theme song.

Because the scooper’s favorite flavor at the Shoppe was chocolate, Dan and Nick were left to duke it out rock-paper-scissors style for the specialty flavor. Dan, being the Neapolitan that he is, wanted strawberry. Nick, on the other hand, desired cinnamon caramel. Much to Nick’s dismay (and confusion — in America, rock beats scissors), Dan took the best of three and strawberry it was.

“If a cow, a truck full of ice cubes and a strawberry bush collided at a single point, you’d get this,” Dan said. “It’s really good.”

The vanilla had some alternative, yet agreeable qualities, at least according to Marvin.

“It has a medicinal taste,” he said. “Anything that’s medicinal is good.”

Others detected a more natural essence.

“It’s like drinking vanilla straight from the cow,” Dan said.

The chocolate was also very well-received. “It’s like you are eating solid chocolate,” Dan said. “This is what chocolate ice cream should taste like.”

It sent Nick and Jane into a tizzy of nostalgia.

“It’s just like the ice cream we had when we were growing up on a farm,” they reminisced.

After all was said, done and eaten, Yorkside’s moose tracks was named best ice cream in New Haven. But Ashley’s earned best ambience for its great pseudo-marble-countertop ice cream shop atmosphere. As the group dispersed, one thing was clear.

“To victory or vomit,” Jon said. “Whichever comes first.”

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