Nothing beats the heat better than ice cream. Therefore, in the interest of science, a few of us recently gathered at the CityBeat World Headquarters for a totally non-scientific taste testing of our favorite local ice creams and gelatos. Yes, it truly was a sacrifice, but one we were willing to make for our readers.
A true taste testing would probably be to compare the same flavor from different manufacturers, but being the renegades that we are, we simply each brought a couple of pints from our favorite places and dove right into them. It wasn’t a blind taste test, so our personal prejudices were reflected in our picks, but hey, it’s ice cream and we don’t work for Consumer Reports, we write for CityBeat!
Overall we tasted 10 unique flavors from local companies. In order to make some sense out of the madness that is my ice cream-stained notes, I will break them down into a couple of different categories.
First of all, let’s start with the local ice cream chains. We had Mint Chocolate Chip from Graeter’s, Banana Chocolate Chip from Aglemesis, Cherry Cordial from UDF and Peaches and Cream from Kroger’s Private Selection brand. Cincinnati is incredibly lucky to be the home of all of these great ice cream makers, but Graeter’s and Aglemesis’ were clearly our favorites. Our least favorite was the Kroger Private Selection Peaches and Cream. While it had nice big chunks of peach, the ice cream itself left a slight coating on the throat and had an off-putting medicinal aftertaste.
The UDF cherry cordial was solid, but the chocolate chip pieces were not as luxurious as its competitors. Obviously, all of them were good, but while Iron Chef Michael Symon preferred Graeter’s on his Food Network show Food Feuds, we were bigger fans of Aglamesis’. Both ice creams are made in small batches using the French pot method and both are really what ice cream is supposed to be, but the Aglemesis banana chip had a full fresh banana taste that was very clean on the palate.
Now, on to the more ritzy gelatos. Madisono’s Gelato, available at many specialty markets and restaurants as well as their Findlay Market location, proclaims that it was the first to bring true Italian gelato to Cincinnati. Since 2008 Madisono’s has been producing some amazingly good gelato. We tasted their Caramello with Sea Salt and everyone agreed that this one was a winner.
The flavors were intense, it was creamy but dense, and since it was both sweet and salty this can appeal to just about any palate. Our fearless leader, CityBeat Dining Editor Anne Mitchell, proclaimed it to be the perfect ice cream for any season. While many of the gelatos that we tasted were great for the hot summer, this caramel and sea salt gelato would be just as good on Valentine’s Day as the Fourth of July.
I had never tried Dolce Vita in Dayton, Ky., but was really impressed with its mango gelato. It had a very pronounced mango flavor, but the consistency was more of a sorbet than a gelato. Nonetheless, I have heard some great things about their Dark Mocha Coffee gelato and plan on visiting their store soon for a taste.
My colleague, Candice Miller-Janidlo, reviewed Jean Paul Paradiso on Clough Pike in Anderson a few months ago and at that time raved about this neighborhood Italian eatery’s chocolate gelato. For our taste test, she brought along a pint of their Pear Gelato. Nothing could epitomize the taste of summer better than this vibrantly flavored gelato. The taste of pear burst onto the tongue with the first bite and it was probably the most light, refreshing ice cream that we tasted. Three of us, including myself, thought that this was overall the best. I just wish that I lived closer so that I could easily try all of their flavors.
Our final participant in this group was the always popular Dojo Gelato at Findlay Market. Dojo was the only ice cream maker that we had two different flavors to taste. Dojo is known for their unique flavor profiles which change seasonally. We tried Thai Mango gelato and Lime Jalapeno. Personally, I find it impossible to go to Findlay Market and not get at least one scoop from Dojo, and I thought that I had tried all of their flavors, but both of these were new to me. The Thai Mango was great, but not for everyone. The mango flavor was not as pronounced and the Thai spices almost immediately hit the back of the throat, which had me reaching for a different flavor of ice cream to cool down. Be warned, the flavor is intense, but if you like it hot, this could be your perfect ice cream.
On the other hand, I couldn’t stop eating the Lime Jalapeno gelato. This flavor was amazing. It was cooling but slightly hot at the same time. While I was eating it, I couldn’t help but think how fantastic this gelato would be with tequila as a frozen drink. Hmm, frozen drink taste testing anyone? Dojo always delivers and needs to be a must stop for any visit to the market.
Finally, you can’t talk about summer and ice cream in Cincinnati without discussing soft serve. There are a ton of great independent soft-serve ice cream shops across the region, but my favorite has always been Putz’s Creamy Whip off of I-74 at the Montana Avenue exit. Putz’s has used the same Electro-Freeze ice cream machines since 1955 and staved off the construction of I-74 in its backyard by sending a letter to then-President Richard Nixon in order to cater to families across the city with its smooth soft serve ice cream. It’s yet another Cincinnati summer tradition that can’t be beat.
There you have it, everyone loves ice cream, and we have some great local offerings. Screw the diet, it’s hot outside, so go grab a scoop.