Cool Down with Ithacan Ice Cream
By Jacqueline Quach
Sun Dining Editor
While I believe that Cornell looks the most beautiful at the start of the fall semester, it’s also unbearably hot during that time. As a senior who’s already experienced three back-breaking, sweat-inducing move-in weekends, I recommend that you cool down by heading out for some ice cream, which is also an opportunity to explore the city of Ithaca. Below are three recommendations (in no particular order) for all you incoming freshmen and your families:
PURITY ICE CREAM
700 Cascadilla St.
Founded in 1936 by Cornell alum Leo Guentert, Purity Ice Cream may be located the farthest from campus of the three establishments in this list, but it has the greatest variety in terms of both flavors and products.
Of their 34+ flavors of ice cream (some of which are vegan), my favorites are bulldog crunch, green tea and lucky monkey. According to their menu on Ithaca To Go, bulldog crunch is a “praline-flavored ice cream with caramel swirl and chocolate-covered pecan candies.” This may sound strange, but bulldog crunch is absolutely mouth-watering, even though it’s in liquid form. The caramel and praline flavors are very strong, but the pecans and chocolate balance that creaminess and sweetness with their crunchiness and slight bitterness.
Green tea is much less sweet and made from “green tea powder blended with vanilla ice cream,” which I found slightly disappointing because I was hoping it’d be made with real green tea leaves. However, making green tea ice cream with just leaves is quite difficult and can result in a barely detectable flavor. Purity’s use of powder means you get a more concentrated flavor and sometimes there are bits of powder that bunch up together, which I’d liken to a swirl.
Finally, lucky monkey is one of their new flavors. I’d liken it to Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey — both have a banana ice cream base with chocolate bits mixed in, but Purity’s version is less sweet (and probably healthier).
Besides ice cream, Purity offers frozen yogurt, pastries (cupcakes, pies, cookies and cakes), espresso and milkshakes. I’ve never tried any of these, but my best friend had one of their cupcakes and said it tasted absolutely delicious.
Of my recommendations, Purity is also number one in the seating department. With abundant indoor and outdoor seating, Purity is extremely group-friendly, and its logo-covered decorations and booths give the space a relaxed, almost diner-like ambience.
If you can’t find the time to make the drive or take a walk to Purity, no worries — Collegetown Bagels (everyone calls it CTB) usually has six differently flavored tubs of Purity’s ice cream towards the back.
200 W Seneca St.
118 W Green St. (Press Bay Alley)
Another dessert staple of Ithaca’s food scene is Sweet Melissa’s (named after one of its founders), so much so that the company has recently opened a second location in Press Bay Alley that exclusively serves hard ice cream. Although Sweet Melissa’s has at least 12 flavors of hard ice cream, it doesn’t offer them all concurrently; they are served on rotation and vary from day to day. I haven’t tried all of them, but I am obsessed with their sweet cream flavor. When I asked an employee just what sweet cream was, he said it had a sort of vanilla flavor and is the base of all their ice cream flavors. While I could sense some vanilla, I’d say sweet cream tastes more like custard, eggnog or perhaps even crème brûlée. It’s very subtle, but in a way that keeps your taste buds on the edge and leaves you wanting more! I usually prefer hard ice cream with a lot of elements (like bulldog crunch from Purity), but the sweet cream was just so refreshingly crisp that I wish I’d gotten another scoop.
Its first and original location is hard to miss; painted in cobalt blue and pastel orange, the kiosk is situated next to Shortstop Deli, which is similarly designed. This Seneca St. location offers both soft serve (of which there are eight flavors) and hard ice cream, as well as flurries, shakes, floats, sundaes and slushies. So far, I’ve only tried their orange/vanilla twist soft serve, which is a combination of their orange sherbet and vanilla flavors. I was deciding between just orange sherbet and orange/vanilla twist, and I’m glad I opted for the latter because even combined with vanilla, the orange sherbet was too saccharine for me. Nonetheless, I plan on trying their other soft serve flavors during the fall semester, especially because The Sun’s office is located so close to both of their venues.
Seating at both locations is entirely outdoor. There is just one table with four chairs at the Press Bay Alley branch, but the first location has a few picnic benches with umbrellas, which is ideal for summer outings.
CORNELL DAIRY BAR
411 Tower Rd (Stocking Hall)
If you want to stay on campus and still get some exceptional ice cream, then stop by Cornell Dairy Bar, which actually made a limited edition flavor of ice cream (“Big Red, White & Biden”) in honor of former Vice President and self-proclaimed ice cream fanatic Joe Biden, who was the Convocation speaker for Class of 2017.
For the past 138 years, Cornell Dairy Bar has been creating ice cream from the university’s cows and currently offers 20 different flavors, some which you’ll notice are offered in our dining halls. If you want to have Cornell Dairy’s entire selection in front of you, then I recommend you pay a visit to Stocking Hall, within which the Dairy Bar is located. You definitely don’t need to drive a car or take the bus here, as it is located on campus and is about a 20-minute walk from North Campus. When you arrive at Stocking Hall, you’ll notice the large, white sculpture of a milk bottle out front.
I’ve definitely tried all 20 flavors, and my favorites are Bavarian raspberry fudge and Kahlua fudge. What can I say? I love fudge. Bavarian raspberry fudge is “vanilla custard ice cream with old-fashioned fudge pieces and a raspberry swirl,” and reminds me of raspberry cheesecake. It’s smooth, and the little punches of raspberry and fudge complement each other. Kahlua fudge is “Kahlua ice cream with a chocolate fudge swirl.” Ezra’s morning cup, another Cornell Dairy Bar flavor, also has a coffee flavor, but I’d say Kahlua fudge is much stronger and thus satisfying.
Because the Dairy Bar is located in the lobby of Stocking Hall, there’s plenty of seating around the shop. Moreover, Stocking Hall was renovated a few years ago, so the place has a casual and modern vibe, given its clean lines and all-white interior.
As you spend your next four years at Cornell, you’ll become familiar not only with each other but also with the small city of Ithaca. One of the ways in which I came to appreciate Ithaca and its culture was through its amazing food, so make the most of your four years and explore the city because chances are you won’t be settling here after graduation!