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The inside scoop

When summer comes to town, ice cream comes to mind. To celebrate the season, why not dip into a few of Saratoga’s ice cream shops near campus?

Stewart’s Shops started in 1921 as Dake’s Delicious Ice Cream, and the Saratoga-based regional chain has been supplying frozen treats ever since. (The Dake family has also supplied Skidmore with important friends and alumni, including Stewart’s chair Bill Dake, a college trustee.) The eight shops in Saratoga dip twenty-seven flavors blessed with a palate-pleasing 12 percent butterfat. They range from standards like graham-crackery Crumbs Along the Mohawk to topical newcomers like Funny Cide Pride (named for the local-bred 2003 Kentucky Derby winner) to seasonal offerings like the red-white-and-blue Fireworks sprinkled with Hot Rocks candies. Stewart’s outlets also sell groceries and gasoline, but you can always drop into a little dining booth, breathe deeply, and give Ballet Chino Cherry or Death by Chocolate the rapt attention it deserves, at $1.50 for a single-scoop cone.

Prefer yours artisanal? Elegant Café Gelato on Broadway makes ice cream Italian style, with the machines, tiny spoons, serving cups, and many ingredients imported from Italy. The handsome display case shows off twenty-four flavors swirled into frosting-like peaks. Surprisingly light, with a butterfat content usually under 10 percent, gelato quickly floods the tastebuds with a creamy richness and then lifts swiftly away, leaving the palate clear. Try a scoop of peach so fresh it’ll make you moan out loud; there’s also gianduia (hazelnut), caramel, tiramisu, mango, lemon—all told, seventy flavors in a still-growing repertoire, including a champagne gelato made for the Wine Bar restaurant next door. A “bambini”-size serving is $3.45; a hand-packed pint (two flavors) goes for $8.75.

Ben and Jerry’s Phila Street shop was the first of the franchise to open outside Vermont (in fact, Ben Cohen, a Skidmore art major for a short time, had wanted to start with Saratoga). And not a moment too soon. The thirty-some current flavors average a lush 14 percent butterfat or more, for a swoony full-cream finish that lingers on the tongue. Don’t refuse an offer of Gobfather, a rich chocolate with fudge-covered almonds and nougat swirl; Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, a cinnamon ice cream with hints of fudge and raisins; the startlingly mocha-powered Coffee-Coffee Buzz-Buzz; or the old favorite, Cherry Garcia. A regular cone is $2.80; a twenty-scoop Vermonster bucket, popular with Skidmore students, is $31.

Like your ice cream soft and nostalgic? Find a parking spot in front of Humpty Dumpty, the little seasonal stand on West Avenue next to Shirley’s diner. For nearly forty years the same owners have been whipping up a 10 percent butterfat soft-serve with a delicate finish just begging to be topped with sprinkles, hot fudge, or neon-colored coatings that start the ice cream melting down your arm before you can take a second bite). The more ice cream they sell, the better the machines work, so the richer the stuff tastes. Basic cones are $1.75 (or $1 for “kiddie” and 50 cents for “baby” sizes). On velvety summer nights, crowds line up patiently and sit on benches or car bumpers to savor a tall swirl of banana, pistachio, or just plain vanilla—the sweet taste of a Saratoga summer. —BAM

Find out more

For phone numbers and maps, see http://saratogasprings.areaconnect.com/restaurants
and click on “ice cream.”