Even the most modest food markets carry more flavors of ice cream than any of us have the attention span to properly vet. The process of finding the right flavor takes you through a range of emotions that goes somewhat like this: 1) Overwhelmed, 2) Excited, 3) Doubtful, 4) Paranoid that fellow shoppers have noticed you've been looking at a wall of ice cream for 10 minutes, and finally, either 5) Defeated or Hopeful, depending on your decision.
We're here to instill some confidence in your ice cream selections this summer. Ever loyal to our dear readers, we bestowed upon ourselves the burdensome task of tasting approximately 45 flavors of the more unconventional ice creams on the market. Though we have included a pint of Ben & Jerry's in our selection, we tried to stay away from the typical brands you see every day at the supermarket, instead leaning toward small-batch, artisanal craftsmen who really know their stuff. (Don't worry, you can order most of them online if they're not available in your area.)
Among the flavors we sampled were several on the kooky side, featuring everything from birthday cake to flowers and candy swirls. But the true winners, for the most part, stuck to clean, fresh flavors. But don't worry -- these top 10 ice creams are far from boring. Give them a try and let us know what you think. Honestly, we're addicted to some of them.
(We still love all the flavors we featured in last summer's top picks as well, so make sure to check those out.)
As always, our selection has not been influenced or sponsored by the brands included in any way.
This story appears in the special July 4 issue of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, June 28.
Steve's Cold-Brewed Cinnamon Coffee
<strong><a href="http://shop.stevesicecream.com/collections/all-flavors/products/cinnamon-coffee" target="_hplink">Order here</a></strong> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Cold-brewed Blue Bottle Coffee with freshly grated cinnamon (NON-DAIRY)." <b>What we say:</b> "This was so amazing. It was not only my favorite ice cream of the bunch, it might be my new favorite ice cream of all time. WINNER." "Yes, yes, yes. This is like drinking the best cup of coffee you ever had while also eating some amazing ice cream. It has put all other coffee ice creams to shame." "I don't even love coffee, but I can appreciate how refreshing this is."
Snoqualmie Honey Cinnamon Custard
<a href="http://snoqualmieicecream.com/our-flavors" target="_hplink"><b>Learn more</b></a> <b>What the brand says:</b> "A careful mingling of sweet, floral honey tones and subtly piquant cinnamon makes our honey cinnamon frozen custard a priceless experience." <b>What we say:</b> "It's almost heart-warming. It's like a Snickerdoodle crossed with red hots and an oatmeal cookie.""CINNAMON ICE CREAM FOREVER. This is perfect." "This is too good to be true. Best ice cream ever. All the rest can go home now."
Jeni's Juniper & Lemon Curd
<strong><a href="http://www.jenis.com/juniper-lemon-curd-pint/" target="_hplink">Order here</a></strong> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Incredibly soft and smooth grass-grazed cream, with a zing of crystal clear juniper on the nose that is balanced by the taste and aroma of handmade, sweet-tart lemon curd. Invigorating, and as radiant as a beam of sunlight." <b>What we say:</b> "Love the stripe of lemon curd and the subtle gin flavor you get from the juniper. This is like Aviation ice cream. (Dear Jeni, please make an Aviation-flavored ice cream.)" "Most amazing ice cream flavor ever. It doesn't matter what you thought your favorite ice cream flavor was, because it isn't even close to as good as this. The tart lemon curd makes the perfect contrast to the creamy juniper ice cream. It's just perfect." "As a lemon curd and lemon bar advocate, this is the greatest thing to happen to ice cream. I'm not getting a lot of juniper flavor, which I was wary of -- so that's a good thing. The lemon curd is just so creamy and zingy. Amazing."
Steve's Bklyn Blackout
<strong><a href="http://shop.stevesicecream.com/collections/all-flavors/products/bklyn-blackout" target="_hplink">Order here</a></strong> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Milk chocolate ice cream swirled with chocolate stout cake pieces and dark chocolate pudding." <b>What we say:</b> "It's like eating the most creamy, delicious pudding pop you've ever had." "Chocolate pudding is what chocolate ice cream has been missing all this time. Thank you Steve for making a chocolate ice cream I can be excited about." "I just can't get down with chocolate ice cream, but have always loved pudding pops. This is like eating a grown up pudding pop."
Graeter's Summer Peach Ice Cream
<strong><a href="http://www.graeters.com/peach.aspx" target="_hplink">Learn more</a></strong> <b>What the brand says:</b> "We hand select only the juiciest peaches from a premier grower in Northern Virginia, hand-prepared and processed the Graeter's Ice Cream way." <b>What we say:</b> "DAMN. Tastes like real peaches, not peach-flavoring. The texture is perfectly creamy. Tastes like summer." "So summery. And spot on peach flavor. Amazing!" "The most realistic peach ice cream I've ever had."
Ciao Bella Pistachio Gelato
<a href="http://ciaobellagelato.com/#/products/pistachio-gelato" target="_hplink"><b>Learn more</b></a> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Intensely savory and silky smooth -- this chef inspired blend of roasted, salted pistachios and pure cream is sure to satisfy your taste buds." <b>What we say:</b> "When something is so intensely pistachio-flavored, it almost tastes like cherries. That is how this gelato tastes and I want to live inside a pint of it." "Hot damn, this is what pistachio ice cream is supposed to taste like. I want to eat it all summer long." "The freshest, most floral pistachio I've ever had. Great smooth texture, too."
Ben & Jerry's Pina Colada
<b><a href="http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/our-flavors#" target="_hplink">Learn more</a></b> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Coconut ice cream with pineapple." <b>We we say:</b> "It is SO CONFUSING that I like this. I traditionally HATE Piña Colada-flavored things, but this tastes like drinking a Painkiller on the beach. WAIT... we should sprinkle this with fresh nutmeg and see if it really tastes like a Painkiller. So refined and delicious, without a whisper of the horrible sunscreen flavor that usually accompanies this combination." "I'm not sure how a pina colada ice cream can taste so good, but I should have known that Ben & Jerry's would be the ones to do it. This tastes like the best coconut popsicle with chunks of pineapple. It's great." "I thought I was going to hate this, but I have to say it's pretty great."
Talenti Southern Butter Pecan
<b><a href="https://talentigelato.com/our-products/" target="_hplink">Learn more</a></b> <b>What the brand says:</b> "A new take on the classic, this gelato combines a thick, delicious, buttery background with butter roasted pecans, and a ribbon of Talenti's signature dulce de leche." <b>What we say:</b> "I didn't think I liked butter pecan ice cream, until I had Talenti's. Yum." "I don't even know how you make ice cream have this texture. It is like eating really cold, buttery velvet. Love that you can taste the flavor of the butter in the ice cream, not just the swirl." "I usually hate butter-pecan, but this is just so velvety and addictive that I can't help myself."
Salt & Straw Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper
<b><a href="http://saltandstraw.com/strawberry.php" target="_hplink">Order here</a></b> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Oregon strawberries from Oregon Hill Farms, honey balsamic from a third generation Oregon bee keeper at Honey Ridge Farms, and black pepper from Pohnpei -- once one of the finest pepper producers of the world, shut down due to local government strife and only now starting to produce in small quantities and imported entirely by a company in Eugene, Oregon." <b>What we say:</b> "Love the bright strawberry flavor. Can't taste the peppercorn at all, but do get a subtle hint of balsamic on the finish." "Strawberry ice cream, you are amazing. So creamy. So strawberry-y. Love it." "Not a lot of pepper or balsamic flavor, but just a really solid, rich strawberry flavor."
Jeni's The Buckeye State
<b><a href="http://www.jenis.com/products/The-Buckeye-State-Pint.html" target="_hplink">Order here</a></b> <b>What the brand says:</b> "Our version of Ohio's favorite confection. Rich and salty peanut butter yields to the crunch of exceptional dark chocolate for perfect balance. Total comfort for Buckeyes and Buckeyes at heart." <b>What we say:</b> "Is peanut butter and chocolate a major ice cream flavor innovation? No. Is this the best peanut butter chocolate ice cream I've ever tasted? YES." "OMG, so good. Buckeyes + ice cream = true love." "A not-too-chunky peanut butter candy ice cream, which is hard to find."