- Herrine Ro and Alana Yzola visit four ice cream shops in New York City in search of the best of the best.
- They visit Oddfellows, Ample Hills, Van Leeuwen, and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.
- The two hosts declare Ample Hills as the best of the best place to get ice cream in New York City.
The following is a transcript of the video.
HerrineRo: Sweet Mother Mary, that is so good!
AlanaYzola: Hey guys, I’m Alana.
Herrine: Hi, I’m Herrine.
Alana: And today, we’re here to find the best ice cream in New York City.
Herrine: There are literally thousands of places that sell ice cream in New York City, and we narrowed it down to four spots. Each spot has their own true fan following.
Alana: Right, and to make it fair we’re gonna try vanilla ice cream in all four of these spots.
Herrine: I learned from Joe and Sydney that this methodology is called a litmus test.
Joe: This is like the litmus test? Is that the right thing?
Sydney: This is the litmus test for the perfect doughnut. Alana: And to make this more holistic we’re also gonna try their signature flavours.
Herrine: So, we are judging on their vanilla ice cream flavour, their signature ice cream flavour, and the overall diverse spread of flavours that they offer. Our first stop is OddFellows. It’s home to 500 creative ice cream flavours, all centered around nostalgia.
Customer: My favourite thing about OddFellows is that it’s all made in-house, all made in one location, and their flavours are like nothing else.
AndyMullins: Depending on the shop, we have between eight and 16 flavours in the case at any one time. Our motto is “flavours change often, don’t be mad.” We do try to cycle the standard flavours through whenever we can. You’ll always see vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cookies ‘n’ cream.
Alana: The Brooklyn-based ice creamery makes all their ice cream flavours in a factory in Bushwick.
Herrine: They produce 300 gallons of ice cream a day.
Andy: Chef Sam Mason is the mad genius behind everything that we do in the kitchen. He’s been a pastry chef at some of the best kitchens in the world in the past 25 years and draws inspiration from all over.
SamMason: Vanilla is one I’m very particular about, so I’ve managed to make it way too expensive. We use fresh Tahitian vanilla beans. And we also use a vanilla paste and a vanilla powder. There’s a lot of vanilla in our vanilla ice cream.
Herrine: OK, let’s try it.
Alana: All right. Ooh, and it cuts like butter. It’s creamy. Oh, yeah. The vanilla is definitely prominent. They’re not cutting any corners here. I definitely understand what he meant by he uses three different types of vanilla, because it’s extremely vanilla-y.
Alana: Vanilla-y. floral, and light, but still very creamy.
Herrine: She’s a bougie, basic flavour. Speaking of flavours, let’s move on to the next one.
Andy: One of the flavours that’s most in demand and people are saddest when we don’t have it is cornbread.
Herrine: Three, two, one.
Alana: Oh, my God.
Herrine: I’ve been waiting for this moment for the whole entire shoot. I went to Hometown Bar-B-Que, and I brought back cornbread, and the coincidence is uncanny. And I’m so, so excited.
Alana: Herrine, Herrine. Herrine, do you have any, like…
Herrine: Ounce of self-control? No. [laughing]
Alana: I will say that, while flavour-wise it tastes a lot like cornbread, there’s no hunks of the actual bread, so you’re gonna get, like, a really smooth, creamy bite every time. I do like cake and ice cream together, so I was expecting the cornbread to kind of act like a cake in this. But, to me, cornbread and cake, they’re not exactly the same, texturally.
Herrine: Cake and ice cream belong together.
Alana: Our second stop is Ample Hills. The Brooklyn-based parlor has shops all across the city. Their specialty: ice cream filled with ample toppings, like cake, pie, candy, and more.
JackieCuscuna: My husband, Brian, and I started Ample Hills in May of 2011. We’ve always loved making and eating really fun, great, fantastical ice cream. And we also really wanted to create a community gathering space.
Customer: Ample Hills is the best place to get ice cream. I’d say it’s both flavorful and sweet.
Jackie: Our name, Ample Hills, comes from the Walt Whitman poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” But ample also means that we like to put a lot of stuff in our ice cream. We are as much of a bakery as we are an ice cream factory. So we make all of our mix-ins from scratch. But with our vanilla bean, we steep it. So it’s a lot more intense and flavorful than you’ll find maybe other vanilla bean.
Herrine: Let’s go into this before it gets meltier.
Alana: Oh, my God, that melts in your mouth. The vanilla is just… Herrine: So pronounced. I feel like each speck is, like, exploding on my palate. Like, it’s so good.
Herrine: You can even see how there are, like, these pockets of air almost because it’s so fluffy.
Alana: I kind of wanna bite this pretzel cone.
Herrine: This is a great pairing. The salty-crunchy from the pretzel, the creamy-sweet from the vanilla. If this is the blank-slate flavour, I can only imagine how great the other ice cream flavours are gonna be.
Jackie: Our top seller would be Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, and that’s delicious.
Herrine: Alana, what is my favourite, favourite food in the world? Like, the food that I gravitate towards when I’m sad, happy, just overall just bored, existing. Alana: Cake, it’s cake.
Herrine: It’s cake. Ooh, I see little niblets of cake in here.
Alana: Oh, it’s like a butter-pecan-type thing.
Herrine: Sweet Mother Mary, that is so good! I love this! There’s so many globs of cake in here. That’s a winner.
Our third stop is Van Leeuwen. The ice cream truck turned empire is known for using only pure, simple ingredients.
Alana: And they’re known equally for their dairy and vegan ice cream.
Customer: I love that it’s not too sweet of an ice cream. It’s just this beautifully creamy, very natural flavours.
BenVanLeeuwen: Our ice cream is always free of fillers and stabilizers, or natural flavours. So when you read the ingredients, it’s only things that you recognise. When we started Van Leeuwen, we only did sort of very simple, one-ingredient flavours. So they’re your flavours with no chunks. And because we made ice cream like that for so long, we were forced into becoming really, really good at sort of the rudimentary aspects of ice-cream-making, which is making the base. So we didn’t have chunks or anything to hide behind. So, if you go to a Van Leeuwen shop to get a scoop, we have 20 flavours. We source all of our vanilla from Papua New Guinea. We use both the Bourbon and Tahitian variety. So, really, really extraordinary ingredients and extraordinary recipes.
Alana: All right, I’m gonna go for this little piece right here.
Herrine: Oh, it just, like, [Alana groaning] kind of… [Alana groaning] It cuts so…
Alana: All right.
Herrine: You can taste just how simple and pure these ingredients are, right?
Alana: It’s so creamy, and it kind of just, like, coats your palate in a way that’s so refreshing. Even though you can see the vanilla beans, it’s not, like, an overpowering vanilla-y vanilla flavour.
Herrine: But here it’s like, the vanilla is super milky, and, like you said, there are these little flecks of the vanilla bean in it. You can just tell that this is, like, an artisanal ice cream. If you want something that’s a little more than the vanilla, I have the thing for you. It’s their signature flavour, honeycomb.
Ben: Honeycomb is our No. 1 best seller, which is so good. Herrine: All right, ready?
Alana: Yep. Oh, my God.
Herrine: So, you’re getting, like, this kind of like salted caramel kind of taste with crunchy honeycomb bits, all melted in with that really super creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s just, it’s so good.
Alana: It’s just, it’s just…[takes bite]
Herrine: Yeah? Alana: Yeah, yeah.
Alana: Our final stop is Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. It’s been around for over 40 years and continues to be family-operated.
PhilipSeid: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory started in 1977. There weren’t many ice cream stores at that time. We were the first one in Chinatown.
Customer: I really, really like about this place the fact that they will take flavours that I’m used to. You really honestly couldn’t find a whole lot of even green-tea ice cream. I like how they were kind of ahead of the game and trendsetters.
Philip: At any given time, we have about 40 flavours of ice cream. We have the traditional flavours. At the same time, we make flavours that are a little unique and more native to people that live in this community. Durian’s not my type of fruit, but it has a huge following. We keep it covered because of the smell. Either you love it or you hate it.
Herrine: Do you love it? Are you a follower? I want to try. I don’t know if I enjoy that. [laughs]
Philip: We don’t let people see how we make our ice cream because we want to keep it a secret, and special, and not copied by that many people.
Alana: Ooh, pretty!
Herrine: Thank you.
Alana: It’s not too sweet. It’s very creamy, but I will say that the vanilla flavour still stands out really strongly. Comparing it to other ice creams that I’ve had, while I do get the intense vanilla flavour, I would like to see the actual flecks of vanilla bean. ‘Cause that’s usually what sets it above and beyond for me.
Herrine: I agree with you. Vanilla bean would have made this vanilla over the top.
Philip: My flavour that reminds me of my childhood is the lychee, because lychee was quite expensive in the old days, and it was like a treat.
Herrine: This is an ice cream cone that is just Asian in its entirety. We have a green tea cone and lychee-flavored ice cream.
Alana: This one’s…oh!
Herrine: It’s more icy than other ice creams. Oh, I like that combination.
Alana: Yeah, it’s, like, juicy. Like, I feel like I’m actually biting into a piece of fruit rather than taking out just a scoop of regular ice cream. It’s like an icy, crystallised crust on the outside. So it’s not as, like, super milky and creamy as the other flavours that we had, but I’m not mad at it; I really like it.
Herrine: Yeah, I feel like the reason why it is that way is because lychee is, like, already this very, like, delicate fruit. Making it really creamy would take away from the integrity of the actual flavour. It’s such a unique experience. I feel like, I’m from an Asian background, but, like, a lot of the flavours I’m not really used to. Or, like, I crave but can’t find anywhere else. So it serves a lot of purposes for me.
Alana: Aw. Well, I’m glad we came here, and I’m taking this to go.
Herrine: I’m so done with ice cream for the moment. So, she’s gonna…gonna let her do that.
Alana: So, we did it. We hit the four most iconic spots in New York City for ice cream. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I think is the best, do you? All right, let’s see. Three, two, one.
Herrine: Yours is better than mine.
Alana: Yeah, I wanted to show the hunks and chunks of all that goodness.
Herrine: That’s not a hunk and chunk, that’s a speckle.
Alana: Look, ma’am! OK, so I think the fact that we both got Ample Hills is sort of a testament to why I actually picked it. There were so many options available, I feel like there was something for literally everyone. For the vanilla, the flavours just stood out the most. Each flavour was kind of, like, bursting on your tongue. Compared to the other vanillas, I feel like it was very creamy, it had a great texture.
Herrine: Texturally, when I look for a great ice cream, I want something that is extremely milky and creamy, whether it’s texture or for flavour, I want both. You could actually see the vanilla bean in it.
Alana: And their signature one, excuse me?
Herrine: Like you said, there’s literally something for everyone. You have regular classics, from vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, to ice creams that are filled to the brim with different types of toppings. Cake, candy, chocolate, potato chips, pretzels. I mean, they have it all.
Herrine: That Ooey Gooey Butter Cake was so good, I brought a pint home with me after that shoot. And that’s the thing about all of these places, we tried a lot of different flavours as samples, but Ample Hills, it was that one place that we literally couldn’t stop eating.
Alana: All right, guys, what do you think? Do you agree with us that Ample Hills is the best of the best ice cream? Or do you think we should have picked another one of the places we visited?
Herrine: Or was it a place that we just didn’t end up visiting? Let us know in the comment section below. Bye!
Alana: See ya! [laughing]
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