This Memorial Day weekend, my family and I tasted our way through the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. K and I had flown into Boston on Friday evening, where we met my sister and headed to my parent’s house. The next morning, we all piled into the minivan for the six-hour drive to get to our hotel in Seneca Falls, New York. The drive was long, but it was worth it! The Finger Lakes area is incredibly scenic, with its rolling green hills, family-run dairy farms, and many vineyards surrounding the deep blue lakes. And just when you think the view couldn’t be more quaint, you’ll drive by an Amish horse-drawn buggy.
Our weekend getaway was a two-day “tasting” extravaganza. Our focus, of course, was on the wine. We must have visited almost a dozen wineries and sampled thirty different wines. Most of the wineries had intimate and laid-back atmospheres. The Finger Lakes region is known for their white wine – and I definitely agreed. Most of the Rieslings were superb! But if wine isn’t your thing, you can also find local breweries, cider mills, and dairy creameries scattered among the Finger Lakes. The dairy products here are top-notch. I’m not even a cheese-lover, but one of the highlights of the trip was our cheese tasting at the Muranda Cheese Company. Great cheese made from local ingredients – served by friendly locals. But to be honest, dairy cows make me think one thing: “ice cream.”
Before heading off on our Finger Lakes adventure, I did some research to identify the best-of-the-best ice cream in the area. It soon became apparent that the Cayuga Lake Creamery was the cream of the crop. Heck, it was listed as one of the top 50 ice-cream parlors in the country in one USA Today article. I easily convinced the family to make a special trip to the Cayuga Lake Creamery by reading through some of the interesting flavors advertised online. How can one not be excited to try Maple Bacon or Jalapeño Popper ice cream?
Late Sunday afternoon, we finally made a detour to Cayuga Lake Creamery. With its walk-up counters, picnic tables, and small kid’s playground, Cayuga Lake Creamery is a quintessential roadside ice-cream joint. They have a full menu of typical drive-in fare (burgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, etc.), but the focus is clearly on the ice cream. The daily ice cream and sorbet flavors are posted on chalkboard menus above the counters. While the Cayuga Lake Creamery website did clearly warn that many of the 100+ flavors “are seasonal and not available at all times,” I’d anticipated more than the 20 or so that were listed today. And sadly, none of the crazy flavors we’d hoped to try (i.e. Jalapeño Popper) were posted. Just when I was beginning to feel defeated, however, I saw that Cayuga Lake Creamery offers gluten-free cones! Also, they note all gluten-free flavors with little blue stars on their menu. As someone with a gluten-sensitivity, I seriously appreciated these little gestures. Few ice-cream establishments cater to the gluten-free crowd.
While we debated which flavors (and sizes) to order, K pointed out a sign for the “Taster’s Choice.” For just $7.25, you can get five small scoops of ice cream. This sounded perfect for our group, as we didn’t want to ruin our appetites for dinner. My sister, mom and I were put in charge of selecting the flavors. Because there were just 20 to choose from, narrowing it down to five (gluten-free) flavors wasn’t too hard. We opted for an eclectic mix of Coconut, Rum Raisin, Mocha Chocolate Chunk, Gianduia, and Snickers.
The Cayuga Lake Creamery has an efficient system; you put your order in at one of the two “ordering” windows, and then you step aside and wait for your order at a separate “pick up” window. We enjoyed the sunshine and people-watching for a few minutes before this lovely thing appeared:
|From top left around clockwise – Gianduia, Snickers, Rum Raisin & Coconut
Center – Mocha Almond Fudge
The verdict? Cayuga Lake Creamery gets major bonus points from me for their “Taster’s Choice.” It’s normal to order flights or samplers of wine, beer, and cheese – so why not ice cream? This sampler was the perfect size for sharing among multiple people. And while none of Cayuga Lake Creamery’s most bizarre flavors were on rotation this afternoon, my family and I were impressed with all of the ones we ordered. My mom’s favorite flavor was Coconut. The coconut-flavored base was flavorful and refreshing, and included just the right amount of dried coconut flakes. My sister Carolyn’s favorite was Gianduia, which was a twist on the classic Italian flavor. Cayuga Lake Creamery’s version was a rich milk-chocolate ice cream, loaded with chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chunks. I was surprised to enjoy the Mocha Chocolate Chunk the most. The mocha ice cream was strong, but not too-strong, and the fudge swirl was thick and tasted like fresh homemade fudge sauce. The “chunks” were actually almond pieces, which added a nice crunch and nutty depth to the ice cream. The Snickers was certainly a crowd-pleaser; the sweet vanilla ice cream contrasted well with the chunks of Snickers candy and extra peanuts and caramel swirls. Finally, Rum Raisin was the most unique-tasting of the bunch. At first bite, I didn’t taste any rum… just vanilla ice cream. But as soon as you bite a massive brown or golden raisin, you’re hit with an intense burst of rum-soaked deliciousness. I probably wouldn’t order a giant cone of Rum Raisin, but it was a fun one to try as a group. Overall, everyone was impressed with the Cayuga Lake Creamery. Heck… the fact that all five of us enjoyed all five different flavors makes for a pretty good review!
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Cayuga Lake Creamery
8421 State Route 89
Interlaken, NY 14847