Ice Cream: You Know You Want It--Here's Where to Get It
Each year, Harvard students and administrators eagerly await the ego-stroking U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best colleges in the country. Harvard has been fortunate enough to lead in numerous categories, from student satisfaction to faculty caliber to academic rigor.
But U.S. News fails to rank a crucial category, and one that Harvard would also dominate: quality of local ice cream parlors.
Harvard is surrounded by world-class ice cream joints. At a university which is required by some ancient and sacred pact to serve ice cream with at least one meal a day, students still find the best offerings off campus. Blessing is piled atop cold, creamy blessing at such local establishments as Baskin Robbins, Emack and Bolio's, Herrell's, and Scoops and Beans.
In Cambridge, you will not find the 1990s equivalent of Hokey-Pokey--the cheap ice cream sold by street vendors until the 1920's at a penny a lump. The trend among Harvard Square vendors is to offer more expensive, home-made, gourmet ice creams.
The first stop of The Crimson Ice Cream Tour bucked that trend. Baskin Robbins, a 31-flavor American institution, managed--like the Au Bon Pain down the street--to dodge Harvard Square's ban on fastfood chains.
Baskin Robbins boasts three advantages over other local ice cream parlors.
First, its proximity to Harvard Yard makes it the most convenient stop for yardlings.
Second, a Dunkin' Donuts shop opened last year within the parlor (behind the same counter, in fact), so students torn between going out for ice cream and going out for coffee can--like the hero of a Miller Lite commercial--do both.
Third, chocolate lovers take note: Baskin Robbins devotes eight ice cream flavors--more than a quarter of its selection--to the exquisite fruit of the cocoa bean.
The next stop on The Crimson Ice Cream Tour was Herrell's, for many the Mecca of the ice cream pilgrimage. Herrell's is famous (and it is famous) for two reasons.
First and foremost, the Dunster Street parlor serves world class ice cream made on site. Popular flavors include Cookies 'N Cream and the oh-so-rich Chocolate Pudding. Herrell's offers a relatively small variety--only 15 or so ice creams to choose from--but the gourmand should return to sample every flavor.
The second source of Herrell's fame is its unique atmosphere. The classy, reserved exterior gives way to a far-out inside. Painted to look like the sea floor, Herrell's contains an old vault remodeled to resemble the inside of an aquarium. Visitors seeking the total Herrell's experience must eat in the vault, which can easily accommodate eight deserters but often seats many more.
Third on the tour was Scoops and Beans, located across from the Crimson Sports Grill on JFK Street. Like Herrell's, Scoops offers topquality homemade ice cream. But Scoops offers even more varieties, and in more daring flavors, such as red bean and orange chocolate.
Scoops also triumphs in other non-traditional areas, such as softserve frozen yogurt and sorbet. Even diehard sorbet skeptics will come around after a taste of Scoops' homemade guava sorbet.
Last on the tour was Emack and Bolio's, a New England chain popularized on Cape Cod.
A short walk up Mass. Ave. from the Square, Emack and Bolio's is by far the most convenient parlor for students living in or near the Quad.
Emack and Bolio's boasts some of the richest chocolate mousse ice cream in Cambridge, and its espresso fudge is well worth the walk.
However, if bargain ice cream is what you seek, an ice cream truck parks next to Dunster House at the intersection of DeWolfe St. and Memorial Drive every Sunday of the summer.