The Laidback Gourmet: New Jersey Ice Cream Festival 2011

Hello and welcome to the Laidback gourmet and I have a very special one for you today. Yesterday I decided to hop onto Edforce One and take a trip to a little town called Toms River, New Jersey. “Why?” you might ask? Because for the last 9 years Toms River has been home to the New Jersey Ice Cream festival, a bright colorful street carnival where local and national ice cream makers put their best frozen treat forward to be judged by both experts and the public.

Seeing as how I am the Laidback Gourmet I knew this was something I couldn’t pass up. Though I’m sure I could have been invited as a guest judge I decided it was better if I went incognito as to not garner any bias from the applicants. Now if you’ll allow me a second to deflate my ego we can start our ice cream adventure!

When you first arrive the first thing you notice is how wonderful the air smells. You can smell the ice cream to be sure, but the air is also filled with the smells of fresh popped pop corn, hot dogs, pizza, chicken, gyros, french fries and pretty much any other food that is sold on Main Street. This is going to be a good day!

First thing’s first you have to wait in line to buy your taste testing kit. This comes with some napkins, a spoon, an itereary of today’s events and most importantly your taste testing tickets. One for each booth so you can get your sample. Here’s what mine looked like:

As you can see there are 10 booths, 5 of them local business and 5 of them national flavors. First stop to go to is Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream booth. Zita’s is a New Jersey local ice cream shop and you can find out more about them by clicking HERE . They’re offering up a flavor called “Mint Lightning”. I’ll just hand them my ticket and then receive my sample:

Let’s try our first sample, shall we?

*om nom nom*

Not a bad start. It’s a strong mint flavor and instead of chocolate chips mixed in its more of a chocolate cake. The only complaint I’d have is that there’s just too much chocolate cake in it and it messes with the texture. Still, a good start. 7 out of 10.

The next booth we come across is our first national booth, Friendly’s. In case you don’t have one by you, Friendly’s is a national chain of restaurants that serves up fairly mediocre food. I’m not being mean, but seriously the food is nothing special. However, to be fair, the food isn’t what you go to Friendly’s for. You go for their ice cream and their sundeas. If you don’t have a Friendly’s restaurant near you you can always go to your local supermarket and see if they sell their ice cream in 1/2 gallon tubs there. You won’t be disappointed.

As for the flavor being offered by them today it’s their classic Black Raspberry.

We’ll skip the sound effects this time since I have a lot more ice cream to eat today and that joke will wear itself thin real quick if I do that whole om nom nom thing each time. This black raspberry ice cream is quite good. Very creamy with a strong raspberry flavor. Definitely one you should check out if you’re a fan of fruit flavored ice cream. 8 out of 10.

Our next stop is another national flavor Edy’s Ice Cream. It’s supplied by a supermarket chain “Stop and Shop” but I’m pretty sure you can find Edy’s Ice Cream in many other stores across the country. Edy’s makes some really good flavors and today is Mint Chocolate Chip.

This is a more mild mint than the previous one and the chips are thin and crispy. It’s a refreshing ice cream, especially nice since the temperature is starting to creep up past the 90s. 8 out of 10.

Coming up next is a local shop called Fajji’s Homemade Ice Cream. I don’t have too much info on this place and they don’t have a website but if you are ever in Perth Amboy, NJ you should stop on by. Their flavor offering is a wonderfully named “Doughlicious”.

A cookie dough style ice cream that’s unlike any other cookie dough ice cream I’ve ever had. Usually cookie dough ice cream is vanilla ice cream work mixed with chunks of cookie dough. Oh no, this flavor is actually cookie dough flavored ice cream! (With cookie dough chunks mixed in, of course). This is actually an amazing flavor, tastes like you’re eating a batch of frozen cookie dough. 9.5 out of 10. Awesome stuff.

Next up is another national booth: Kemp’s Ice Cream. They say it’s a national flavor but I honestly don’t recall seeing it in any of the local supermarkets I visit, I will have to take a closer look next time. The flavor they are offering is Blueberry.

I have to say I was expecting blueberry ice cream to be a fake blue in color but I’m quite pleased to see that this ice cream is quite the real color of blueberry. As for the taste its quite different. It’s almost as if you were eating frozen blueberry muffin batter and that’s not really a bad thing. It’s different but quite good. 8.5 out of 10.

The next booth is yet another national flavor that I’ve never heard of: Gifford’s Ice Cream. Apparently they are a gourmet Ice cream company and they are another one I will have to look out for next time I’m at Shoprite. Gifford’s flavor offering is chocolate. (I do love me some chocolate!)

Wow! Now that’s chocolate. Heck, it shouldn’t even be called chocolate it should be called “holy crap chocolate”. It’s dense, thick, rich, sweet and creamy. It’s almost as if you were eating chocolate frosting or chocolate fudge, but frozen. As a chocolate lover this one is one of the highlights of the day so far. Still not quite as good as that Doughlicious one, but still amazing. 9 out of 10!

Up next is the local shop: Mrs Walker’s of Beachwood. Again, I can’t find too much about Mrs Walkers of Beachwood and they don’t seem to have a website but if you find yourself in Beachwood, NJ you should check them out, they are a local favorite. They are offering up a homemade Oreo Ice Cream.

You can always tell good Oreo (or generically: Cookies and Cream) Ice cream when you look at it because it’s never white in color but instead a greyish color because the white cream is dyed by the color of the cookies. As for the taste, image the taste of dunking Oreos in rich cream and that’s pretty much what you get with this flavor. It’s one of the best cookies and creams I’ve ever had. 9 out of 10.

Next up is another local favorite Hoffman’s Homemade Ice Cream and Deli and you can check out their website HERE They’re offering a flavor I’m not 100% sold on “Coffee Oreo”.

As a matter of full disclosure I really don’t like coffee, I never really developed a taste for it. Give me a strong cup of hot black tea and now you’re talking. That being said it’s actually pretty good. With the mix of cream, chocolate and coffee it kind of reminds me of tiramisu and anyone who remembers my Christmas review that’s one of my favorite desserts. 7.5 out of 10 (and to be fair it might be higher if I actually liked coffee).

Next up is the last of the local flavors: Cranford Vanilla Bean Creamery who easily wins the longest title award. “Cranford Vanilla Bean Creamer’s Banana Fosters Ice Cream”. Just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? Well here’s hoping that their ice cream doesn’t roll off the tongue that easily, that’d be terrible mouth feel. (Yes, mouth feel is a technical term when talking about ice cream, look it up.)

This has to be the most interesting ice cream I’ve tasted today. It’s easily the most creative of all the flavors. Very creamy with a strong banana taste. Note that I’m not saying banana flavoring because this tastes like real bananas, in fact there are clumps of real bananas mixed right in added a nice deal of texture. 8.5 out of 10.

Lastly there’s the national brand Welsh’s Oreo & Cream Ice Cream. To be honest I didn’t get to try this one there for a few reasons. One: the temperature is starting to creep into the mid 90s at this point and I’ve been out in it for hours. Two: The lines have gotten to the point where I’ll have to wait for at least 30 minutes before getting my sample. Lastly, Three: Welsh Farms is a fairly popular brand around here and this is a flavor I’ve had more than once before. I can confidently give it a review from all the times I’ve had it in the past without sampling it today. A creamy cookies and cream ice cream that while good doesn’t really stand out from any of the other national brands of cookies and cream. 8 out of 10.

Well that’s it. I was sent to cover the ice cream festival and cover it I did. I have to say it was a really fun time and there’s a lot more going on here than I thought there would be. Many stands advertising business around here giving out macguffins like ice cream scoops, pens, and business cards that are actually sponges in disguise. (I love those, as a kid I would yearn to dunk any card I could find to see if it would turn into a sponge, hoi dhlee!) There was many different booths selling all sorts of mouth watering food, the gyro stand in particular was making my mouth water.

Their were rides and games for the kids, a live band, ice cream eating contests, an art contest for the kids, stands selling all sorts of nick nacks from purses to art to dvds. I can honestly say I had a great time and I can’t wait for the 10th annual Ice Cream Festival to roll around in 2012 so I can stop on by again. Though I now know not to worry about looking at any of the booths until I get all my ice cream samples as the crowds just kept pouring in the more the day went on.

On one final note you can take a look at the winners of the contest at this link right HERE. Seeing that the judges picked the Coffee Oreo Ice Cream (One of my least favorite flavors) it really makes me stop and reflect of myself as a food reviewer. After contemplating this for hours I think that there can only be one logical conclusion: Obviously, I’m a better judge of ice cream and really should be a judge next year. I await their invite for the 2012 festival.

Well that concludes this very special on location edition of the Laidback Gourmet. Hope you enjoyed reading it and if you would like to email me your thoughts, suggestions or invitations to be a special judge for a taste testing contest please email me here at Until next time, I’m Ed DiFolco, your Laidback Gourmet hoping to see you all in Toms River in 2012. And if any of the judges from this year are reading this and you’re mad enough to not make me a judge next year please understand this is just all wacky good fun. Unless of course that phoney apology doesn’t change your mind in that case than I stand by whatever my original point was… to be honest I’m a bit confused myself.

…what was I talking about?

…Get off my lawn.

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