There’s nothing like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. On a really hot summer’s day with several hundred people packed in a small stretch of blacktop, however, some water and shade goes well with the aforementioned ice cream. Such were the conditions at the NJ State Ice Cream Festival in Toms River yesterday.
While Lisa decided to take a day to relax in the comforts of air conditioning, Julian and I, along with Lisa’s parents who live in the area, made our way over to Washington Street in downtown Toms River. The difficulty in finding a parking spot should have tipped me off to the amount of people that were going to be there. And it was crowded, indeed. Lisa and I went to this festival a few years ago, and it was not nearly this crowded.
Undaunted with the sheer number of ice cream seekers, we got our tickets and spoons and set off for frozen adventure. There were a total of nine vendors competing: 3 in the ‘national’ category, and six in the ‘local’ category. Each category had a People’s Champ and a Special Judge’s prize.
Let’s start with the national vendors. Baskin Robbins had a very yummy chocolate Oreo ice cream. It was rich and chocolately with lots of cookie pieces. The only complaint was that it was a bit icy in texture; could have been a bit smoother. Then there was Gifford’s and its scary sounding Maine lobster trails. Having seen a number of failed Iron Chef attempts at fishy ice cream, I was relieved to find that the ‘lobster’ was really lobster-colored pieces of white chocoloate mixed into the ice cream. Overall, it was not very memorable. And finally Friendly’s presented their hunka hunka peanut butter chunk ice cream. Sweet and peanut buttery; it was exactly the kind of ice cream you’d expect from Friendly’s. The kids will love it, but not so much for the parents.
Now the more interesting local vendors. We first tasted Farley’s Ice Cream from Jackson and their cinnamon bun ice cream. Good and creamy, with cinnamon chocolate chips mixed throughout. It was fine, but not anything special.
Then we tried The Sprinkle Shack from Bayville and their very intriguing praline fudge flavor. Wow…this was good stuff. You got the sweet and nutty goodness of praline along with the richness of fudge. Very well executed, in our humble opinions. This was going to be the one to beat. And in talking to the servers, we find out that, yes, they can actually DELIVER their ice cream to us in Forked River. Oh my, that has danger written all over it.
Next up, Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream from Stone Harbor. They went with a very simple Oreo ice cream. While it sounded kind of plain, the ice cream was very rich and smooth in texture. It was an excellent version of Oreo ice cream.
After taking a bit of a break (some water, some shade, and some bouncing in a SpongeBob blow-up ride for Julian), we tried cookie crunch ice cream from Sweet Kate’s in Lacey Twp. While it was creamy and tasty, it was the third cookie-flavored ice cream we had eaten, and it wasn’t particularly distinct. If we had tried theirs first, we might have felt differently.
Even though the in-laws were less then enthused, I was looking forward to trying Mrs Walker’s from Beachwood and their blueberry pie ice cream. It was very blueberry, with nice pieces of pie crust mixed throughout. The only thing wrong was that it was a bit too sweet for our tastebuds.
Our final tasting stop was Applegate Farm of Upper Monclair. Their flavor was frozen hot chocolate. It was a fun little flavor, complete with chocolate pieces and mini marshmallows. This ice cream, however suffered from being too sweet as well. It was kind of like eating frozen Swiss Miss.
After about two hours, we had had enough of the heat, and it was time to head home to cool off. Even this much ice cream couldn’t handle that job.