In ice cream, chocolate achieves its most sublime expression. Unfettered by crumb or crust, its essential nature shines through, heightened by its background of chilled, sweetened cream.
Do we wax overly lyrical? Not at all. From Rockville Centre to Riverhead, Long Island is a hotbed of cold, chocolaty comfort: you're never more than a short drive from a terrific scoop. So give the chocolate at these Long Island ice-cream parlors a try and see if we've gone overboard.
Star Confectionery sticks to the basics: "We make one chocolate ice cream," said Anthony Meras, third-generation owner of Star Confectionery. "I'm a plain Jane - I think simple is better." The ice cream is made either by Anthony or his father, also Anthony, the acknowledged master, who makes his own flavoring base with Hershey's cocoa powder. The result is clean and chocolaty, with a caramel undertone. The younger Meras likes chocolate ice cream topped with marshmallow; his father goes for pineapple. "But he likes everything topped with pineapple," his son explained.
Herrell's commitment to chocolate goes beyond ice cream. The hot fudge rivals Itgen's in Valley Stream, the gold standard, and this is the rare ice cream parlor whose sprinkles are made from real chocolate (and not just flavoring). On any given day, Herrell's is scooping up three of a dozen rotating chocolate flavors. The "regular" is very fine; the chocolate pudding so intense it makes a great shake without any syrup. Other iterations include malted chocolate (a personal favorite) and chocolate chaos into which, according to proprietor Rick Meuser, "we throw everything chocolate in the store - chips, brownies, Kit Kat bars, you name it."
John Pastore has been making ice cream at his little "cottage" in Mastic for 30 years. The ex-Carvel man (he still has the Fudgie the Whale molds to prove it) serves both hard and soft-serve chocolate ice cream in an unparalleled variety of cones: sugar, wafer, double wafer, waffle, chocolate waffle, chocolate chip, chocolate wafer, pretzel, M&M. Flavors include chocolate overdose (fudge, chips, brownies), black forest (black Bordeaux cherries and broken-up chocolate shell) and a chocolate peanut-butter cup with a ribbon of peanut sauce plus crushed peanut-butter cups.
Lisa Coleman and her husband, Walter, opened Sweets of the Spoon in February 2009. Half the store is devoted to savories (soups, salads, panini and wraps) but in the summer, the action is in the sweet half. Like her mentor, John Pastore of Mastic's Ice Cream Cottage, Coleman displays her ice cream in shallow gelato pans. "It's a prettier presentation," she explained, "and because the pans are smaller, we get quicker turnover." Aside from the worthy chocolate, Sweets scoops a Rocky Point Road filled with marshmallow and peanuts as well as a very popular flavor called dirt (chocolate with chocolate "crunch").
Stu and Carolyn Feldschuh make what is probably Long Island's most beloved chocolate ice cream flavor: Peconic Swamp Thing, a marriage of fudge, brownies and a ribbon of raspberry puree. "It started out as a weekly special," Stu said, "and then I could never take it off the menu." It's Carolyn who is the real chocolate nut of the family, and her preference is "the darker the better." She also maintains high standards in chocolate accessories - the chocolate syrup, chocolate sprinkles and the quick-hardening chocolate "dip top." In addition to a fine plain "hard" chocolate, Snowflake makes a peerless chocolate soft serve that Stu attributes to his "phenomenal" old Carpigiani machine.
Ice-cream aficionados have been making the trip to In the Mood since proprietor Ana Mocete set up shop five years ago in an out-of-the-way shopping center on the Nassau-Suffolk border. Her intense chocolates are not super-rich with butterfat; Mocete believes that a slightly leaner ice cream delivers better chocolate flavor. Her plain chocolate is rich enough, but she gilds it with five variations: chocolate brownie fudge, peanut butter, rocky road (which uses an even more chocolaty base to counter balance the marshmallows and almonds) and two real knockouts; chocolate dulce de leche, punctuated with Heath Bar crunch, and deep dark secret, with cherry brandy, black cherries and chunks of chocolate.
According to co-owner Paulie Cairo, Krisch's chocolate ice-cream recipe has hardly changed since the Massapequa landmark opened in 1955 (after two incarnations in Brooklyn and Queens). This is a sweet, straightforward, kid-friendly chocolate that works particularly well in Krisch's chocolate ice-cream soda, made with whipped cream instead of milk. It is also the basis for an excellent chocolate-chocolate chip, made with shards of semisweet chocolate chipped off a 50-pound block down in Krisch's candy workshop.
Phillip Zouros has been making chocolate ice cream since he and his wife, Eva, bought the Sweet Shop in 1974. He uses a rich ice-cream base (16 percent butterfat) which is made richer by the chocolate flavoring he makes himself from 22-percent cocoa-butter cocoa powder. The result is smooth and well balanced, neither too sweet nor too intense. I love having a scoop of it in one of the Sweet Shop's wonderful vintage metal dishes. Whirred into a malted, it's a favorite hot-weather supper.
International Delights, with branches in Rockville Centre and Bellmore, makes a delectable confection that falls somewhere between ice cream and gelato: Like gelato, there's very little air whipped into it, but most of the flavors have a fat content (12 percent or more) that put them in the ice-cream category. Whatever you call it, said owner Toni Rollandi, "You can eat a scoop of it and feel more satisfied than eating a whole quart" of most ice creams. An avowed chocoholic, Rollandi makes a dozen-odd chocolate flavors, including Baci, Dolomite (an Italianized rocky road), chocolate peanut butter, Fiume (shot through with yellow cake, toasted coconut and almonds) and Rollandi's favorite, gianduia, a bittersweet blend of chocolate and hazelnut - think grown-up Nutella.
MORE SWEET SPOTS FOR GREAT CHOCOLATE
SWEET TREATS ON THE WHARF, 405 Main St., Port Washington, 516-708-1706