By Mary Thurwachter
Plans to celebrate Independence Day call for raising the flag, firing up the grill, inviting friends over for a pool party and staking out the best seats for oohing and aahing the fireworks. But no celebration is complete without dessert, and no dessert says Fourth of July better than ice cream. We all scream for it, right?
Besides, what’s more entertaining than watching kids struggle mightily to get in their licks before the contents of their sugar cones melt all over their adorable faces and often call for a clothing change — or at least a pool bath?
Here in Florida, ice cream’s popularity doesn’t necessarily peak during summer months, of course. It can be warm all year round, so ice cream shops don’t have to struggle mightily like those kids with melting dessert issues.
Joe Hurtuk, whose family owns the Boardwalk Italian Ice & Creamery on North Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, embraces the ice cream experience.
Like many transplanted Floridians, the Hurtuk family enjoys reminiscing about fun times spent up North during the summer. His shop has customers reliving the boardwalk experience.
“I used to go to Seaside Heights Boardwalk on the Jersey Shore,” he says.
The Boardwalk shop, which opened in November 2015, isn’t on the beach (about a mile from it) but looks like it is. It features red-and-white striped awnings outside, as well as Adirondack chairs, beach balls, lifeguard stand and rescue boat.
Several large windows are covered with photos of boardwalk beach towns. Customers walk past a “skinny” fun house mirror on the way in.
“As you walk around the store, you’ll see a collage of framed postcards from several states that have great beaches and boardwalks,” Hurtuk said.
Besides homemade ice cream and gelato, ices and custards, Boardwalk serves candy apples, funnel cakes, cannolis, zeppole and milkshakes. Ice cream flavors (172, all made on-site) rotate, but some favorites include Coconut Island Breeze (with coconut, of course!), Rice Pudding (one of my faves) and Fruity Pebbles (inspired by the cereal of the same name).
“Business has been really good,” Hurtuk says. “People come to try new flavors or just for their favorite. If we don’t have it that day they may turn around and walk back out.”
Another shop big on ambiance is Sloan’s on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.
It’s hard not to be drawn in by the delightful aroma of freshly baked waffle cones, cookies and brownies at Sloan’s. The chocolate cookie dough ice cream in a waffle cone is worthy of the caloric splurge.
The shop has real candy (in bulk) and eye candy, too. The walls are pink, chandeliers are twinkling and the toy trains are chugging. Owners say this shop is where fantasy becomes reality — and it is, at least in the sweet dreams department.
Sloan’s serves more than 60 flavors of ice cream, 34 at a time. Favorites include Cookie Monster (with Oreos and homemade chocolate chip cookies) and Birthday Cake (with big chunks of buttercream frosted chocolate and yellow birthday cake).
At the iconic Ice Cream Club in Manalapan, 140 flavors are available on a rotating basis. The shop, in Plaza Del Mar across the street from the beach and Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, has a signature red, white and blue ice cream this time of year.
Top sellers include Butterscotch Bomb (with butterscotch, brownies, Heath bars, cookies and peanut butter cups), Garbage Can (with chunks of seven kinds of candy bars and granulated peanuts in vanilla ice cream) and Coffee (a java drinker’s dream!).
Cream in Delray Beach (with locations on Atlantic Avenue and Linton Boulevard) serves handmade ice cream, gelato, self-serve frozen yogurt, milkshakes/smoothies, fresh fruit and candy toppings, coffee, espresso, cappuccino and latte.
A special red, white and blue gelato is available for the Fourth of July. During the summer, sorbets become more popular and coconut gelato, sprinkled with toasted coconut, is among customer favorites.
Pistachio is among the most popular of 24 flavor choices at La Gelateria Della Musica, which opened in January at Royal Palm Place in Boca Raton. The store is known in Italy for strange ice cream concoctions like Bread, Butter & Jam, Bud Light-flavored and Chocolate Bacon.
Try this gelato, managers say, and let it make music to your taste buds.
Ice cream from the Boardwalk, which opened in 2015, comes in 172 flavors on a rotating basis.
Some good places to get your ice cream fix:
• Boardwalk Italian Ice & Creamery, 209 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach, 600-9593, www.theboardwalkice.com.
• The Ice Cream Club, 278 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan’s Plaza Del Mar, 582-0778, www.icecreamclub.com. Store has a production facility for larger purchases at 1580 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach, 731-3331.
• Sloan’s Ice Cream, 111 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 303-3912, www.sloansicecream.com. A second Sloan’s in Mizner Park, Boca Raton, is temporarily closed for maintenance.
• Cream Frozen Yogurt, Gelato, & Gourmet Coffees, 1163 E. Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, and 520 Linton Blvd., 303-1912 or 266-2222.
• La Gelateria Della Musica, 177 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, 305-613-3032.
• Doc’s All American, 10 Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, 278-3627.
• Kilwin’s Delray and Lake Worth, 402 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 278-0808; and at Lake Worth Beach, 10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth, 249-1568; and 512 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, 493-9249, www.kilwins.com
• Capricci Italian Natural Gelato, 99 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, 923-9466, www.capriccigelato.com
• PopBar, 411 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 450-6124, www.pop-bar.com/delraybeach
• July is National Ice Cream Month.
• It takes about 50 licks to finish a single-scoop ice cream cone.
• Next to cookies, ice cream is the best-selling treat in America.
• The average American eats about 20 quarts of ice cream a year — the world’s highest per capita consumption.
• Ice cream can be made in many types — ordinary ice cream, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, reduced-fat ice cream, sherbet, gelato and others.
Sources: www.icecream.com and the International Dairy Foods Association