Rhode Islanders love their ice cream. It’s a nostalgic part of summertime, right alongside Del’s and days at the beach. Everyone has their favorite spot, whether it's an old-fashioned creamery or hip new pop-up. If you're craving creative or classic, in a cone or in a cup, the East Bay has no shortage of places. However, not all ice cream is created equal.
Craft ice cream is, essentially, a trendy term for handmade, which in itself might not seem like any sort of phenomenon. In fact, for a long time, that’s exactly what ice cream was when you got it scooped into a waffle cone or dropped into a float at a soda fountain. Gray’s Ice Cream, based in Tiverton and with a satellite location in Bristol, began back in 1923 when Annie Gray started making and selling ice cream churned from local milk. Today, while most eateries save money and time buying the pre-made stuff from a supplier, Gray’s has continued to create their tried-and-true flavors from scratch. And thanks to a flourishing craft food and beverage scene, they find themselves in good company.
The growing interest in what’s in our food – whether it’s the hops in our beer or beef in our burgers – has combined with a nurturing small-business community to create the perfect scenario for artisan ice creameries to emerge. We dig in – with questions and a spoon – to learn more about these local scoops.
For Bob and Deb Saunders, owners of The Daily Scoop, homemade ice cream has been their business for two decades. Bob was a mechanic and gas station owner, and Deb was a young attorney. They had boated around New England and fell in love with the old-fashioned ice cream shops in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and decided to bring the experience home to Barrington. They bought the building, then took classes at Penn State and University of Maryland – “a little backwards, I know!” Deb admits – to learn how to make ice cream.
In 2003, The Daily Scoop expanded into Bristol. In 2012, The Ice Cream Barn in Swansea, Massachusetts, started serving fresh-churned ice cream made from milk from Baker Farm that’s pasteurized in Johnston. Then, over the last year-and-a-half, the pace has picked up with the swift establishment of two new craft creameries in the East Bay alone.
"It makes me proud to feed people my ice cream because we make it from scratch, in small batches, and it’s served usually within a few days of being made,” shares Victoria Young, the East Bay’s most recent addition to the artisanal ice cream scene. “The flavors I create are also so totally different from what you might find at other ice cream shops or on the shelves at supermarkets.”