Tuesday, December 31, 2019

J.P. Licks, Boston Area

I visit the northeast United States several times a year, for several reasons.  The primary reason of course is family: my parents live in New Hampshire and Ojan's live near Boston.  But I'm not going to lie and say it is *just* to see them.  In July or August, my visits are also sorta motivated by the desire to have some actual summer.  And a major part of summer?  Ice cream, duh.  It is no secret that I have a major weakness for the stuff.

I didn't grow up in the Boston area though, so I was not familiar with J.P. Licks until I met Ojan.  But once I did, J.P. Licks quickly rose to top of my reasons to visit the east coast.

J.P. Licks is a chain of ice cream and froyo shops, located all around the Boston area.  They currently have 12 stores, 2 of which are very close by Ojan's parent's house, so I plan at least one outing nearly every time I go to visit them.  The J.P. in the name stands for their original location, in Jamaica Plain, an area of Boston (nope, they didn't name the place after me, sorry).

The focus is ice cream and frozen yogurt, all of which is homemade, but they also roast their own coffee, and serve some baked goods.  I know, can it get any better than this?  All things I love.

The ice cream is hard serve, and they make regular ice cream, plus dairy free versions (soy, coconut, and hemp milk are all used), and sorbet and sherbet.  The frozen yogurt is mostly soft serve.  For hard serve, they offer a base set of flavors at all times, and then add on ~10 new flavors every month.  The soft serve rotates weekly.  They also have a slew of toppings, many homemade.

I really love the soft serve frozen yogurt, and they make the best peanut butter soft serve frozen yogurt I've ever had.  A warning though, the place is expensive.  When I visit my family in New Hampshire, our ice cream cones cost $1.50 at one place in town, and $1.75 at Dairy Twirl, my favorite.  At J.P. Licks, a kiddie cone costs $3.50.  On the plus side, they always offer sprinkles for free, and, well, I love my sprinkles.  They are also generous with, and encourage, samples before you decide.

If you find yourself in the Boston area, I recommend.

2017, 2018, 2019 Update Reviews

I've reviewed JP Licks fairly extensively before, but, an update is in order, as I've continued to "perfect" my order.

I still love JP Licks, and visit whenever I am in the Boston area, I fully admit that only a handful of their items are really rare-worthy for me at this point, and many others are hit or miss.  Stick with the reliable: hot fudge (always, seriously, so good!), hard serve black raspberry or Candy Cane (winter only), and soft serve vanilla and peanut butter.

December 2017, Newton

Small Sundae: Vanilla Soft Serve Froyo, Myers's Rum Raisin Ice Cream, Gingersnap Molasses Ice Cream, with hot caramel sauce, walnuts, and yogurt chips. $6.35. [ Newton Highlands Store ]
My annual free sundae in December is always a hard one for me.  I adore ice cream, but, only in "ice cream weather", and on this particular visit, it was as far from ice cream weather as it gets.  Every single night was DOUBLE DIGIT below zero.  Yes, really.

I almost, almost traded in my free sundae for a warm beverage or breakfast pastry.  But ... I couldn't resist the lure of JP Licks sundae toppings.

On this visit, I had a mission.  I was finally going to try a new sauce.  No more hot fudge, as much as I love it, I really wanted to try the others.  JP Licks makes their own caramel and (seasonal) butterscotch.  I was hoping for the butterscotch, but I know only some locations carry it.  I knew I could also fall back on decadent peanut butter sauce if I really wanted.

Sadly for me, they did not have butterscotch, as I feared.  But the caramel was there, and it, like the hot fudge, is served hot.  Caramel it was.

Thus, I had to design my sundae around caramel rather than hot fudge, an entirely new endeavor for me.  My favorite hard ice creams (necessary to stand up against a hot topping) of black raspberry or the seasonal Candy Cane were clearly not right.  Nor was my goto soft flavor of choice, peanut butter.

I almost took back my decision, but after sampling a few, came up with my sundae.

Soft serve vanilla froyo on the bottom (since I love the froyo and wanted it included, but it needs to be at the bottom so as to not melt immediately when hot topping is applied), rum raisin in the middle, and seasonal gingersnap molasses on top.

The vanilla soft serve was standard and what I wanted, creamy, tasty.  The rum raisin was ok, but far sweeter than I wanted.  It was nicely boozy though, and had plenty of plump raisins.  If the sweet was toned down just a bit, it would be a great flavor.  The gingersnap molasses, much like the rum raisin, was also just a bit too sweet.  The flavor was lovely, and I liked the texture from the cookie bits, but, still, just a touch too sweet.

The ice creams on their own would have been just a bit sweeter than I liked, but not a big deal, but the real issue was my choice of caramel.  It was ... cloyingly sweet.  And applied far, far too generously.  I always say that about the hot fudge, but in the case of the fudge, I always seem to finish it all, happily, although, guiltily.  With the caramel though ... it was just way, way too much.  And way, way too sweet.  And way, way too sticky.  It got a bit chewy as it solidified and just took over the entire sundae.  It ruined it, really. I couldn't get a bite without it, no matter how hard I tried.

I declined the whipped cream as usual, and opted for two dry toppings instead, selecting chopped walnuts and yogurt chips.  I wanted the waffle cone bits, but alas, this location didn't have them.

I thought the walnuts would go great with the caramel (plus, uh, protein?), but they were quite bitter.  I didn't care for them, and they got entirely mixed in with the caramel so were impossible to avoid.

The yogurt chips I can't really evaluate, as they were lost in the caramel.  

Overall, this was a fail.  Too sweet, toppings I didn't like, and not much was salvageable.  I kept eating it, trying to like it, but I should have just cut my losses.  The only part I liked was the very bottom with some vanilla soft serve with minimal caramel on it.

Safe to say, I won't get the caramel, nor walnuts, again.

August 2018, Newton

Peach / NS Vanilla / Peanut Butter Froyo, Chocolate Sprinkles, Small. $4.95. (August 2018, Newton Location).
This year, my birthday reward was reduced down to a small cone, rather than a small sundae, as I haven't visited enough times in the year to be worthy of a full sundae.  Doh.  Not my fault I live on the other side of the country!

I asked about getting a kiddie cone and adding a topping instead, as that would be the same price, and before the "sundae" actually meant "anything up to the value of a sundae, or pay the extra yourself", but this time my server said that I had to just get a small.  Well, ok, I didn't *actually* want that much ice cream, as I was coming straight from lunch, but, what's a girl to do?  I had to get a small!

And then, when I asked how many flavors I could have in a small (as I've always done kiddie before), she said, "As many as you want!".  Um, really?  I think she might have been new, but still took her up on the offer, selecting three, since the two I wanted wouldn't combine well, and this way I could add a simple vanilla separator.

As she finished the second flavor, she turned to me and said, "it was hard to do three flavors as a small, so I'm making a medium instead, I hope that is ok".  Normally, I'd be all for this, but I actually wanted a kiddie cone!  I smiled and accepted my fate.  I was getting a lot of froyo.

And .. it wasn't great.  The NS vanilla and peach were incredibly icy.  I wish I'd sampled them first, as I never would have ordered them.  I usually find the JP Licks NS vanilla so creamy, and I had sampled the peach at the Wellesley location the day before and loved it, so I didn't bother sample here.   Doh.  I was shocked by how icy they both were, and not really enjoyable.

The peanut butter was good though, creamy, good peanut butter flavor, great with the chocolate sprinkles, that were sadly kinda haphazardly applied.  I wanted to ask for a cup of sprinkles on the side, but, resisted.  The peanut butter was my top layer though, and it was certainly the smallest, so I mostly had a giant cone of icy flavors I didn't care for.

I'll admit, this was one of the most disappointing cones I've had!

Dec 2018 Newton

Peanut Butter Soft Serve Yogurt, NS Vanilla Soft Serve Yogurt, Grinch's Peppermint Ice Cream
with Hot Fudge, Nonpareils, Rainbow Sprinkles (Kiddie).
On this visit, I had a free small dish or cone, and a $2 reward credit, rather than a sundae(JP Licks changed the rewards program).  It was winter, and quite cold.  My plan was to sorta make a sundae, using the free small for the ice cream, and my $2 credit to get a topping (dry toppings are $1, wet are $1.30, but with tax I couldn't get two toppings, even if I did both dry toppings).  But I had a thought as I waited in line - what if I got a kiddie instead of small, and used the price difference between Kiddie and Small sizes to get a topping?  I asked the server if this was an option, and he confirmed it was.  So I realized that not only could I get two toppings, one could be a sauce, like ... my favorite hot fudge (because, alas, the elusive butterscotch was still no where to be found)!

My ice cream and yogurt choices were easy, as I made my decisions just like I do with a sundae - hard ice cream on top to handle the hot fudge without melting immediately (I went for The Grinch's Peppermint, a green colored peppermint ice cream), vanilla soft serve in the middle to act as a barrier, and peanut butter soft serve (my favorite!) on the bottom.  All were good choices, the peppermint minty, the peanut butter glorious as always, and each went well with the fudge.

For my dry topping I was tempted as always by nuts to "add protein", but decided to just go for what I knew I wanted, the little rainbow nonpareils, which were as expected a nice crunch and more chocolate flavor.  I also added the free sprinkles (rainbow!), because, why not?

This was all a positive creation, although, the quantities of things were really off.  Getting a Kiddie size meant a small amount of each ice cream (although a perfectly reasonable size, I didn't need more at all), but the toppings were not scaled accordingly ... which somewhat makes sense, as all toppings are the same price, no matter the size.  So there was nearly as much fudge as ice cream (I'm not joking), and between the nonpareils and sprinkles I had basically 25% of my cup filled with candy.  Next time, I think I'd need to ask for less toppings, or, go for a small when more hungry, or with someone to split with.

December 2019 Newton

Create Your Own Sundae!
Well, I've now really perfected another aspect of my JP Licks visits: getting the hot fudge on the side.  Game changer.
Pomegranate X / Eggnog Soft Serve / Grinch's Candy Cane Ice Cream (bottom), Rainbow Sprinkles, Small.
December 2019, Newton Location.
These flavors were ... not what I was intending to get.  I was in the Boston area for two days only, scoped out the soft serve flavors at each location, and went specifically to this location, with a plan.  And I was foiled, horribly, as one of their machines was broken, and it happened to be the one with the exact flavors I was intending to get.  Doh.

I tried a few of the hard ice creams, including some I was quasi excited for (the new oat milk based ones in particular), but alas, nothing was really doing it for me.  So I sorta compromised, and got one I wanted (the hard Grinch's Candy Cane) and two soft serves that I was lukewarm on.

I added rainbow sprinkles (because, fun! and free!), but opted for other toppings on the side.

The tart Pomegranate X was good for what it was, but, it is a tart, healthier style, not very creamy, a bit icy, and, well tart.  The pomegranate flavor is good though, and if I was in the mood for healthy, and had great ripe, fresh fruit and nuts or granola to top it with, I'd probably really enjoy it.  But JP Licks sadly *doesn't* have great fruit, and their nuts are hit or miss for me.  I wasn't really thrilled with this choice, but that was my own fault, I wish however that it wasn't the one he choose to give me the MOST of!

The eggnog soft serve was the complete opposite: creamy, rich, decadent, and quite sweet.  I wanted NS vanilla to mix with it, but alas, that was on the broken machine.  On its own this flavor was a touch too much sweet, but I loved the creamy consistency, and it went nicely with their fantastic hot fudge (and with my pumpkin bread pudding ... yes, I mostly saved this flavor and just brought it home to use later that evening with my own dessert base).  It did not have much eggnog spicing however.  A good flavor, but I'm glad I choose to save it and use it my way.

And finally, the one you can't see, because it is buried, the seasonal Grinch's Candy Cane, hard ice cream.  Brilliant green, lovely minty flavor, bits of candy cane inside for extra minty goodness, and plenty of crunch.  And the perfect, perfect, perfect match for JP Lick's hot fudge.
Topping: Hot Fudge (on the side). $1.30.
I've long loved JP Lick's hot fudge, but lament how quickly it melts the ice cream.  And although I adore it, I also somewhat dislike how generously they apply it, it sometimes is just a bit too much of a good thing at once - it really is sometimes nearly a full cup!  And ... it is always just right on top, so hard to use on your bottom flavors.

I realized at some point that when they package orders for delivery or pickup, they put the wet toppings on the side, for quality control.  Well, huh.  Even if I was getting it at the store, in person, why couldn't I do that?  Then it wouldn't melt my ice cream too fast, I could apply it as I wanted to each layer, and if it was too much, I could just stop, and save it for later joy?

Asking for a side of hot fudge was easy as can be, same price as all other wet toppings, $1.30.

I loved it so much.  Soooo rich, soooo thick, soooo chocolately, just, the best hot fudge I've ever had.  Honestly.  No where else has ever compared.

There are several flavors that I really, really love with it.  In the summer, the hard style Black Raspberry is my go-to, which I still don't entirely understand, but think is pretty magic and I'm glad I discovered.  In the winter, the seasonal Candy Cane (or Grinch's Candy Cane) compliments it perfectly.

The only caution I have with the hot fudge is that on soft serve, it melts very, very fast.  As much as I love JP Licks vanilla and peanut butter soft serve, and I think they work great flavor-wise with the hot fudge, I don't generally recommend soft serve and hot fudge.

So protip: get it on the side, stick with hard serve.

[ Other Flavors ]

Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt - Sweet
  • Cheesecake (August 2018, Newton): Icy, just sweet, didn't taste cheesecake nor cream cheese in any way.
  • Eggnog (December 2019, Newton): I had tried this several years prior, and was impressed, so when the flavor I was planning to get (NS vanilla) was broken, I opted for the Eggnog instead.  It was creamy, rich, and that signature consistency that made me initially fall in love with JP Licks.  It ate like soft serve ice cream, not frozen yogurt.  I'm sure it was not low fat.  It didn't have as much spicing as I remembered, but it was sweet and creamy, and perfectly enjoyable (although really a bit too sweet for me, I would have liked it better mixed with vanilla).
  • Oatmeal Cookie (December 2018, Newton): I did not like this at all!  It tasted, well, like oatmeal.  Icy, grainy, cold oatmeal.
  • Peach (August 2018, Wellesley): Incredible!  This was summer in a fruity, sweet, creamy froyo.
Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt - Tart
  • Cranberry Orange X (Dec 2017): This was a disappointing flavor, so I'm glad I only sampled it.  It was tart as expected, but I didn't taste cranberry nor orange.  It was also very icy.
  • Raspberry X (December 2018, Newton): Icy, tart,not good berry flavor, did not like this at all.
  • Pomegranate X (December 2019, Newton):  When the flavors I wanted were broken, I went back to tart, never my top choice at JP Licks, since what I enjoy there is the richer styles (which also match better with their toppings).  It was fine, tart, only a touch sweet, a bit icy, good flavor, and I guess nice if I wanted that (and brought my own fruit?)
  • Yogurt X (December 2019, Newton): After years of JP Licks visits, I finally tried the simple, classic, yogurt X. Not sure how it took me this long, besides that it just isn't an interesting flavor, and if I wanted a healthy style froyo, I'd go elsewhere, with better fruit toppings (sorry JP Licks, your fruit toppings just are not very good!).  How was it?  Yup, classic, tart, fairly icy, froyo.  No better than any other, but no worse really.  Highly average, but at least not too strangely sweet or anything.
Hard Ice Cream
  • Caramel Apple (Dec 2017): "Combines the crisp taste of apples with a swirl of sweet caramel".  This was a fine flavor, slightly sweet, and would have worked well with my desired caramel topping, but, I decided against it mostly to do something more different.
  • Fresh Peach (August 2018, Newton): "A J.P. Licks signature flavor, made with fresh peaches at the peak of flavor, marinated in brown sugar. (GF)". I've loved this previously, but this time it was a bit icy, and the peach flavor wasn't very intense.
  • The Grinch's Candy Cane
    • December 2018, Newton: "In collaboration with the Boch Center's How The Grinch Stole Christmas, we took our classic peppermint ice cream with candy cane pieces and turned it green just like The Grinch! (GF)".  I've had the classic peppermint ice cream before, and I believe this was exactly the same, just, green.  It was minty, flavorful, and a good choice for a hard ice cream with fudge.
    • December 2019, Newton: "For folks on the naughty list, our classic Candy Cane ice cream in The Grinch's color!" Since I had it the previous year and enjoyed it, I went for it again, and again enjoyed it.  A lovely minty flavor, crunch from the candy canes was nice, and I just loved how it went with the rich, thick, hot fudge.  Always a good choice.
Non-Dairy Ice Cream
  • Mint Chip - Oat  (oat, df,gf,v) (December 2019, Newton): "Our dairy free oat ice cream with peppermint and chocolate chips." I discovered oat milk in the past year, and although I have no dietary reason to need it, I've realized I prefer it in many cases over dairy milk, much like soy milk.  In particular, I really love it with granola, most cereal, and overnight oats.  I was quite curious to see if the lovely oaty notes would translate well to ice cream.  I did not enjoy this though - although it was minty, and the chips were nice, the consistency was just not there, it was rather icy, and just not really enjoyable.
  • Tahitian Vanilla - Soy (soy, df, gf, v) (December 2018, Newton):  "Dairy free soy ice cream with real Tahitian vanilla - light, fruity, and twice the flavor of regular vanilla. (DF, GF, V)". I love the flavor of soy, so I was eager to try the JP Licks non-dairy option, even though I clearly regularly eat dairy.  It did have a lovely soy flavor to it, and if I was looking for a simple base for a sundae, I'd gladly opt for it.

July 2017 Update:

I've decided that with the soft serve, which J.P. Licks you visit makes a big difference.  Charles Street in Beacon Hill is consistently the worst.  Icy froyo.  Sad Julie.  The Wellesley location on the other hand has high quality product, and ridiculously friendly staff.  Same with Newton.  Going forward, I'll include location information in each update review.

Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt

Each store has a different number of soft serve machines, generally ~8 flavors.  They rotate weekly, and vary by location.  The soft serve calendar is published online so you can choose your destination based on flavors.  You know, if you are the type of person who does that kind of thing.

They offer 3 styles of yogurt: regular, tart (known as X), and No Sugar Added (NS).  No, I don't understand the X either.

I've tried ... all of them?  Below is a compilation of tasting notes.  Peanut butter remains my favorite, particularly when paired with chocolate sprinkles.
Peanut Butter Froyo, Chocolate sprinkles (kiddie) $3.50.
This is my default order.  I love peanut butter, and J.P. Licks always has good peanut flavor, and the soft serve is quite creamy.  I think the peanut butter has the best consistency of all their flavors, likely due to the added fats?

I always add chocolate sprinkles (free!) because I love sprinkles, and I think the peanut butter and chocolate combo is a good one.

I also always go for a kiddie, which, varies widely in size.  This was a fairly wimpy kiddie cone, and not particularly photo worthy.  Expensive for $3.50, particularly when you compare to places like those in my hometown such as Dairy Twirl, where the smallest size, half-small, is $2.50 and much bigger, or even more dramatically, Ice Cream Fore-U, with the baby cone is only $1.50 and again, larger.
Peanut Butter Soft Serve / Nano Black Soft Serve / Rainbow Sprinkles. Cone. Kiddie. (July 2017, Charles Street). $3.96.
Another example of a cone, this time, with two flavors, which J.P. Licks let you do with no problem, layering one on top of the other.

I adore JP Lick's peanut butter flavor normally, but I wanted more than just one flavor.  The other flavors available (tart, grapefruit X, peppermint) did not seem like good combinations, and I didn't want chocolate or simple vanilla, so, nano black it was!  Plus, I liked it before.

This time however ... it was gritty.  It was icy.  It was really not good.  Was it the Charles Street machine?  They seem to have icy froyo far more than anywhere else.  Or is the charcoal actually gritty?  I don't know.  I just know that I ended up scraping it off, as I just really didn't like it.

The peanut butter however was great.  Creamy, great peanut butter flavor, although a bit strangely sour.  Still, good, and I'm glad I had it.

This was a kiddie cone, larger than the one above, but at nearly $4 it really seemed expensive ... again, the places I go around New Hampshire are literally more than half the price!

Regular Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt

  • Black and White Malted: This sorta seemed like a malty version of cookies and cream?  Not bad but not particularly interesting.
  • Candy Cane: Nice minty flavor. [ Meh, not very flavorful ] [ Not that minty, candy cane ice cream is much better. ]
  • Caramel: No real flavor, just sweet.
  • Chocolate: creamy, good chocolate flavor [ Creamy but I don't like this chocolate ]
  • Chocolate Raspberry: Not much raspberry, same chocolate I don’t like.
  • Cinnamon Latte: Strange bitterness, do not like.
  • Coconut: Creamy, sweet, mild coconut flavor.  Ok, but not remarkable.
  • Coffee: Just sweet, creamy, but do not like.
  • Cookie:  Just sweet, sorta chocolate flavor. [ Not bad, sweet, creamy. ]
  • Cookies N Cream:  Creamy, sweet, not distinguishable as Oreo. [ A little icy, no real flavor, not very good ] [ I don’t really get the Oreo flavor here ]
  • Eggnog: Almost too much to have a ton of, great as sample, and good with cone.  Tons of flavor, spices.
  • Gingersnap: Slightly spiced, not really special. [ No ginger flavor at all. ]
  • Mint Cookies N Cream: Really great flavor, the reason why I originally really liked J.P. Licks. Came out kinda icy though.
  • Nano Black Soft Serve (July Special). "Made with activated charcoal this dusky treat tastes sweet and is a natural detoxifier."  Yes, yes, trendy.  Black.  Oh, and they introduced new bright pink cones to go with it.  Instagram creation, for sure. That said, it was actually interesting.  I'm not sure anyone cares about having good health effects of charcoal in their soft serve froyo (e.g. it whitens teeth, relieves gas, and more), but, the flavor was mostly vanilla, with a touch of ... dustyness?  Ashyness?  It was interesting.  It was fun to eat.  It was creamy.  So, really, not bad. (Wellesley) [  I was excited to get this again, but ... the texture was off.  It was gritty.  Icy.  Not very good.  I ended up throwing out this part of my cone, and I wished I had sampled it first. (Charles St) ]
  • Peanut Butter: Creamy, decent pb flavor.  [ Ridiculously creamy, but peanut butter flavor not as strong as I recall. ] [ Noms, noms, noms [  Creamy, great pb flavor, awesome ] [ Creamy, good as always ] [ Not strong peanut butter flavor, a little icy ] [ Creamy, not tons pb flavor ] [ Creamy good pb flavor] [ Not tons of pb flavor, but had in a sundae, so flavor got covered up by toppings ] [ Creamy, but still not as flavorful as I remember ] [ Good pb flavor, creamy] [ Creamy, light pb flavor ] [ Creamy, ok pb flavor ] [ So creamy, great peanut butter flavor. ] [  Good creaminess, but not nearly as much peanut butter flavor as past times. ]
  • Red Raspberry: Creamy, good raspberry flavor, pretty good, particularly with sprinkles. [ Creamy, decent raspberry flavor, a bit tart ]
  • Vermont Maple: This was way too sweet.  It did have a decent maple flavor, but, it was far, far too sweet.
  • White Russian: Kinda too sweet, but good.

No Sugar Added (NS)

    • Chocolate: So creamy, nice chocolate flavor but not my thing at all [ Good chocolate flavor but chocolate isn't my thing ] [  I just don’t like their chocolate flavoring, a little icy ]
    • Coffee: Way too sweet, not good. [ Way too sweet, awful ] [ Creamy, good flavor, not too sweet ]
    • Peppermint: Nice and minty, a tiny bit fake sweet tasting. [ Minty but a little strangely sweet ] [ Nice minty flavor ] [ Sweet, nice minty flavor ] [ Good minty flavor, but icy ] [ Good minty flavor, but icy. (Charles St) ]
    • Vanilla: So creamy. [ Creamy, good vanilla flavor, awesome] [ Decent vanilla flavor, creamy ] [ Sweet, not much vanilla flavor, not very creamy ] [Sweet, slightly fake, creamy, good ] [ Creamy, ok ] [ Decent vanilla flavor, a little icy. ] [ Creamy, sweet, good ] [ Creamy, sweet, but no real vanilla flavor ]

Tart (X)

    • Black Current: Tart, ok flavor, but also really sweet.
    • Blood Orange: Tart, good orange flavor, would be good swirled with vanilla? [ Just sweet, not very good, icy ]
    • Blueberry: Very tart, blueberry flavor, even visible bits of blueberry.  But, too tart for what I wanted.
    • Grapefruit X (Charles St): Crazy tart. In a grapefruit way, in addition to being a tart yogurt. It seriously made me pucker. Which was fine, but, it was also icy. The Charles street location just really doesn't maintain the same consistency.
    • Lychee: Nicely tart, slightly sweet, a bit icy, but quite nice, for a tart yogurt.
    • Peach: Nicely tart, good peach flavor.
    • Pomegranate: Decent tart and fruity flavor. [ Decent, tart ]
    • Raspberry: Decent raspberry flavor, tart [ creamy, tart, not tons rasp flavor ]

Hard Ice Cream

Hard ice cream makes up the majority of the menu, all housemade.  They have about 20 or so flavors all the time, plus an additional 10 or so that change out monthly.  The monthly flavors are often seasonal, like Candy Cane around Christmas, and Fresh Peach in the summer.  The signature standard flavors are the Cookies 'n' Cream series, available as Peanut Butter Cookies 'n' Cream, Mint Cookies 'n' Cream, and Coffee Cookies 'n' Cream.  They also offer a soy, coconut, and hemp flavor every month.

I never get hard ice cream when I go to an ice cream shop, because it never seems much different than what I can get at a store and bring home, and a single cone will cost the same as a pint or quart.  But, J.P. Licks makes some really interesting flavors, and I do end up getting hard ice cream when I make a sundae (which I do frequently), as the hard ice cream stands up against the hot fudge better (more on this soon).  Black raspberry is my favorite.

Tasting notes, on all the hard flavors I've tried:
  • Banana Peanut Butter Ripple:  Tasting notes: Slight banana flavor, little bit of peanut butter swirled in.  I like banana and peanut butter together, but I wanted the flavors to be more intense.
  • Black Raspberry: Tasting notes: Good raspberry flavor, creamy, quite good.  Very good with hot fudge. [ This is my number one pick for sundaes, it goes perfectly with hot fudge, and is full of flavor. ]
  • Blueberry Pancakes & Syrup: "Maple ice cream blended with pancakes and wild blueberries."  Tasting notes: this tasted vaguely of maple, kinda like waffles, but, I didn't really taste the "pancakes", although the scooper told me it had real pancakes in it.  Interesting flavor idea, but, not particularly great.
  • Butter Almond: "Real butter and brown sugar mixed in to our ice cream with fresh roasted and salted almonds."  Tasting notes: This was a great ice cream, for a hard ice cream.  The flavor of the base was good, and it was loaded up with plentiful almonds.  If I ever wanted a hard scoop, not as a sundae, this would be a great pick.  But sadly, I only ever get their hard ice cream as sundaes, since I love the soft serve so much. [ I tried it again, and found it really flavorless and boring.  I liked the crunch from the nut, but really, nothing else about this was interesting.  Meh ]
  • Butter Pecan: "A sweet combination of butter base and brown sugar, loaded with chewy pecans". Tasting notes: Nice chunks pecan, good butter flavor. 
  • Candy Cane: "Our original intense peppermint ice cream with pieces of peppermint candy. A J.P. Licks favorite, and a great way to start the holidays". Tasting notes: This was great! Super minty, and I really loved the chunks of candy cane throughout.  A serious winner.  Great with hot fudge too. [ Great flavor, big chunks of candy cane. ] [ Nice minty flavor, chunks of candy cane are minty and refreshing ]
  • Carrot Cake: "An autumn favorite! We shred tons of carrots and marinate them with brown sugar, add raisins and walnuts to create this unbelievable flavor." Tasting notes: This had a lot of flavor, was well spiced, and really was loaded up with shreds of carrots.  Incredible interpretation of a carrot cake, in an ice cream!
  • Chocolate Peppermint Sorbet: "Dark chocolate sorbet with a light peppermint flavor." Tasting notes: chocolate sorbet with nice peppermint sauce throughout.  Would be a good lower fat alternative.
  • Cookie Dough: Tasting notes: The cookie dough bits were plentiful, but not particularly good, meh.
  • Egg Nog: “Another holiday tradition, Egg Nog ice cream is made with real eggs, a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and just a splash of rum.”  Tasting notes: A tiny bit boozy, not very spiced. Meh.
  • First Night Bananas Foster: “A brand new creation, fashioned after the dessert of caramelized bananas and rum. Sorry, we don't set it on fire.”  Tasting notes: Decent banana flavor, not boozy, ok.
  • Fresh Mint Hard Ice Cream (June Special). "Pounds and pounds of mint leaves are handpicked to create this light and refreshing flavor.": Tasting Notes: This was really interesting.  It was not mint in the way that most mint ice cream is, sweet, and usually with chocolate chips.  Nope, this tasted like a mint leaf.  It was refreshing.  Really different, and the server told me that she always has kids taste it first when they order it, because she's pretty sure they aren't going to actually like it.
  • Fresh Peach: "Fresh, ripe peaches are cut and marinated in a secret brown sugar recipe, then lightly pureed to create a chunky texture that tastes so good, we'll keep it coming all through august!" Tasting notes: Not much flavor, meh.
  • Fruity Pebbles Cereal Milk Hard Ice Cream (July Special). "Fruity Pebbles cereal infused with cream for a sugar cereal taste that will leave you wanting more." Tasting Notes:  Yup, this tasted like Fruity Pebbles.  Amazingly like Fruity Pebbles.  It was sweet, it was fruity, and it was a thing that childhood dreams are made of.  But not my dreams.  It was what it was, but it wasn't for me.
  • Gingersnap Molasses: "Creamy molasses based ice cream with chunks of gingersnap cookies." Tasting notes: I was shocked by how sweet this was.  I expected more ginger flavor as well.  Overall, it was tasty, but totally not what I was expecting.
  • Glogg: "A sweet, spicy combination of port wine, brandy, oranges, spices, and raisins, it’s no wonder that we had plenty of volunteers to taste test this deliciously boozy concoction."  This was actually pretty tasty.  Lots of flavors, and I liked the boozy quality to it, adn the plump, soaked raisins I found in my sample.
  • Maple Walnut: Tasting notes: Good flavor, good nuts [ Too sweet for what I wanted, decent maple flavor and plentiful nuts ] [ Good maple flavor, but nothing remarkable. ]
  • Mint Chip: Decent minyness, good amount of chocolate chips. 
  • Noodle Kugal: "A creamy mixture of sweetened egg noodles blended with butter and brown sugar and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg." Tasting notes: meh.
  • Peanut Butter Oreo --> Peanut Butter Cookies 'n 'Cream: Tasting notes: Good peanut butter flavor. [ Ok flavor, but meh. ] [ Awesome, peanut butter ice cream super flavorful, big chunks of oreo. ] [ Decent peanut butter flavor, but Oreo chunks get soggy inside, and just aren't appealing to me ]
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Chip: "Delicious peanut butter ice cream loaded with chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate chips." Tasting notes; ok peanut butter flavor, bits of chocolate chip and cookie dough. Kinda icy though.
  • Pistachio: Very pistachio-y.  Bits of pistachio, strong pistachio flavor. [ Little chunks of pistachio, good textures, decent flavor. ]
  • Pumpkin (SOY): A bit icy, but decent flavor.
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake: "Our famous pumpkin flavor blended with that famous NY cheesecake flavor, finished with those famous graham crackers. Bring this to a party, and you'll be famous, too!" Tasting notes: This was well spiced, slightly pumpkiny, and very cheesecakey.  Too rich for what I was in the mood for at the time, but very nice.
  • Pumpkin Custard:  "We use our secret homemade recipe of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses to make this taste just like grandma's pumpkin pie. This flavor contains eggs."  Tasting notes: Spiced, but soapy, some pumpkin flavor. [ Great spicing, creamy. ] 
  • Salty Caramel: "Rich caramel, made even better with a ripple of sea salt caramel." Tasting notes: The texture of this wasn't very creamy, but the caramel flavor was nice.  Not a bad choice, but not my favorite.
  • Sweet Cream: This was pretty plain, as the scooper described it, "Its like vanilla, without the vanilla".  It was fine, sweet, creamy, but, not interesting.  Perhaps a good base for a sundae.
  • White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake: "Pureed cranberries, our famous New York style cheesecake ice cream, together with real graham crackers and white chocolate chips".  Tasting notes: nice chunks of cheesecake, but otherwise not that interesting.

Hard Frozen Yogurt

JP Licks also makes hard frozen yogurt (and sorbet, sherbet, and non-dairy ice cream).  The menu has 4 standard flavors (coffee chip, peanut butter chip, oatmeal cookie, and mint chip), and then they add on a monthly flavor as well.

I finally tried one.

Red Raspberry Chip Low Fat Yogurt (July Special)
"Our low-fat yogurt with red raspberry puree and chocolate chips."
I've never been one for hard serve yogurt, but, I decided to give this a try, thinking it might be ok in a sundae, and a lighter option than my regular black raspberry ice cream.

It was ... ok.  The berry flavor was good, and I liked having chips in it, but, it was icy, and, well, it was yogurt.  Meh to yogurt (that isn't soft serve).


Small Sundae: Black Raspberry Ice Cream and Candy Cane Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Walnuts, Almonds, Whipped Cream.  $6.50.
Since I spend so much money at J.P. Licks, I signed up for their "Cow Card" which allows you to earn rewards for your purchases.  It also gives you ... a free sundae for your birthday.  And on the anniversary of your cow card.  ZOMG.  I'd never normally splurge for a sundae ($6.50 for a small!), but, you know how much I love freebies!

For a small sundae, you can pick two flavors of ice cream plus two toppings.  It comes standard with whipped cream and a cherry on top.  The list of toppings available is extensive, ranging from "wet" items like homemade hot fudge, caramel, butterscotch and marshmallow or berries and other fruits, to "dry" toppings like all sorts of candy.

I learned after several visits that you can opt to not have the whipped cream, and pick a third topping instead.  I also learned ... many other things.  Like the fact that soft serve and hot fudge don't mix very well (it just melts too fast). But that there is no way I can pass up the hot fudge because it is crazy good.

The following is my journey in perfecting the perfect sundae.  Which, at this point, I actually believe I have.

Small Sundae: Black Raspberry Ice Cream and Soft Serve Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt, Hot Fudge, Rainbow Nonpareils, Whipped Cream, Cherry.  $6.50.
This sundae looked much different from my previous one (pictured above).  The amount of ice cream was the same, but the guy who made this one was far more reasonable with the whipped cream.

What I love about J.P. Licks is their soft serve frozen yogurt, but, when I've used it in sundaes in the past, it just melts way too fast when the hot fudge is applied.  So I was torn.  I wanted creamy delicious soft serve, but I also wanted a decadent sundae with hot fudge.  As I stood there being a bit indecisive, the server reminded me that I could mix and match multiple flavors AND types of ice cream.  Perfect solution!

So I picked my two favorites, the black raspberry that I had the first time, and the peanut butter froyo.  Perhaps a bit of a strange combination, but I thought it might taste a bit like a pb & j, and both flavors seemed like they would be great with hot fudge.

I did make one mistake though, in not asking for the soft serve on the bottom.  Thus, the more quickly melting soft serve was on top, and was the one that came in contact with the hot fudge.  It melted pretty much immediately.  It wasn't a total loss, as it added more creaminess and some slight peanut butter flavor, but I didn't really get to enjoy my peanut butter yogurt.  The black raspberry was flavorful and stood up against the rest of the sundae, a great choice.

For my toppings, the first was a no-brainer.  I adore their hot fudge.  Applied hot, it stays soft and fudgey, and they add soo much.  On all occasions that I've gotten the hot fudge, I've initially thought it was far too much, and then laughed at myself as I was scraping every last bit off at the end.  This time was no different.

The nonpareils added the perfect crunch and additional chocolateyness.  The whipped cream was again pretty boring, just from a can.  I need to remember to just leave that off in the future, and opt for another crunchy topping (like nuts?) or a second sauce.  The cherry was, well, a cherry on top.

This was a size small sundae, which I could actually imagine sharing.  It was a little bit too big for me, but, like I said, I didn't actually have trouble finishing it, and was licking the cup clean at the end.

Overall, this was a winner, but I have two final refinements: next time, peanut butter or vanilla froyo on the bottom, black raspberry or seasonal hard ice cream on top, hot fudge, nonpareils, nuts and no whip.
Small Sundae: Mint Chip Ice Cream and Soft Serve Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt, Hot Fudge, Rainbow Nonpareils, Chopped Walnuts.  $6.50.
I'm narrowing in on the perfect sundae!  This time, I took my own advice from last time - see, I don't just write this blog for you, it is great to have for notes to myself!  I went for half soft serve and half hard ice cream, stuck with the winning hot fudge and nonpareils, and ditched the whip in favor of nuts.

Since I love JP Lick's soft serve frozen yogurt, but I don't want it in contact with the hot fudge since it melts too fast, I asked for the soft serve on bottom.  I picked peanut butter, my favorite flavor.  I don't normally get the hard ice cream at JP Licks, but for a sundae, it works better.  I decided to break out of my mold and get something besides black raspberry, so I went for mint chocolate chip, as I thought it would also go well with the hot fudge.  My ice cream/froyo selections achieved exactly the results I wanted: creamy soft serve didn't melt too fast since it was on the bottom, and the ice cream held up against the hot fudge.  Peanut butter and mint chocolate chip however was a bit of a strange combo.

The key ingredient to any JP Licks sundae is their housemade hot fudge.  It is just so, so good.  Really hot when it is added, so it does melt your ice cream, but it is thick, creamy, rich, just, amazing.  I cannot imagine a JP Licks sundae without it.  Even as it cools, it is delicious.

Since I liked the nonpareils last time for the crunch they added, I stuck with them, and again like them.  And since I had repeatedly noted that I should skip the whipped cream, this time I actually did skip it, and was offered any other topping in its place. I went for nuts, to add even more crunch, and uh, some protein?  I had the choice of walnuts or almonds, and went for walnuts, since they seemed like they would go well with hot fudge (which, they did).

Overall, this was the best sundae I've created so far.  The mix of soft serve and hard serve, with soft on the bottom, is certainly the way to go.  And this trio of toppings is the best I've found so far too.  So, I have just one further refinement: next time, I'll go back to black raspberry (or perhaps another seasonal ice cream).  I'm nearing perfection here!
Small Sundae: Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt, Candy Cane Ice Cream, Chopped Walnuts, Chopped Nonpareils, Hot Fudge. $5.95.
This time, I thought I had it down. I was going to get vanilla soft serve on the bottom, and my favorite seasonal flavor the Candy Cane hard ice cream on top.  The hard ice cream on top would protect the soft serve from the hot fudge, and then I'd get to have both my soft serve and my hard serve, and the flavors would all compliment each other.

Except ... the vanilla soft serve machine was broken.  I had my heart set on the Candy Cane flavor, since it is only available in December and I love the mintyness, but no other soft serve flavors offered that day were appealing, except my favorite, the peanut butter.  I knew peanut butter and candy cane were a strange combination, but ... I had to make a rush decision, so I went for it.

I liked the creamy peanut butter soft serve.  I liked the minty, refreshing candy cane.  And, since it was winter, the ice cream didn't actually melt too fast, so they stayed fairly separate.  Not a total flavor strangeness disaster, but, they certainly didn't mix.

I again loved the crunch from the nuts and nonpareils.  And I adored the flavor of the hot fudge, but this time, it wasn't really hot.  Lukewarm at best.  As you can see from the photo, it was just glooped on top, rather than melted in like all the other times on the bottom, adjacent to the ice cream.  On one hand, this is better, as it didn't melt the ice cream.  But ... I like the runnier consistency much more.

Anyway, this sundae was one of my least favorite.  I actually like ice cream getting a bit melty, which didn't happen because it was cold outside, and the fudge wasn't hot.  And, I feel strange saying this since I love the fudge so much, but, there was too much of it.  It was hard to get bites of ice cream at first.  Next time, back to the game plan: seasonal flavor or black raspberry hard on top, complimentary soft serve on bottom, and the same toppings.
Small Sundae: Peanut butter soft serve frozen yogurt, black raspberry ice cream, hot fudge, rainbow nonpareils, strawberries.
Another day, another sundae.

This time, I went for the soft serve on the bottom, as always.  This continues to work well in terms of meltyness, but the peanut butter flavor was far too subtle.  Quite disappointing.

On top I went for the black raspberry again.  I tried a few other hard flavors, but wasn't inspired by any.  It was ok, and paired nicely with the hot fudge, but wasn't outstanding.  The hard ice cream did hold up nicely with the hot fudge.

The hot fudge was thick and chocolately, but it wasn't really hot.  This meant that it didn't melt the ice cream, but it also just wasn't as good.

I appreciated the crunch from the rainbow nonpareils.

I tried a fruit topping for the first time, as I was a bit uninspired when it came to my final topping pick.  I didn't want more candy, and I didn't think the sundae could take two sauces.  Strawberries seemed like they'd pair the best with the hot fudge.

They were awful.  Mush. Sweet mush.  Clearly not fresh berries, but also not even trying to be a compote.  Just frozen strawberries that were then warmed up.  Ojan and I were sharing this sundae and decided to just throw them all out.  This meant that we sacrificed some precious hot fudge, but, alas, we really did not want them.

I skipped the whipped cream since I never really care for it.

Overall, really not a good sundae, my least favorite ever.
Small Sundae: Vanilla Soft Serve Yogurt, Candy Cane Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Rainbow Nonpareils, Waffle Cone Pieces. $5.95.
I continue to perfect my sundae.  The combination of soft serve yogurt on bottom, and hard ice cream on top is clearly the way to do it.  It was over Christmas when I visited, so the seasonal Candy Cane flavor was available, which I always love in a sundae, so it was easy to pick my top flavor.  My favorite soft serve is peanut butter, but I learned from my past experience that it wouldn't combine well with the Candy Cane.  I also liked the Lychee X tart flavor available that day, but again, it seemed like not a good combination.  So, vanilla it was.

The Candy Cane ice cream was great, minty, and it went nicely with the hot fudge, as anticipated.  I loved the additional crunch from the bits of candy cane.  The vanilla soft serve yogurt was creamy and tasty as always.  Both good choices for the base of the sundae.

The hot fudge was ... plentiful.  There actually was too much.  I ended with a big glob of it left over, no ice cream or other toppings to go with it.  No fear, a few minutes later, I just enjoyed it by the spoonful.  The fudge is just so ridiculously good.  Thick, chocolately, melty ... delicious.

The rainbow nonpareils were tasty as always, crunchy little bits, chocolately.  Great with the fudge.

My final topping was a new experiment: waffle cone pieces, rather than nuts as I usually do.  The pieces were a mix of chocolate coated waffle cone pieces, white chocolate waffle cone pieces, and plain waffle cones pieces.  I liked the white chocolate pieces the best, but all were good.  The chunks were all different sizes, but all were big enough to pick up and scoop up some ice cream (or, just fudge), which I enjoyed doing.

Overall, this was a success.  I'd pick these flavors of ice cream, and these toppings, again.  I still like the combination of nuts and hot fudge, so I missed the nuts, but I liked having the waffle cone pieces to dunk in.  I also always love the hot fudge, but I'm curious about the caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter sauce, and marshmallow sauce.  So many toppings I want to try!
Small Sundae: Peanut Butter Soft Serve Yogurt, Black Raspberry Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Chopped Walnuts, Assorted Waffle Cone Pieces, Cherry. $6.50.
I continue to refine my sundae.  It is a given now that I'll leave off the whipped cream, subbing it for an additional topping.

As always, I was tempted to try the caramel, the peanut butter, or marshmallow sauce, but, the hot fudge is just too ridiculously good to pass up, so, hot fudge it was.  And since I was using hot fudge, i needed to put hard ice cream on top, and soft serve yogurt on the bottom, so it wouldn't melt too fast.

I went back to my classic combo of peanut butter soft serve on the bottom and black raspberry ice cream on top.  The two flavors combine together decently, and are both ones I generally like.  The peanut butter soft serve was good, rich, creamy, and went well with the hot fudge.  The black raspberry was really quite good and flavorful, and, also went perfectly with the hot fudge, and melted nicely with it.  Overall, successful flavor choices, although, I do wish I could find others that I like more.

The hot fudge was as plentiful as always, and, as always, I looked at it and thought I'd never be able to eat that much hot fudge.  And, as always, I somehow did, and found myself scraping up every last bit from the sides of the container.  The fudge was warm, it was super thick, it was super rich, and I loved how it hardened a bit upon contact with the ice cream.  They seriously know how to make hot fudge.

My other two toppings are where I always experiment.  I discovered the Rainbow Nonpareils many sundaes back, and loved them, so they have been a constant for a while now.  Since then, I've alternated my final topping between the various nut choices and waffle cone bits.  But this time, I decided to leave off the nonpareils.  I do love them, as they are crunchy and delicious, but, with all the fudge, do I really need more chocolate?

I picked walnuts, not a nut I necessarily generally want, but, they do go great with the hot fudge.  I was provided a very generous portion, and they satisfied all my desires to have something crunchy that the nonpareils normally do.

Finally, I went for the waffle cone pieces, a recent discovery.  The waffle cone chunks provide a different sort of crunch, and are larger in size, adding some textural interest to the sundae.  My pieces came from all different kinds of waffle cones, some plain, but many coated in dark or white chocolate, some with sprinkles or nuts too.  These pieces really added so much fun to the sundae, and I liked picking them up with my fingers to scoop up some ice cream too.

Even though I didn't get the whipped cream, my scooper offered me a cherry, which I accepted.  Why haven't others offered this?  It was just a standard maraschino cherry, but, it was tasty coated in hot fudge.

Overall, this was a successful sundae.  The hot fudge, walnuts, and waffle cone pieces may be my favorite topping combination yet.  I did sorta miss the rainbow nonpareils, but, I had enough chocolate and crunch with the other two.  I still wish I could come up with a better base ice cream mix, but, I'd get this again.

Small Sundae: Peanut Butter Soft Serve, NS Vanilla Soft Serve, Marshmallow Sauce, Waffle Cone Pieces, Chopped Walnuts.  $6.50. (Dec 2016)
One night, I went to get my free annual ice cream sundae at JP Licks.  Because it was nearly 9pm, I was faced with a dilemma: should I break my no chocolate at night rule and get hot fudge?  I love, love, love the hot fudge at JP Licks.

I decided to use the opportunity to try another sauce, as I wanted to try the caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter sauce, and marshmallow before anyway.  This forced me to do it.  I had my eyes on butterscotch, but alas, the location I visited did not have it.  Caramel or peanut butter sounded great, but then I realized that none of the ice cream flavors I was considering would work with those.  Pistachio, black raspberry, mint chip ... those all screamed out for hot fudge.  Sigh.  Marshmallow seemed like the only more neutral option, even though I wasn't excited about it.

Once I realized I was picking a not warm sauce, I decided that I could just get soft serve rather than hard serve, since I no longer had to worry about the hot fudge melting the ice cream too quickly.  The soft serve flavors of the week however weren't great.  I didn't want mocha, mango, or tart.  The maple was far too sweet when I tried a sample.  Which left me with peanut butter and vanilla, both flavors I enjoy in a cone, but, not particularly exciting.

I still had two toppings to go.  My regular rainbow nonpareils were out, as they are dark chocolate.  Doh.  I still opted to get the waffle cone pieces, even though they have some chocolate.  And  walnuts, for uh, protein.

I'll admit that I wasn't particularly excited about this sundae, even before I tried it.  I was sacrificing too many things I wanted, just not to have the hot fudge.  The result was about as expected.

The vanilla soft serve was a fine base for a sundae, albeit boring, obviously.  The peanut butter soft serve I had on the bottom, but it somehow didn't have nearly as much peanut-y flavor as I remembered from past times, it was nearly indistinguishable from vanilla.

It turns out that I had tried the marshmallow sauce before.  I just didn't remember it, and didn't read my notes first.  Doh.  From my previous notes: "Marshmallow Sauce: Just sweet, doesn’t go well with soft serve, too much same texture."  And ... yup, it was too sweet, and too much the same texture as the soft serve.  Very, very sweet, very very gooey.  I'm not entirely sure what flavor ice cream I'd want it on, perhaps it would be better when mixed with the hot fudge or another sauce?

The waffle cone pieces were still a good choice, crunchy, good sized chunks, and the small amount of chocolate I wasn't too concerned about.  The chopped walnuts were also good for crunch.

So, overall, just boring, too sweet, and not much flavor.  Bad choices on my part.
Sundae: Peanut Butter Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt, Nano Black Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt, Black Raspberry Hard Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Dark Chocolate Nonpareils, Waffle Cone Pieces. Small.  $6.50.
As always, I continue to have fun innovating on sundae perfection when I redeem my free sundae rewards.

On this visit, I was told, "You can pick as many ice cream flavors as you want".  I always thought I needed to pick just two.  This solves many issues for me, like, wanting two flavors that don't go great together.  I could add a separator layer!

So that is just what I did.  Soft serve Peanut Butter froyo on the bottom, soft serve Nano Black soft serve froyo in the middle, and hard serve Black Raspberry ice cream on top.  Three layers, all different colors, light brown, black, and purple.

I stuck with hard serve ice cream on top because I knew I'd be adding hot fudge, and soft serve melts too fast.  I went for Black Raspberry, since that is my favorite of their hard serve flavors, and it goes great with hot fudge.  It was great as always, full of flavor, and yup, went excellent with the hot fudge.

Below that, I added the new Nano Black soft serve, a black, activated charcoal flavor.  This was a nice, neutral flavor, a bit smokey, soft and creamy.  Very good, and a great dividing layer, more interesting than regular vanilla, and, more picture-worthy of course.

The base was my favorite of all JP Licks flavors, soft serve Peanut Butter froyo.  Full of flavor, soft, creamy, delicious, and, again, a great combo with the chocolate.

And about that chocolate.  I went overboard on my chocolate toppings.  Sundaes are supposed to be one sauce, one dry topping, whipped cream, and a cherry.  But I've long since learned that I don't really find much value in the generic canned whipped cream, and that I can sub in any other topping I want.  I stuck with ones I knew well: hot fudge, rainbow nonpareils, and assorted waffle cone pieces.

JP Licks hot fudge is a thing of wonder.  Its really remarkable, home made, insanely chocolatey, thick, served hot, decadent.  And they add way too much.  Every single time I think of asking for less.  I know it is an unreasonable amount of hot fudge.  As in, literally, like a cup of it.  Way more than any human should eat for health reasons, but also, it kinda takes over.  But its just so good I can't bring myself to do it.  Next time?

The fudge was fantastic.  It was hot, it was awesome.  As it hardened against the ice cream, it changed the eating experience, but was still great.  I always love this, and haven't found another sauce I like more.

The rainbow nonpareils I love for their crunch.  The dark chocolate is decent quality, and they go great with the fudge.  In retrospect though, I think nuts would be a better option, they also add crunch, and also go great with fudge, and wouldn't be quite so much chocolate.  Save the nonpareils for when I'm not getting so much other chocolate topping?

And finally, waffle cone chunks.  The waffle cone topping is an assortment of crushed cones, regular, chocolate dipped, white chocolate dipped, sprinkle coated, etc.  I asked for the fun coated ones, and my server had a lot of fun picking them out and arranging them on top.  She even offered to just crush a brand new pink one just to make it look better (which I told her was totally unnecessary).  I do like having these to dunk into the ice cream, but, actually, I think I'm ready to move on from these.  Maybe replace these with nuts?

So next time ... 3 flavors, hard on top, two types of soft serve, hot fudge, nuts, and, I really want to try the toasted coconut sometime.  Next time.


Just some notes on the different toppings I have tried.  There are many, many more toppings, mostly fruits and candy, that I have not gone for.
  • Almonds: Good with fudge. [ Good roasted almond flavor, great with fudge. ]
  • Hot Fudge:  "We make it all here in Jamaica Plain in our super steam kettle from real butter, high quality chocolate liquor and the best cocoa powder available."  Tasting notes: This is homemade, and you can tell. Very delicious, thick, great chocolate flavor.  They put way too much of it on a sundae, but it is really good.  Served piping hot, then thickens as it gets cooler. [ Very thick, good flavor, hot, really great. ] [ This is perhaps the best hot fudge I've ever had.  Very thick.  Always hot.  Goes amazingly with nuts.  They always give way more than I want, and it does make the ice cream melt a bit fast, but it is a must have for any sundae.  I always scrape some too the side because it seems like too much, and then come back to it at the end, to eat just as fudge.  It gets thicker and harder, and is particularly great with nuts. ]  [ Always so good, nice and think ] [ This is outstanding, I just sorta wish they'd give less.  Hot, soooo rich, amazing, and I like how it gets thicker as it cools .]
  • Marshmallow Sauce: Just sweet, doesn’t go well with soft serve, too much same texture.
  • Rainbow Nonpareils: chocolately, crunchy, noms. [ Crunchy, chocolate, always good to have ] [ Nice crunch, quality dark chocolate, always a winner. ] 
  • Sprinkles: Awesome. Always included for free!  Chocolate or rainbow. Very generous servings.
  • Waffle Cone Pieces: Assorted bits of waffle cone, chocolate coated, white chocolate coated, plain.  Good crunch, nice to dunk into fudge and ice cream. [ Good crunch, fun to add, but not necessary ]
  • Walnuts: Chopped up, love the extra crunch, good with fudge.
  • Whipped Cream: Menu says "homemade", but on all occasions, it was generic from a can. [ Fluffy, generic, given a huge sundae, really not necessary, would skip in the future. ]


J.P. Licks also roasts their own coffee, and offers all standard espresso drinks.  I know I've tried the regular coffee, but, I never took notes on it.  I think it was fine?
  • Iced Chai: Sweet, ok.
  • Iced Mocha: Decent, sweet.

Baked Goods

And, they have a selection of baked goods, mostly muffins and croissants.  Since I'm usually there for ice cream, I haven't gone for many of these, but, it seems to make sense with their coffee selections.
  • Corn Muffin: Nice grit, but not much flavor.
  • Berry Muffin: Dry, uninteresting.
J.P. Licks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, December 30, 2019

Fresko Fresh Kosher Grab N' Go

I have no reason to seek out kosher foods, but, sometimes it happens, like when I tried products made by Kosher Catering by Andrew, and found some truly delicious.  Fresko is another such company, although with a significantly larger distribution channel.
“The best in fresh, STRICTLY KOSHER & HALAL CERTIFIED, quality & delicious, Grab n’ Go."
Fresko was founded in 2003, and has grown considerably, providing catering to several airlines, partnering with hotels and schools, producing for convenience stores and grocery stores, and now operating their own stands inside airports.  I believe they are a dominant player in the Boston area Kosher food scene.  All Fresko products are certified Star-k and adhere to the highest Kosher standards.

The Fresko line up is vast, with ready-to-eat sandwiches, salads, wraps, entrees, side dishes, and desserts, over 100 products total.  I tried a few different items, all were ... mediocre.


Salads were the first item to catch my eye, as I was just looking for something simple for a flight.  Fresko makes a wide variety, most containing grilled chicken, so I had no choice but to select items that had a protein I intended to discard (I gave to others, don't worry, no waste!)
Herb-Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with House Croutons.
First up was a Caesar, generally a fairly reliable choice, particularly when I can see the dressing through the packaging to ensure it is the creamy style.

This was a decent salad, although not really a traditional Caesar - it looked more like a garden salad, just without cucumbers, as it lacked any Parmesan, and had some unexpected toppings.

The base was torn chunks of romaine, plus a scattering of shredded carrots.   This was all relatively fresh and crisp, decent quality, although it didn't hold up even a day.  The two cherry tomatoes were mealy and fairly awful.

Croutons were separate to prevent them from getting soggy (good!), but were just a small style, moderately seasoned, not particularly good.  Highly generic.  I prefer larger ones, and less crisp.

I didn't eat the chicken, but it did look nice - white meat, tender, lots of herbs.  My mom enjoyed it when she had it later.

And finally, the dressing.  Good portion, creamy, nicely seasoned, but not particularly ... Caesar-y?  Again, lacking the Parmesan cheese, and sans anchovy for more depth.  I really liked the herb seasoning in it, but given the lack of cheese and fish base, it pushed it more in the ranch direction, which, was more fitting with the other ingredients anyway. 

I originally quasi-wondered if this was just mislabeled?  In particular, the lack of Parmesan ... but I was later informed by a friend that this is one of the key rules of keeping kosher - do not mix cheese and meat, so alas, the chicken in here prevented the cheese.  I wished they had left off the chicken instead ...

Once I discarded the tomatoes, picked off the chicken, and set aside the rest of the croutons, I did enjoy my salad, but it is hard to fully endorse it as a Caesar, if that is what you were expecting.
Japanese Sesame Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken and Candied Nuts.
Next up, a noodle salad, Japanese inspired, according to the dish name, which is why I selected it (well, and because of the candied nuts!).

It also came with grilled herb roasted chicken, a generous portion of what did look like nice white meat, which I set aside and gave to my mother as well.

The noodles were ... fine?  Not too mushy, not stuck together, but ... just soba noodles.  They were tossed in a soy sauce/sesame oil mix, not particularly complex flavor, but at least not over-dressed.  Also in the mix were some bits of red pepper, and lots of sesame seeds (I guess the Japanese element?)  Pretty meh.

I did like the candied nuts (sadly all peanuts), but they were heavily candied, and I think would be kinda odd mixed into this salad.  I used them on an ice cream sundae instead.

This was not a winning dish for me, although I acknowledge the chicken looked fine.

Desserts & Baked Goods

Dessert.  Baked goods.  Now we were talking.

The Fresko line up isn't all that exciting to me in general, basic cookies, brownies, fruit salad (not a dessert), but I did find one to try.
Hand Rolled Chocolate Ruggulah.
The ruggulah though were fairly ... blah?  The chocolate was good quality dark chocolate, and they were decently chocolately, but the pastry itself was somehow both dry and moist at the same time, and was too dense, in a seemed-underbaked-but-not-really way.   Very hard to describe.  Perhaps just not very fresh, likely having been frozen, and not handled well?

Regardless, I didn't care much for these.

Friday, December 27, 2019



A very old chocolate maker, created over 100 years ago in Switzerland (now owned by a US based company).  Well known, but at least for me, not entirely commonplace, although I first encountered the brand many years ago, when I participated in selling them as a school fundraiser.

I've somehow never reviewed it before, so when I recently received a bar as a gift, I was mostly excited to have something new to review (and try).

I liked it, pleasantly surprised by it, really.  I think I had written it off in my mind as just a school fundraiser chocolate, and not actually quality.
Distinctive Packaging.
Toblerone is unique in that it comes in a distinctive form factor, the entire bar is triangular, with triangle shaped peaks, which you can easily break off.
Distinctive Shape.

Bar sizes are done by peaks - e.g. a mini is 3 peaks, the largest bars are 12 peaks.
While they do make a number of varieties now, including white chocolate, filled versions, and more, the standard formula is not just plain milk chocolate, but rather milk chocolate with honey, almonds, and nougat.
Swiss Milk Chocolate with Honey and Almond Nougat.
I'm sure I tried other varieties back in the day, but on this occasion, I had just the classic.

The milk chocolate was smooth, creamy, and the style I do like.  The bits of nougat and almond added pleasant texture.  The honey was a good sweet accent.

Overall, it just came together quite well.  Creamy, smooth, sweeter than average milk chocolate due to the honey, a bit of texture.  Seems like a winning combo to me, and I gladly polished off the bar over the course of a few mornings alongside my coffee.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Friendly's Ice Cream

Update Review, December 2019

As I mentioned in my previous review, Friendly's is known for signature ice cream sundaes.  Many diners visit Friendly's just as a dessert destination, particularly as most of their sundaes clock in at 1200+ calories.  Don't even look at the Caramel Fudge Brownie Sundae (1910 calories!).  We rarely went for just ice cream, but sundaes were always a requisite part of a meal there for me growing up, particularly because they offer not only the ridiculous jumbo sizes, but also, a "Happy Ending" smaller size (which, to be fair, is still multiple scoops with toppings, it isn't exactly tiny).

Friendly's has long produced retail versions of its signature ice cream sundaes, individual packaged Sundae Cups, you can find in your grocery store freezer section, which I've reviewed before.  They still catch my eye every time I walk by when I visit my parents, the nostalgia for those sundaes is strong (and we don't have Friendly's on West Coast).

During my recent visit, something else caught my eye however.  Not just ice cream sundae cups, but dessert cups.

Dessert Cups

Dessert cups are a newer offering from Friendly's, retail only.  I was intrigued when I saw the varieties offered, 6 different options, and none seemed based on Friendly's ice cream sundaes.  Rather than just a base of ice cream topped with sauces, candy toppings, and sometimes whipped cream like the Sundae Cups, these are layered creations featuring classic dessert components like pie crust, crumble, and cake.  Think Red Velvet Cake, Strawberry Shortcake, and Pecan Praline.  

I *really* wanted the Blackberry Peach Pie (pie crust pieces, peach pie filling,vanilla ice cream, blackberry sauce, whipped topping, streusel crumble), as this sounded like exactly my sort of thing (except that I'd want the pie components warm ...), but alas, my grocery store had all varieties but that one.  Deciding between the remaining 5 was hard enough. 
Dessert Cup Packaging.
The packaging certainly drew me in, with a clear domed lid with visible whipped cream and toppings underneath.   While the sundae cups often contain a dollop of whipped cream on top, these clearly made whipped cream a primary element.  There was tons.
Banana Cream Pie.
"Layers of vanilla wafer crumbles, banana cream pie filling and french vanilla ice cream topped with marshmallow sauce, whipped topping, and more vanilla wafer crumbles."

I finally decided on the Banana Cream Pie, wondering what banana cream pie filling would be like, and definitely curious about the marshmallow sauce.

On top was vanilla wafer crumble, which only appeared here, not layered throughout, as the description said.  The crumble was fine, basically just like Nilla wafers traditionally used in Banana Cream Pudding.  I appreciated the crunch, and variety of crumb sizes, but the wafers are the least interesting part of banana cream pudding, and I like it better when just made in pie crust anyway ... which the name "banana cream pie" sorta implied ... not "banana cream pudding" ...

Below the crumble was sweet, fluffy, topping.  The description indicated that there would be both marshmallow sauce and whipped topping, but this seemed to be neither, and there was only one layer above the ice cream.  Instead, it was more like a marshmallow whipped topping.  It was very, very, very sweet, but certainly not a "sauce".  I loved the fluffy texture, and at first I loved the sweetness, but after a few spoonfuls, even when integrated in with the other ingredients, it was just too much.  Speaking of too much, there was a lot of that topping, as much topping as ice cream.
Banana Cream Pie: Layers.
Here you can see a bit more of the layers, it took digging to reach the ice cream.  The ice cream was simple vanilla ice cream, fine quality, and necessary to balance out the sweet topping.  That topping really was just too much.

So what about the "banana" element?  That was at the very bottom, the thin layer you can kinda see, "banana cream pie filling".  To me, a banana cream pie is filled with banana pudding and layers of fresh banana, so I expected basically a pudding, perhaps some chunks of banana.  This "filling" was not pudding-like, which I guess is understandable given that it is frozen, and also did not contain any chunks of banana.  Rather, it was more like a ... banana sauce, but not a syrup style, a consistency more like thick caramel.  It is made from banana puree, no bits, not even a touch of texture, from bananas.  It did taste like bananas, no question, and like sugar, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

Together this layered creation was a fun idea, and I liked the sounds of it, but it suffered from just being far too sweet - with more than half the creation crazy sweet, there was no balance.  How many grams of sugar did it have?  61 grams!  In the fairly reasonable size portion.  Yeah.  No wonder I tasted way too much sweet.

Original Review, December 2017

I grew up in a town with few restaurants, but we had a Friendly's.  We didn't go out to eat that often, but when we did, and particularly when we were going for a treat, Friendly's was on the list.

Why?  For the ice cream sundaes.  I honestly don't remember the food at all.  I know we got meals, but, I have zero recollection of what I ever had there.  What I do remember?  The peg games on the table, and, the ice cream sundaes.  While many of my friends always talked about the Fribbles (milkshakes), I had eyes only for the sundaes.  But not the one that all the other kids went for, the signature "Cone Head" sundae with a sugar cone upside down on top like a hat and a face, no, I went for the Reese's® Peanut Butter Cup Sundae.  Every single time.  It just used vanilla ice cream as a base (although I often swapped that out), but it was smothered in warm peanut butter sauce and hot fudge, topped with a mount of whipped cream, and garnished with sprinkles, a cherry, and of course, a peanut butter cup.  On really rare occasions I'd mix it up and get the Reese's Pieces version instead, with, well, pieces instead of pb cups, but this was my constant goto.  I just loved the chocolate and peanut butter.  The sundaes are huge, but, you could add a reasonably size "Happy Ending" one on to any meal, which was always my move.

Friendly's has long been in the ice cream business, a featured part of their menu for 80+ years.  Sadly for me, the restaurant shut down in the town long ago, and no where I have lived since has one.  Since then I know they expanded, offering soft serve, Friend-z (mix-in versions),   But they do make ice cream (gallons and novelties) sold in grocery stores everywhere, so, I finally got inspired to try them out, and see if they measured up.

Sundae Cups

I see this in grocery stores everywhere in New England.  The stores sell them 10 for $10, as in, literally, $1 each, which is a bit mind blowing to me.
"Our Sundae Cups come in a perfect personal size for when you just need a sundae all to yourself."
Friendy's individual sized sundae cups come in basically every variety of sundae they serve at the restaurants, and then some.  Which means, they do have a peanut butter cup sundae.  One really unique offering they make is an ice cream cake sundae cup, literally the layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream they use in the ice cream cakes, layered with the same chocolate crunchies, and topped with the whipped topping and confetti sprinkles.  If you like their ice cream cake, but don't have an occasion to celebrate, just get the sundae!

But back to the peanut butter cup sundae.  The sundae cup version uses peanut butter ice cream, and the fudge and peanut butter sauces on top are obviously not warm.  And no whipped cream.  Same with the Reese's pieces version.  This just didn't feel right to me, so I went for something different.
Crayola™ Color Me Sundae Cup.
 "Enjoy an ice cream masterpiece of green vanilla flavored ice cream topped with a layer of yellow vanilla flavored ice cream, topped with blue marshmallow, whipped topping and primary colored sprinkles—all in a perfectly personal size sundae cup!"

So yeah.  I went for the ridiculous Crayola™ Color Me Sundae Cup, clearly designed for kids.  The reason was fairly simple, I was having it in the evening, and so I had to rule out all the chocolate based ones.  Every single option, besides a strawberry one, had chocolate, either in the fudge sauce on top, or chips in the ice cream.  So, this was it.  It sounded a lot like the ice cream cake, just minus the chocolate layers.

I did laugh when I opened the lid.  They weren't joking about the colors.

Bright blue marshmallow topping.  Colorful sprinkles.  Yellow ice cream poking out.

I dug in.

The whipped cream was pretty standard, as were the sprinkles.  The blue marshmallow topping was sweet and fluffy, just like on their ice cream cakes.  I liked it.
Crayola™ Color Me Sundae Cup: Inside.
Under that all was, well, yellow and green ice cream.

It was a bit confusing to the brain to eat yellow and green ice cream, and have them taste like vanilla.  They didn't taste distinct.  They really were vanilla.  They just looked like Playdoh.

Overall, this was clearly fairly simple, but, I liked it.  The ice cream was decent, the marshmallow topping and whipped cream exactly what I remembered from their ice cream cakes.

I don't think I'd get this again, as it was a bit too simple, but, I enjoyed it.  Next time, I'd get the ice cream cake one, or maybe try the peanut butter one, knowing it is nothing like the beloved version served in restaurants.

Ice Cream Cake

I grew up in an ice cream cake family.  Every birthday.  Every year.  Without fail.  However, Friendly's was not our ice cream cake maker.  It was Carvel.  Always.

When I was younger, Carvel had a store in the town, and we had custom made cakes.  It closed when I was probably 8 or 10 years old, forever ago, but luckily, grocery stores still carry Carvel cakes.  Until one year, when my Mom couldn't find them anywhere.  I think she looked in nearly every store to no avail.  She sent my dad on a last minute job to try a final store, and he came back with something that sure looked like a Carvel cake, except ... it was Friendly's.

It wasn't the same.  But, that doesn't mean it was bad.
Celebration Ice Cream Cake.
"Friendly's ice cream cakes are lovingly handmade to transform any occasion into a happy occasion!"

Friendly's ice cream cakes are much like the Carvel ones - layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate crunchies in-between, fluffier whipped forsting on the outside. Available in different shapes and sizes.with the classic one having blue frosting border and some confetti sprinkles. They also make a Oreo version (Oreo ice cream layers, crushed Oreos in the center, fudge and Oreo topping), a Reese's version (peanut butter ice cream layers, chopped pb cups in the center, chocolate truffle frosting), and now, a trendy Salted Caramel Truffle one (salted caramel ice cream, caramel chocolate truffles, caramel sauce, fudge, etc).

But we had the classic.
Leftover Celebration Cake.
"Every big (and little) celebration deserves ice cream cake! Lovingly handmade layers of premium chocolate and vanilla ice cream, separated by chocolaty crunchies, are topped with freshly whipped ice cream and decorations. "

Of course, we all immediately compared this to Carvel.  Most of the family refused to even consider that it might be better in some ways.  But it was.

The ice cream was higher quality.  Sorry, Carvel.  It was creamier, less icy.  Just, better.  The ice cream was in reverse order: chocolate on top, vanilla on bottom.

The crispies weren't as good though, they were softer, not as crunchy, not quite the same magic.

The whipped topping was sweet, fluffy, and good.

Overall, it was a fine replacement for a Carvel cake, and, if you actually care about the ice cream, a better choice.