Article Allyson Reedy Photography Colleen Kelly
Henry James said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon,’ and while that pair is pretty stellar, we’d like to submit two more that rival the nostalgia and happiness that a summer afternoon inspires: ice cream. On their own the words are alright at best, but placed together – the frosty ice leading the soft, sweet cream – and you’ve got magic in a bowl. Or cup. Or cone. Or on top of a cookie. However you scoop it, ice cream evokes all the sticky sweetness that life offers. We taste tested the latest and greatest frozen treats in Denver and the south suburbs – we know, our job is hard – so you can enjoy the best, most delicious ice cream on a summer afternoon. Bliss.
(Ice) Cream of the Crop
Item numero uno on your summer bucket list: get a lick, scoop or bite at these five superior scoop shops.
This brand-new Uptown microcreamery is the only licensed dairy plant in Denver, which means that the small batch flavors crafted here are as fresh as they come. Think cow-to-cone flavors like Caramel Cloud Brulee, Challah Good! French Toast, and Voodoo Magick (made with Voodoo doughnuts). Gerry and Josh, the duo behind Frozen Matter, are truly taking ice cream to the next level, having studied vigorously at ice cream school (yes, that’s a thing), using on-site pasteurization, and insisting upon the highest quality, organic ingredients. And did we mention they have a liquor license? 530 E. 19th Ave., Denver, FrozenMatter.com
Inside Scoop Creamery
Even in the ‘burbs, there’s no excuse for settling for sub-par, chain ice cream. Historic downtown Littleton’s Inside Scoop features 24 constantly-changing flavors that run the gamut from traditional vanilla to the more experimental maple lavender. Insider’s tip: If you’re a hot fudge fan, order a sundae; they don’t skimp. 5654 S. Prince St., Littleton, InsideScoopCreamery.biz
Warning: Glacier’s plethora of flavors are highly addictive. A friend we introduced to their pint of the month club still hasn’t forgiven us for her extra 10 pounds. With a huge selection of ice cream, sorbet, and gelato, there’s something to please every palate. And if, by chance, there isn’t? Just wait. They roll out new flavors each week, having created more than 1,000 different varieties to date. 3455 S. University Blvd., Englewood, GlacierDenver.com
With its shop housed in an iconic, 28-foot-tall, 14,000-pound cream can, this is a cheerful, throwback ice cream experience that any frozen treat aficionado must have. While the ice cream is top notch – if they have the Salted Oreo or Banana Pudding, order them! – there’s more going on at this happening Highlands gathering place than just dessert; they host live music, poetry slams, movie nights and even carnivals all summer long. 2620 16th St., Denver, LittleManIceCream.com
It’s no surprise that Denver has its share of great ice cream, but what if you’re headed south? Rock House Ice Cream is worth the pit stop off I-25 in tiny Palmer Lake. Scooping Anne & Mann’s Gourmet ‘cream (made in Colorado Springs with 14% butter fat), this is a rich, luscious treat worth the drive. You can’t go wrong with a cone, but if you’re feeling adventurous try their famous ice cream nachos. 24 S. Highway 105, Palmer Lake, RockHouseIceCream.com
DIY: Confetti Cake Ice Cream
¾ cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Whole Milk
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Dry Yellow Cake Mix
- Whisk sugar and milk in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in heavy cream and vanilla.
- Whisk in cake mix, trying to remove all lumps.
- Pour into ice cream maker and let mix until thickened, about 25 minutes.
- Add sprinkles to the ice cream and run until fully mixed in. Add some additional sprinkles to ice cream just before serving.
That’s the Spirit!
Frozen Matter combines two of our very favorite things: ice cream and alcohol. “We’re pretty unique in our spirit pairings,” owner Gerry Kim says. And by ‘unique,’ we think she means ‘genius.’ The libation pairings are carefully chosen to complement the flavors of the ice cream, and we were pleasantly surprised by how well booze played off the frozen treats. Our favorite is a scoop of Almond Cluster Funk paired with a shot of Dolin Blanc Vermouth. Or maybe the Strawberries & Cream with Aperol. Or the Valrhona Chocolate with Royal Cognac. Just get an Uber and you’ll be fine.
Down to a Science
You probably think you know ice cream. You’ve been eating it out of the container – er, reasonably-sized bowl – for as long as you can remember. But unless you’ve eaten liquid nitrogen ice cream, complete with billowing smoke clouds, then you can’t claim your connoisseur card quite yet. We’re talking extra-creamy, dessert-with-a-show style ice cream. And you can only get it at Denver’s The Inventing Room, helmed by the resident mad scientist of sorts, Ian Kleinman.
“I’ve always been extremely excited about science,” Kleinman says. “My main two sources of inspiration are my grandfather and Willy Wonka.”
Stepping into his downtown, brightly-hued ice cream lab, we think it’s safe to say that Mr. Wonka (and his grandfather, whose welding helmets and hand-crafted tables make up much of the décor) would be proud. The menu looks fairly traditional, with popcorn, ice cream sandwiches and sundaes innocently adorning the lineup, and it’s once you place your order that the real entertainment begins.
Here’s how it works: Kleinman pours a (liquid) ice cream custard blend into a thermal walled bowl. He then pours liquid nitrogen – kept at an astounding -321 degrees – over the ice cream to quickly freeze it. This creates teeny tiny ice crystals (the smaller the ice crystals, the creamier the ice cream); not to mention that show-stopping smoke that keeps on spilling from your now-frozen treat, even coming out of your mouth, dragon-style, while you eat it.
But wait. There’s more! House-made toppings include exploding whipped cream and home-made pop rocks. The little kernels of whipped cream are especially cool, created from cold gas getting trapped within and then going nuts once it ‘escapes’ via the warm room. The whipped cream actually hops around your bowl like Mexican jumping beans, but tastes a whole lot sweeter.
Kleinman has been running his science class-meets-culinary school catering operation for nine years now, and he opened the brick and mortar dessert shop last Halloween. If you believe in magic – or better yet, if you don’t – this is some dazzlingly unique ice cream that you’ve got to check out.