By Sharon Gittleman
ROYAL OAK – When conducting a human/canine taste test there’s one possibility to keep foremost in your mind – doggy ice cream cone theft. That was the one flaw that marred BTL’s first multi-species survey of ice cream parlors in Royal Oak.
With a dozen possible stops within walking distance of downtown serving shakes, sundaes, flurries, banana splits, cones, waffle cups and ice cream cakes, we limited our sampling efforts to a half-mile strip on Main starting at 11 Mile.
Sasha, our boxer/pit bull companion appeared to be on her best behavior, until her three human companions came to our first stop – Gelato di Roma, located at 303 S. Main. At this creamery, you can purchase cups and cones of the preservative-free custardy-textured Italian-style ice cream, called gelato.
With over 52 flavors to choose from and several delivery methods – cup, cone or waffle cup, we decided to start simply, ordering a vanilla cone for Sasha and a cup of caramel gelato for the humans.
While human companion Alan held her cone, Sasha dug in, lapping up the rich, creamy gelato with abandon – without any apparent concern about her developing furry-faced ice cream mustache.
In a matter of seconds, the cone was consumed. Then, before we could snatch our caramel cup from her grasp, Sasha struck, stealing it away in a few guilt-free gulps, though with compensatory kisses for the humans when she finished.
While sugary treats may propel people into high gear, it appeared to have the opposite effect on Sasha, turning her into a calm, satisfied and happy canine.
Next, we tried Stucchi’s, on 205 S. Main, long a favorite for Ann Arbor residents. We sampled five of the 28 ice cream and 16 frozen yogurt selections at this parlor, which features sugar and homemade waffle cones, shakes, malts, floats, flurries, smoothies and fruit paradises – ice cream or frozen yogurt blended with fruit and soda water.
Among the specialties of the house are brownie sundaes, with your choice of hot fudge, hot caramel or chocolate syrups and Smushins – ice cream or frozen yogurt hand-mixed with up to three toppings selected from 59 on the menu, including crushed candy bars, fruit and marshmallows.
Our ice cream choices included black forest – a chocolate ice cream base with chunks of black cherries, fudge and chocolate cookies, caramel malted – chocolate ice cream studded with malt balls and caramel ripple, white Russian fudge – coffee ice cream mixed with fudge ripples and chunks, and grasshopper pie – mint ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies.
Sasha looked dejected as none of the human tasters were willing to share these luscious confections. Steven’s favorite was the white Russian fudge – which, while it had no alcohol added, tasted very much like Kahlua liquor. Alan preferred the black forest ice cream, a rich blend of full-bodied chocolate flavor with sweet fruit.
My top choice was the caramel malted- a true chocolate-lover’s dream. This ice cream is the perfect choice to see you through heartaches, both romantic and financial.
The mint ice cream was another wise selection. It was a fresh and brightly-flavored pick-me-up, an ideal antidote to a steamy summer day.
All our ice cream selections were ultra-rich and creamy and not too sweet.
Our group ended our ice cream trial at Cold Stone Creamery. At the Creamery, you can enjoy your ice cream straight or hand-mixed with dozens of add-ins, from white chocolate chips and nuts to candy bars and juicy bits of fruit.
With 24 pre-selected dream combinations noted on the wall menu, this parlor is definitely geared to the ice cream fantasist. If you give rocky road a try, you’ll find yourself digging in to chocolate ice cream studded with roasted almonds and a double helping of marshmallows.
The midnight delight ice cream cake is another object of desire, with its layers of devil’s food cake and chocolate fudge alternating with chocolate ice cream blended with chocolate shavings, all wrapped up in chocolate fudge ganache and topped by rolled cookies dipped in more chocolate.
Of the three ice cream flavors we tried – strawberry, mint and banana, the banana ice cream blended with graham cracker crumbs won the vote of the majority of our human tasters, thanks to its flavor-packed punch.
Cold Stone Creamery is located at 420 S. Main in Royal Oak.