If summertime is the season for ice cream, then it’s summer all year long in my house. There are always containers of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla in the freezer, with the occasional interloper of strawberry. But oh, that vanilla! Heaven forbid, it’s not replenished as the last container dwindles down to lickings because the man of the house will go into a total funk.
“Why not try the coffee?” I ask humbly.
“Because I like vanilla.” (Emphasis his.) Scooped into a sugar cone, neat, no embellishment. The way he has enjoyed ever since I can remember.
So for years, we helped support a national brand through an allegiance to its vanilla ice cream. That is, until I brought home a quart of Longford’s. “This is the best I’ve ever tasted,” said the resident critic. It’s rich and creamy, lush almost, with no artificial aftertaste, and it’s, I must admit, so satisfying.
’s is not exactly a household name in this area, but it should be. Sixty percent of the country clubs in Fairfield and Westchester counties serve Longford’s ice cream to its members. Caterers bring it to charity events and private parties. If you’ve ever had “homemade” vanilla ice cream for dessert in a local restaurant, chances are that you’ve had a helping of Longford’s.
No matter where you live in the U.S., there is an ice cream shop close by. In days of yore, Bungalow Bar and Good Humor trucks clang-clanged their way up and down the borough streets of New York to the squeals of children with nickels and dimes in their hands racing to the curb to buy a chocolate pop or an ice-cream sandwich.
Old-timers remember soda fountains where you sat on a high swivel bar stool while the soda jerk mixed ice cream sodas and made banana splits with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream topped with whipped cream and jarred cherries. Soda fountains gave way to scoop shops, often operated through licensing of national brands, and just as often operated today by independent owners who craft their own products. The shops usually sell only frozen desserts like ice cream, frozen yogurts and sorbets, perhaps gelato, although some ice cream parlours also entice with a dizzying array of chocolates and candy. The selection of flavors is often crazily varied. Name a spice you particularly like, or an herb, fruit, nut, candy or cookie and chances are there is an ice cream to quell your craving.
Longford’s was artisanal and local long before the words entered our everyday lexicon. Twenty years ago, Pat and Nolan West decided to open an ice cream parlor which they named Longford’s in Port Chester, NY, churning out ice creams in the back of the store. Today, their production facility in Port Chester packs roughly 500 half-gallon tubs of their Bourbon Tahitian vanilla ice cream every summer week. Crème caramel and mint chocolate chip are other big sellers among their 55 to 60 flavors, although those made with candy bars are other big hits (I love the Mounds with its coconut underpinnings), and fruits such as blackberry, raspberry, banana and Georgia peach when in season.
Overall, Longford’s small factory will go through 5,000 gallons of cream and 300 pounds of sugar in a month; in one year it goes through 70,000 gallons of cream to make 100,000 gallons of ice cream, not bad for an operation that is staffed by only eight to nine people. Three machines blend cream, sugar, skim milk, milk solids and flavorings. Precision requires one worker, using a pastry bag, to pipe ribbons of chocolate fudge into the ice cream as it flows out of a machine carefully monitored by another worker. Nearby, shelves are stocked with an assortment of cans such as ones with mandarin oranges and pistachio paste from Sicily. A freezer is full of boxed containers ready to be moved to the waiting vans outside for delivery. It’s a smooth operation, with the occasional “stop the machines” day when the Department of Agriculture makes a routine inspection. Longford’s always pasts muster.
Aficionados of the brand beeline to the Longford’s scoop shop in Old Greenwich, tucked into a narrow strip off Sound Beach Avenue near MacKenzie’s pub. Recently, a winning baseball team of youngsters celebrated their no hitter with mile-high scoops of ice cream there. We arrived one evening following a picnic at Greenwich Point with twin 13-year-old granddaughters in tow. The Oreo Bomb, proclaimed one, was “delicious.” And the mango, said the other, was “really refreshing.” Like us, shoppers, restaurant patrons and beach-goers scoot into that narrow parking lot before heading home, signature blue, yellow and white quarts in hand — or a cone piled high with ice cream, the very best way to experience every wonderful nuance. This in a town with enough scoop shops to satisfy the entire population. Talk about a destination stop!
Longford’s stays true to the genre: ice cream, sorbet and gelato by the scoop, into cups or spooned into luxuriant mounds in a cup or cone. Nonfat frozen yogurt, LoYo, is new to their scene.
“We rarely change our recipes,” says Nolan West, because they’re obviously good ones: Longford’s has been voted “Best of the Decade” ice cream by a local magazine in Westchester — and by my husband in Greenwich.
Longford’s “Own Made” Ice Cream
146 Sound Beach Ave.
Old Greenwich, CT