When choosing ice cream, I always go seasonal. In winter, I want caramel, candied pecan, coffee and fudge, while warm weather has me hankering for fruit and citrus flavors. Kansas Citians are lucky that housemade ice cream is enjoying a real resurgence here, with new parlors popping up around the metro and old favorites still growing strong.
The best craft ice cream purveyors focus on teasing out the essence of one or two simple but sometimes unexpected ingredients, rather than taking a kitchen-sink approach. The best flavors, in my book, are built on pure and simple ingredients and arouse our taste-memory bank, reminding us of a favorite vacation spot, a trip to an amusement park or that favorite relative that took you out for ice cream when you were a kid.
Here are five of my favorite simple summer flavors from local parlors.
Lavender Honey at Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, 7140 Wornall: If Provence was a flavor, this is what it would taste like — spicy floral notes atop a complex, earthy sweetness conjure images of honey bees walzing in lavender fields on a warm sunny day. A medium-sized scoop costs $2.75. For 75 cents extra, you can get a homemade waffle cone. Betty Rae’s is a welcome addition to Waldo, a new place that feels like it’s been there forever. Open daily.
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Mango Mango at Murray’s Homemade Ice Creams, 4120 Pennsylvania: This pure, lush, tropical treat tastes like a day at the beach. Murray’s has been a cult Westport hangout since the 1980s, when it began dishing out creative — and sometimes kooky — flavors. With its airy, dim dining room with retro furnishings and lazy ceiling fans, it’s a cool oasis on hot days. Open Thursday-Sunday.
Blackberry Lemon sorbet at Poppy’s Ice Cream and Coffee House, 307 SE Douglas St., Lee’s Summit: Bursting with tart-sweet-ripe flavor, this refreshing sorbet reminds me of eating blackberry cobbler with lemonade. A large scoop is $3. And a promenade in downtown Lee’s Summit, with its blend of old-time Americana and funky shops, is a fun summertime diversion. Open daily.
Cherry at Tropicana Paleterias, 830 Southwest Boulevard and 2 other locations in Olathe and Kansas City, Kan.: There is something colorful, kitchy and utterly delicious about half-frozen maraschino cherries in homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s addictive and gloriously summery, like a cherry print sundress. A medium-sized scoop costs $2.59. Tropicana has become such a mecca for its fresh fruit cocktails, popsicles and smoothies that it’s easy to forget they made delicious from-scratch ice cream. Open daily.
Sweet Corn at Glacé Artisan Ice Cream, 4960 Main St. and 4535 W. 119th St., Leawood: As milky sweet and slightly nutty as homemade creamed corn, this cornsilk-yellow concoction tastes like a picnic in the country. A small scoop costs $2.25. Glace also wins hands-down for its futuristic, chill interior design, perfect in pale icy blues and white. Open daily.