We All Scream Pt. 1: The Best and Worst Ice Cream Flavors in Oberlin

Nancy Roane, Staff Writer

Oberlin’s two ice cream mainstays, Gibson’s and Yesterdays, offer the community over 40 ice cream flavors. This weekend, Cowhaus Creamery, a new ice cream shop next to Slow Train Cafe, will open, pushing the flavor spectrum well past 50. What to do when so many choices are presented? The simplest answer is to judge every single one of them. The first day, I traversed Main Street to Yesterdays, a friendly, locally owned establishment that happily accommodated a non-customer who ate roughly a coneful of ice cream (if not more) by the end of the 32-sample extravaganza.

After that adventure, I continued on to Gibson’s, a family-owned grocery and deli that serves ice cream among other treats. The staff was a mixed bag — some gave me a hard time, while others were quite helpful. Not primarily an ice cream parlor, Gibson’s features only 15 flavors, a staggering 17 fewer than Yesterday’s.

Differences in friendliness aside, the quality of the ice cream at both establishments was comparable. Gibson’s best and brightest were clear: pumpkin and double fudge brownie. The pumpkin treat was very rich with hints of sweetness and spice. The consistency was thick, soft and creamy. Out of 10, I rated the flavor a dazzling nine. The double fudge brownie worried me at first, because desserts that involve double-anything are in immediate danger of sugar overload. This flavor, however, breaks all of the previously understood rules about ice cream. It is chocolate on top of chocolate, but is still palatable. The chocolate ice cream is rich, but pales in comparison to the star of the show: the chocolate brownie bits. The brownie bits are thick, gooey and heavenly. This flavor earned a well-deserved eight and a half.

Not everything in Gibson’s, however, went down as smoothly. The peanut butter crunch and moose tracks disappointed my taste buds and my expectations. The peanut butter in peanut butter crunch was not well integrated into the ice cream. A slab of semi-hard peanut butter rested awkwardly atop subpar vanilla and only mixed successfully once inside my mouth. The nuttiness ended up overpowering everything and left the impression that I had just swallowed a spoonful of frozen peanut butter, earning this flavor a three. Moose tracks, a flavor usually packed with delightful toppings and different tastes, fell strangely flat. There was no discernable flavor and no notes of joy. This vagueness and lack of vibrato earned the flavor a four. Yesterdays also featured two clear winners: gold medal ribbon and coconut chocolate almond. Gold medal ribbon did not shy away from simplicity, but instead embraced a classic mix of vanilla, dark chocolate and caramel. The vanilla flavor in this ice cream was quite strong and sweet, but was tempered well with swirls of dark chocolate. Just when the dish was looking like it may become too bitter, the tiniest drops of caramel rescued it, resulting in a perfectly balanced, not overwrought ice cream. This flavor earned a clear eight out of 10. The coconut chocolate almond flavor proved that not all coconut-flavored things are nasty. This variety was light and surprisingly refreshing: The chunks of almonds were substantial, and the tiny chocolate chips paired well with them without being overpowering. I awarded this flavor an unexpected but well-earned nine.

Yesterday’s lowlights were arguably worse than Gibson’s. Peach yogurt, the only flavor I tried that earned a one out of 10, was icy and almost flavorless. Play dough, given a two, is meant to be a kid-friendly version of chocolate chip cookie dough with vibrant yellow ice cream and colorful cookie dough chunks. Unfortunately, the cookie dough bites don’t just look like Play-Doh — they taste like it, too. They were too crumbly — sandy, almost — and the general vanilla flavor was sorely lacking. Maybe I’m just too old to enjoy this flavor.

In general, neither ice cream place was overwhelmingly better than the other. Yesterday’s has far more variety, but with that quantity comes more duds to avoid. Gibson’s ice cream was creamier, but every flavor that featured peanut butter or nuts did not sing a song. Both establishments had winners and losers. Maybe this weekend, Cowhaus Creamery will become the clear front-runner. If not, Oberlin will possess a Holy Trinity of sweet dairy confection, a three-way tie of comparable ice cream establishments all clamoring to satisfy your cravings. Stay tuned for next week’s review of the much-anticipated Cowhaus.