This is a guest post from my husband, Michael, who travels the world and brings home stories of his many culinary adventures.
I had heard about this place both on TV and from alumni who listed it as a must do when visiting State College. In a way you could call it the birthplace of Ben and Jerry’s, whose two founders took the ice cream making short course before launching their historic business franchise.
So when a business trip took me to Penn State, I was committed to go to the Creamery before heading back home. The day I was there was the Friday before Halloween and the big home game with Michigan. It was a cold, blustery day, but that still didn’t seem to slow down the crowd. Parking on the street is not permitted, but if you turn the corner from the food science building, you can park in the garage for free for up to 30 minutes. There is even a line of around 10 spaces dedicated to a quick ice cream visit, just make sure you keep your flashers on while you go inside, though why I have no idea.
Penn State’s blue and white school colors and the Nittany lion mascot are prominent themes both in the umbrellas sitting outside and in the creamery itself. The line forms near the sign and the serving pace is quick. Even though the line was a dozen or so deep I was being asked cone or cup within two minutes. On the far wall glass freezers hold ½ gallon ice creams stacked nearly eight feet tall for take away. Those in the know brought coolers or purchased a freezer bag and dry ice to take large quantities of their favorite treats home.
Having explored the website night before, I was looking forward to tasting the Alumni Swirl – vanilla ice cream with Swiss mocha chips and blueberry swirl. But it was not available by the scoop that day so I opted for my favorite fall standby, Pumpkin Pie. I paid for the cone first, plunking down just $2.75, and I had to ask twice since I didn’t think I heard him right. When is the last time you’ve paid so little for an ice cream cone? Certainly not in a dozen years or more.
Then I was ushered politely down the line to the scoopers. When the server pulled out a basic cake cone I was a bit disappointed preferring instead a brown sugar or waffle cone.
She scraped down into the ice cream freezer and pulled out a well mounded scoop sticking it off center which I thought was a bit odd, then went back in and scooped another, then another, creating a three scoop triangular base before adding a fourth scoop on top.
She handed it to me and I wondered if it would stay together, but she was a master of scoopology and quite frankly it was a work of art.
I walked over to the side and photographed it out of sheer amazement. As for the taste, wow, it had to be some of the best ice cream I have ever had in my whole life. The smooth rich flavor of pumpkin was laced with bits of crust, and at that moment I understood that they used the cake cone to allow the ice cream to shine. It was now a race to finish my cone before the flashers on my car gave out or 30 minutes whichever came first. As I worked through the dessert I noticed the giant silver scoop mounted on the wall some ten feet high, and tried to convince myself that given enough time I could eat through a helping like that.
I left this experience fully satisfied and with a smile on my face. Now if I can just convince one or more of my sons to go to college here I’ll have a great excuse to visit this mecca of ice cream more often.
Located at the corner of Bigler and Curtin roads on the University Park Campus. Parking is available in the East Deck Parking Garage on Bigler Road located directly behind the Creamery Store and the Food Science Building. The first 30 minutes are FREE.