Tuesday, January 02, 2018

What's your favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor? A review of the factory tour in Vermont

Beautiful tilework floor in the entry

Ben and Jerry's is the quintessential Vermont business. Quirky, environmentally-concerned, aesthetically pleasing. I worked in the Montpelier scoop shop one summer and remember my mom taking me and my sister to the original Burlington site just after it had opened in a repurposed gas station (no longer there).

Amazing factoid: when I worked there (circa 1988), you received two free pints of seconds for every shift you worked. I ate a lot of ice cream that summer...and we'd also trade ice cream for pizza if we worked during dinner, so yeah. I didn't need the Freshman 15; I got the Summer 16. There was a little freezer of seconds we could pick from. What made them seconds was often something that made them more delicious: like, with Heath Bar Crunch, there might be too many Heath Bar chunks inside.

Less interesting factoid: my favorite flavor was one you couldn't get in a pint. Chocolate Cointreau Orange Fudge was only available in the scoop shops, because the liqueur inside rendered it too liquidy for packaging.

Ben and Jerry's started in 1978 and I'm not sure when they started offering tours of the Waterbury factory. I've been on it twice; it's fun to walk through the factory and see how the ice cream is made. Now that I live in California, I love visiting Vermont and reconnecting with things I love (like the Cold Hollow Cider Mill which is basically across the street from the Ben & Jerry's factory).

Yes, you receive a free sample of ice cream on your tour!

Besides the 30-minute tour, the grounds offer a lot. For families, there is a playground and parents can lounge in nearby Adirondack chairs to keep an eye on the kids. There's also a Flavor Graveyard which gives a bit of nostalgia for anyone who's been eating this brand for a number of decades.

For instance, I remember Tuskeegee Chunk from when I scooped. (Actually, looking at the date on this tombstone, I can determine when I worked at Ben and Jerry's: the summer of 1989).  The tombstones are real granite and each has a clever rhyme. 

(Can I mention for possible Vermont visitors that nearby Barre, Vermont, is famous for its mortuary art thanks to the incredible granite quarries that gave artisans good stone to work with? I will blog later this month with images of some of the wild tombstones and statues we saw there. #Taphophilia).

There's usually a few booths of hands-on crafts, like this spin art booth that provides a tie-dye effect with paint. 

And photo opps abound, like this pint top you can use to pretend you are Ben or Jerry.

The Vermont artist whose work graces the Ben and Jerry brand is Woody Jackson. I'm not sure if he made this particular image at the factory of a cow eating ice cream presumably made from her own effluvia, but his style is instantly recognizable.

I have to put a word in for the cider doughnuts you can buy nearby at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill donuts. They are fresh off the griddle and so tasty I could almost weep thinking about them right now. The mill also teaches about cider making and has fun wall art like this:

Thanks for accompanying me on this tour of nostalgia. Let me guess: you're going to run to the store now to get a pint of Phish Food? Get some for me too. Or: what's your favorite flavor?

 . . . .


Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun!!

Corinne said...

I am partial to Peanut Butter Cup, though there are several others I like. Can I remember the names? Of course not.

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