It is a fact that New England has the best ice cream in the nation; the question is: where in New England is the best of the best? Many aficionados vote for Gray’s, a one-of-a-kind shop that has been making its own since Ms. Gray opened in the kitchen of her home here in 1923. The ice cream is grand and dignified, as opposed to the giddy, silly sorts of high-priced pints that derive their personality from mix-ins of candy bars and cookies. Gray’s myriad flavors are simple and comprehensible, including all the usuals, plus New England favorites Grape-Nuts and frozen pudding. Note especially ginger ice cream, made from real ginger root, flecks of which dot the creamy white custard. And the coffee ice cream gets honored with “best of” awards year after year. It is an endearing kind of coffee flavor, creamy and just sweet enough, robust but not overcaffeinated or bitter.
Indeed, Rhode Islanders love all manner of coffee-flavored creamery concoctions, ranging from the ubiquitous “coffee milk” to Gray’s luscious coffee cabinet. Coffee milk is like chocolate milk, but made with coffee syrup instead of chocolate. A cabinet is Rhode Islandese for a foamy blend of milk, syrup, and ice cream – known elsewhere as a milk shake; here at Gray’s, order a coffee milk shake and you get coffee milk, i.e., nothing but milk and coffee syrup. Got that?