Soft-serve is sometimes called “American ice cream” abroad. The constant machine churning required reflects the abundance of resources and optimism for technology found in this country.
Most soft-serve is a chemical-laden swirl in which you barely can taste the difference between chocolate and vanilla. There are precious few places that do more. Red’s Dairy Freeze is one of the best. (It is not to be confused with the famous lobster roll slinger, Red’s Eats, up the coast. This Red’s actually opened a year earlier, and it serves no lobster.)
Just South of Portland on the way to Shore Road, the little drive-up dessert stand offers sundaes, malts, and sprinkled toppings for airy, whipped cream-like soft-serve. Concretes, aka Blizzards, here are re-Christened “nor’easters” in accord with regional dialect. The most famous item here is a poorly guarded secret menu selection: the Boston shake.
The Boston shake is like a Boston cream pie as interpreted by a soft-serve stand: a large cup of creamy white vanilla soft serve floated into a chocolate malt, topped with a final glazing of hot fudge. The result is very chocolatey and very sweet. Some turn it up another degree by substituting chocolate soft-serve for vanilla, adding another layer of cocoa. That seems like madness to us … chocolate madness.
We prefer the refreshing qualities of seasonal soft-serve flavors. Black raspberry is lavender color, allowing vanilla-cream notes to emerge through the sweet berry flavor. Red’s fruit soft-serves avoid the artificiality that plagues most others. We just missed the famous strawberry, which attracts local fanaticism in June. It is made only with fresh strawberries while they are in season.
Mint-chocolate is darker than normal chocolate soft-serve much richer in chocolate flavor as well. It is nicely mellowed by the lingering tingle of spicy cool mint. It reminds us of an Andes after dinner mint.
Maine copes stoically with long winters, but the sunny spring day that Red’s Dairy Freeze opens each season provides a glimmer of hope that summer is indeed coming once again.