St. Joachim Diner and Big Scoop Ice Cream Parlour

2744 County Road 42, Lakeshore, 519-728-0919
Date visited: July 10

Located in the hamlet of St. Joachim in what used to be the Country Boy restaurant, the Big Scoop Ice Cream Parlour is situated at the rear of this diner. On our visit early on a Sunday afternoon, we entered a large dimly-lit space with a small ice cream bar tucked into one end.

The freezer holds 16 flavours of Nestle ice cream and a menu board offers a variety of specialties, including milkshakes and floats, slushes and sundaes. The servers double as wait staff for the diner, but appeared promptly to wait on us.

The Big Scoop name was well-earned. We each had a baby cone that was as big as a single any place else. The baby cone was $2.65, a single is $2.95 and a double is $3.65. The parlour does not stock sugar cones and serves flat-bottomed stubby cones.

We tried a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and the orange-licorice blend Tiger Tiger. Both were fine and as mentioned above, the portions were large. There were plenty of round wooden tables in the restaurant and a bench in the shade alongside the building overlooking the parking lot.

About a 40-minute drive from our downtown Windsor home, St. Joachim isn’t really a destination we will hit too often. It is on the way to Rochester Place golf course; we made the most of our afternoon with a walk through the Ruscom Shores Conservation Area.

Bottom line: The ice cream definitely seems like an afterthought to the much larger diner, and the dark tavern interior did not strike us as conducive to a family atmosphere. If we hadn’t been looking specifically for a site in the county’s north east corner, we could have given this a pass.

Marta’s notes: “It was awesome. I liked the variety of flavours they had.”

Freddy’s Park Stop

655 Point Pelee Drive, Leamington, 519-325-1257
Date visited: July 3

Freddy’s Park Stop is the last place to get ice cream before Point Pelee national park. It offers 32 flavours of Breyer’s hard pack as well as frozen yogurt, sundaes and other specialties, and is adjacent to a full-menu licensed restaurant with standard pub fare and a few dishes reflecting the Lebanese origins of the owners.

Breyer’s, like many ice cream manufacturers, has an unfortunate tendency towards the more-is-more school of design. The all-natural line it flogs in grocery stores features simple clean flavours like strawberry, butter almond, or four varieties of vanilla. For commercial service, though, it leans heavily on gimmicks: a lot of goo-filled chocolate cups with names like Hokey Pokey and Caramel Turtle. The further we get into this project, the less patience I have for these “loaded” flavours.

When in Rome, though, so we ordered Caramel Caribou – toffee ice cream with caramel ribbon and chocolate caramel cups – and Raspberry Bugaboo – black raspberry ice cream with fudge ripple and raspberry filled chocolate cups. I don’t know what I was expecting, but these were some over-sweet candy-crammed ice creams. Marta loved hers of course.

On the plus side, the servings were reasonably proportioned at $2.30 for a single cone. A double costs $3.20 and an upgrade to a waffle cone, waffle cup or sugar cone tacks on an extra 99 cents. Now waffle cones and cups hold more ice cream, so a premium is expected, but a buck more for a sugar cone is unconscionable. Nine weeks in, Freddy’s was the first place I didn’t spring for the sugar cone.

The setting is memorable, though – across the street from Lake Erie and from a public playground, Freddy’s makes the most of its location with a patio boasting a number of tables with comfortable chairs and big sun-screening umbrellas.

Bottom line: Freddy’s Park Stop is worth a stop after a hot day on the beach at Point Pelee and appears popular with its core clientele of cottagers.

Marta’s notes: I liked the ice cream and I liked being able to look at the water.

Ice Cream Festival

Toddy Jones Park, Amherstburg
Date visited: July 1

We couldn’t let the fourth annual Amherstburg Ice Cream Festival go unmentioned, especially since this year’s edition featured the most ice cream yet. The event is held Canada Day in Toddy Jones Park on the south end of Fort Malden and spills onto the fort grounds.

Previous years we had been disappointed in the number of vendors actually offering ice cream as opposed to candles or kettle corn, but this year there were a full seven varieties of frozen treat to choose from, and we sampled several.

We skipped the Dairy Treat soft ice cream truck on the grounds that all soft ice cream pretty much tastes the same. Marta can’t pass up a Hawaiian Ice, though, and she opted for a rainbow striped cup of lime, orange and blue raspberry. For $3, it’s shaved ice with brightly-coloured flavoured syrup – an upscale snow-cone. It’s only once a year, so what the heck? She liked it.

Dad tries some Nucelli's while Marta finishes her Hawaiian Ice.

Next up, some Nucelli’s Frozen Yogurt. Again, not strictly ice cream, but we weren’t in the mood to be particular. A cup of Strawberry-Chocolate set us back $3.50.

Gennaro’s gelato was offering $4 and $5 cups. This Italian specialty is denser than American ice creams, with typically richer flavours. We settled for a couple of taste spoons, sampling the Hazelnut and Limoncello. Both were terrific, with the not-too-sweet taste we want from gelato. Kudos to Enzo Palumbo, who was on hand that day, serving up the gelato he crafts himself in his Via Italia cafĂ©.

After taking some time to enjoy the live entertainment, we came back to try the cups from Cold Stone Creamery. In Windsor-Essex, this high-end product is available at certain Tim Hortons locations, including the one in Amherstburg which organized the tent at the festival. The big draw to these super-ultra premium (with concomitant pricing!) specialties is supposed to be the experience: trained ice cream ninjas blend in expensive exotic extra ingredients on a frozen slab made of pure amethyst or somesuch. Suffice it to say this experience did not translate to an outdoors festival. “Here’s our freezer, here’s your cup of basic ice cream.” Our party tried Cake Batter and Apple Fritter, $4 each for a small. The latter is specially formulated to mimic a Tim Hortons apple fritter doughnut. Opinions varied on the former, some claiming to taste just sugar and others noting a distinct flavour of cake batter.

Besides serving its signature crepes, the Cottam-based Crepe Temptations offered small cones of Mapleton’s Organics ice cream. We ordered a couple of grown-up flavours: Ginger and Cappuccino. By this point in the day, our taste buds should have been jaded, but these final cones were the highlights. Rich and creamy, packed with flavour, the Mapleton’s ice cream was everything we were looking for. The fact that it’s organic and produced on a family farm in Ontario is just a bonus. At just $2 (for an admittedly small cone), it was the best deal of the day. I wonder how much it costs at the shop?

Even at the Ice Cream Festival you need a break from all that sweet. How about a Honking Big Pickle on a Stick (actual name)? Marta ended up eating two.

Cow and Cluck

333 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, 519-903-1055
Date visited: June 27

We decided to break our Sunday routine to visit Cow and Cluck on a Monday, on our way to the Summerfest fireworks show on the Detroit River. We had been curious; Cow and Cluck is an atypical outlet, offering streetfront window service. On fireworks night, there were a few tables and chairs set up on the sidewalk outside.

The menu lists 16 flavours and says they’re all Chapman’s premium ice cream, but I’m not sure this specialty line actually offers that many, so presumably some were regular Chapman’s. There is a notable difference in quality, though. The premium line was distinctly less airy than I’m used to from Chapman’s.

We tried a cone each of Black Cherry and Mocha Almond Fudge. Both were good, although Marta noted of hers that “it was mocha-y and almondy, but not very fudgy.”

A single will set you back $2.90, a double $3.50 and a triple $4.90; a single in a sugar cone is $3.40 and a waffle cone is $3.90. Cow and Cluck also serves smoothies, sundaes and milkshakes.

Bottom line: Located on Windsor’s main drag, adjacent to nightclubs and directly across from the Palace theatre, Cow and Cluck is a welcome addition to downtown and its window service adds a note of urban sophistication.

Marta’s notes: “I liked the ice cream and it was a really nice place.”