For elementary schoolers, summer vacation is often a time for projects. Cleaning out your room, maybe helping plant and water the garden, or learning about entrepreneurship via lemonade stand economics.
For Holliston 9-year-old Libby Stott, last summer’s project was finding the best ice cream on Cape Cod. Not such a bad self-assignment.
After deciding to undertake this mission, with help from her aunt Darby Stott and some consulting from her ice cream-loving grandfather Jon, Libby narrowed down the playing field to ice cream places primarily between Falmouth and Dennis. “Papa” Jon summers in Osterville, which served as base camp. Darby and Libby Stott created analysis sheets together for taste-testing, with key criteria to help determine important differences in the ice cream. The sheets consisted of rankings for atmosphere (1-10), service (1-10), ice cream ranking (1-10), and two additional comments sections — “what I liked” and “what I didn’t like.”
After sorting through online lists of the best ice cream parlors on the Cape and parsing word-of-mouth suggestions from others, Libby settled on six locations: Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville, Sundae School Ice Cream in Dennisport, Gone Chocolate in Osterville, The Ice Cream Smuggler in Dennis, Steve & Sue’s Par-Tee Freeze in Hyannis, and Sweet Waves Self Serve Frozen Yogurt in Mashpee.
Libby, who says she didn’t get sick of eating ice cream while testing all the competitors, is not a very harsh critic. No shop received below a “7” for its ice cream. At Four Seas, Libby liked the unique pink mint-chip, but not the long lines or lack of places to sit. At Gone Chocolate, she praised the ice cream cakes, but questioned their use of Gifford’s Ice Cream from Maine (she’s a hyperlocavore in the making). Dennis’s Ice Cream Smuggler, whose website proclaims it to be the best on Cape Cod, impressed Libby with pleasing consistency, but lost points for uncomfortable chairs. Par-Tee Freeze received high marks for offering coffee soft serve and being located next to mini golf, but lost points for slow service. And Sweet Waves, with its “kind of modern” atmosphere, had a much-appreciated self-service sundae system, but modernity failed to include tables, which Libby noted.
The cherry on top of the heap of parlors? Sundae School in Dennisport. Libby loved the “soft but not soft-serve” consistency, the comfortable booths, and college pennants used as decoration.
While explaining that this was meant to be a fun summer project, Libby’s aunt did mention a certain educational gain from conceiving and undertaking something like this, evident in Libby’s analysis sheets.
And while the project, says Darby, “wasn’t intended to get her into Harvard,” who knows what Libby’s future could bring?
Today an ice cream spreadsheet. Tomorrow an algorithm.
Four Seas Ice Cream,360 S. Main St., Centerville, 508-775-1394
Gone Chocolate, 858 Main St., Osterville, 508-420-0202
Steve & Sue’s Par-Tee Freeze, 455 W Main St., Hyannis, 508-771-3194
Sundae School Ice Cream, 381 Lower County Road, Dennisport, 508-394-9122
Sweet Waves Self Serve Frozen Yogurt, 10 Steeple St., Mashpee, 508-477-1400
The Ice Cream Smuggler, 716 Main St., Dennis, 508-385-5307
Luke Pyenson can be reached at email@example.com.