BAR HARBOR, Maine — Finding ice cream in this town is easy; nearly every downtown store and restaurant sells it. To narrow the choices, I invited some friends for a tasting party. These are our favorites:
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium: An oversized lobster holding an ice cream cone welcomes customers to Ben & Bill’s, which has achieved renown for its lobster ice cream, made with chunks of buttered lobster meat. We perused options including macadamia coconut, chocolate tsunami, pecan pie, and root beer float, and opted for buttercrunch, made with Ben & Bill’s signature buttercrunch English toffee candy, and another Maine classic, ginger. Best buttercrunch — ever. Small $4.50. 66 Main St., 207-288- 3281, www.benandbills.com
Jordan Pond Ice Cream & Fudge Shop: A sign at Jordan Pond Ice Cream says it all: “Our ice cream making philosophy is simple; use the finest, purest, and richest ingredients you can find. Heavy cream, real fruits, Swiss chocolate, real vanilla, and other natural extracts are all used in our ice cream.” We sampled blueberry, made with Maine wild blueberries sourced from Wymans of Maine, and Kahlua chip, made not with Kahlua but with Allen’s coffee brandy, which gave it a Maine twist. Both were good, but the blueberry truly shined. Small $4.65.
45 Main St., 207-288-2422, www.acadiashops.com
Mount Desert Island Ice Cream: MDI hasn’t been around all that long, but it’s earned kudos far beyond Maine for its ultra creamy ice cream in ultra creative flavors. MDI crafts its ice cream in small batches, sourcing milk and cream from Maine’s Own Organic Milk Co., and making flavorings by hand. Those flavors can get wild: blackstrap banana, treacle tart, coriander raspberry streusel, cinnamon cardamom, bay of figs, and Vietnamese coffee. We opted for salted butterscotch (oh my!) and stout with fudge. Small $3.95. 325 Main St., 207-801-4006, and 7 Firefly Lane, 207-801- 4007,
West End Drug Store: In the land of $4-$5 ice cream, the fountain at this downtown independent pharmacy, owned by the same family since it opened in 1917, is a reprieve. It’s an especially welcome one for parents who want to make the kids happy but don’t want to blow the budget. The seven flavors come from Gifford’s, one of Maine’s favorite ice cream makers, so the quality is excellent. And besides, you can sit at the classic counter. Go ahead, instead of a cone, indulge in an old-fashioned ice cream soda or maybe a frappe. Small $2.25. 105 Main St., 207-288-3318, www.westenddrugco.com