The innovators, hidden gems and old-school icons behind our maple, cows and creemees
In late March 2021, 79-year-old Bob Saffi -- more commonly known in Burlington as “Ice Cream Bob” -- stood beside a flatbed train in the Burlington rail yard, pondering his nineteenth summer selling ice cream. Saffi’s green and butter-yellow clapboard kiosk, Ice Cream Bob’s, had recently been uprooted and transferred -- intact, but with shutters closed -- from its eighteen-year fixed location on Burlington’s waterfront bike path to a nondescript spot in the rail yard, marked by wiry brambles and the detritus of construction projects past. The bare maple trees still signaled “stick season.”
Saffi has since retired, but few stories better symbolize the appreciation Vermonters have for ice cream -- both for the obvious pleasure of a cone, and as the ideal lens for showcasing a few things the state does best: community, dairy, and a unique combination of traditional and offbeat artisanship.
Maple farmers at Palmer Lane Maple spin their amber syrup with dairy from fourth-generation farmers at Kingdom Creamery. At a community pool in Winooski, Offbeat Creemee creates plant-based ice creams for a dedicated following, in flavors like soft-serve coffee cardamom and bright lemon meringue pie. An Instagram account called @idreamofcreemees searches for the best Vermont ice cream statewide. Stuck In Vermont, a popular YouTube channel from Burlington’s alt weekly, Seven Days, features a multi-part creemee tour. We haven’t yet mentioned Ben & Jerry’s. (Stay tuned: Jerry will make a cameo.)