Editor's note: Every weekday in July, the Serious Eats editors and staff will serve up their thoughts on everything from sprinkles to soft serve. It's all the ice cream you want, with no brain freeze.
I once came very close to taking a job at an ice cream shop for the single reason that I loved, loved, loved how their waffle cones smelled, as they were being made. Would go out of my way to walk by the shop just to get an intoxicating whiff, loved. Would order a waffle cone despite it holding three times as much ice cream as I needed, loved.
This was when I was maybe 16. As a younger kid, at this particular ice cream shop, I used to wander away from parents or friends when in line for a scoop, just to walk over to the waffle cone station and watch the cone-maker, clad in a tattered baseball cap and oversized neon "Juice Bar" T-shirt, pour the batter into the waffle mold, wait, and flip. When she took it out, it'd be a thin, deep brown disk, visibly steaming and pliant enough to shape around a cone mold, or into a cup. The smell was unreal, as it emerged: somewhere between cookies baking and breakfast waffles browning, but better than either.
I imagined that that moment—when the proto-cone was soft enough to bend at will—would be the pinnacle of deliciousness. I thought a hundred times about asking for my ice cream in a waffle cup made right then, still too warm to touch; on second thought, I didn't even need the ice cream in there, did I? But little me was too shy to ask, and my fascination with those cones remained 10 years later, when my should-be-more-rational teenage self thought about getting a job just, just, to have that moment with that cone.
(In the end, I considered the absolute chaos of a town's only good ice cream shop on a summer Saturday, and the lines out the door and down the block, and chose what seemed like a calmer employment option. That backfired when I got a job at the Nantucket Nectars guys' smoothie shop, and realized that ladies-who-summer who wanted their low-carb smoothies—or maybe it was low-fat in those days?—were every bit as terrifying as ten-year-old boys demanding ice cream cones. But I digress.)
These days, I actually have trouble ordering waffle cones anywhere but the Juice Bar—even if I'm only out there once a year, the memory of the perfect waffle cone is too strong to allow me any lesser ones.
What made them so incredible? To a large extent, it's just because they were still warm from the wafflemaker. One of the greatest summer pleasures is the meltiness of a rich, creamy scoop, the slow drips encouraging you to lick faster and faster; and a waffle cone simply heightens this urgency further. (There's no better way to make myself eat twice as much ice cream as I need, than to put it in a waffle cone.) And when the ice cream is gone, and you have that brief, poignant moment of where did it go?, you realize—there's more! And the ice cream has really soaked into the cone, a cream-laden softened-cookie cone tip at the bottom, and the dessert is not over just yet.
There really are few things I love more than a few scoops of New England ice cream in a still-warm cone. Do you have a favorite waffle cone? Please, tell me where else I can get this fix.