You don't have to live in Cincinnati to know that Graeter's makes incredible ice cream. Back in 2002, Oprah proclaimed it "absolutely the best ice cream I've ever tasted." Since then their fourth-generation business exploded, and they now have locations in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and ship nationwide.
We love Graeter's for the extremely creamy consistency they get by using a high-fat buttermilk and whole-egg base that is folded as it freezes for an incredibly dense finish (see our Behind the Scenes feature for details). Ripe seasonal fruit and scores of chocolate and nuts infuse massive amounts of flavor, making sure that neither sugar nor fat trump the featured ingredient.
While Oprah's favorited Butter Pecan and their signature Black Raspberry Chip have most often been given the spotlight, they make a whole slew of flavors to target a pretty wide variety of palates. And since Ohio (and much of the rest of the country) seems to be in the midst of a heat wave without end, we grabbed five flavors that scream summer and double dipped (sometimes five times over) to help you figure out which to snag on blistering summer days and steamy summer nights.
Locals wait all year for this seasonal favorite, which "tastes like biting into a juicy, fresh peach." We couldn't get enough of it, with chunks of fruit and an overall incredibly pungent flavor. And while it definitely has Graeter's creamy mouth feel, it also has just the hint of a peach's fuzz in texture, which coats the mouth a tad but doesn't overwhelm or pucker. And the flavor lingers pleasantly, making you rather quickly want another bite.
Banana Chocolate Chip
"Wow, that's a lot of banana," was often the reaction to this one, which many have a hard time if you go appearance alone. It's got a lot of super-sweet banana flavor—like one gone to the very furthest point of ripening—so much so that it smells really fruity too, which we loved. The chocolate chips are only lightly speckled throughout, making some of us wish for those big chunks of chocolate that sometimes surprise with their signature chip version. If you're a nut for bananas you'll adore this straight, but if it's the combo of banana and chocolate that slays, go for a double and layer it with a bit of classic chocolate.
Everyone who tried this emitted a bit of a happy exclamation. It is the most textured of those we tried, with crunchy little blueberries and pieces of pie crust that offer a really pleasant contrast to the creaminess of the ice cream. Blueberry and pastry flavors both permeate through, so altogether it truly does taste like blueberry pie or "the awesomeness of pastry and berry that gets smushed in a scone." It's a rather grown-up flavor that food-forward kids will appreciate too.
It's been nasty hot in Ohio recently, and heat waves have been overwhelming large parts of the country in general. Which is exactly when you want to grab this sorbet. The citrus flavor is completely present and just enough sugar is added to completely wipe out tartness without making it cloyingly sweet, so we really dug the balance. It's smooth for a sorbet, but also gives off just a tad of crystallization in the texture, making it reminiscent of a super-smooth Italian ice. And when it got a little drippy and melted, it made some of us reminisce on the frozen lemonades they sell on the beach, which always seem to magically cool you off just at the point when you're about to become your own puddle.
We had to try this one simply for the way it looks, which is probably what they're going for. It has a potent smell of marshmallow, and tastes much of the same—meaning that it's super sweet. Tiny sprinkles are evenly spread throughout but are a bit too small for chomping, so they sort of melt in your mouth and add a second sugary flavor rather than a second texture. While our grown-up taste buds concluded that we couldn't eat an entire serving of it, we all concurred that it would be perfect for someone with a raging sweet tooth or the entirety of our collected tiny relatives.