Simply perusing the creative flavor offerings of Susanna's Ice Cream is enough to make one suspect that Rhode Island Monthly may have been onto something when naming the Middletown farm-based Susanna's Ice Cream the "Best Ice Cream" in Rhode Island for 2010. Taste one of the creamy flavors and there is little room for disagreement—this has got to be the best ice cream our state has to offer.
Sue Williams, proprietor of Susanna's Ice Cream at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, is full of kinetic energy that seems appropriate for someone who spends her days crafting mouthwatering ice creams and sorbets. We caught up with Sue at the Coastal Grower's Market, just over the bridge at Casey Farm in North Kingstown, where her tall frame could be seen frequently darting across the market as she ran to grab a specific flavor from the freezer to fulfill a customer's request.
Free samples of a new flavor Sue is perfecting—crème fraiche with fresh blueberries-- were available for taste testing. As she scoops samples she requests feedback, "Tell me what you think—I didn't cook the blueberries as I might normally do; I just picked them off the bushes yesterday and wanted to keep the fresh flavor." Customers seemed pleased with the fresh blueberry innovation, having only positive things to say. Sue explained, "I often test my new flavors at the market before producing them in larger quantities."
The blueberry bushes Sue refers to are those at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, where her kitchen is located. Susanna's Ice Cream is made with fresh fruit and other local ingredients whenever possible. While a handful of flavors are available year round (such as French Vanilla Bean, Ginger, and Salted Caramel Swirl), an abundance of unique flavors turn up on the menu throughout the year, created from and inspired by the flavors of the season. Right now, customers can enjoy a refreshing blueberry sorbet, a smooth and rich strawberry ice cream, and many more exotic flavors such as Louisiana Banana—bananas roasted with brown sugar and butter with a splash of dark rum, an ice cream take on the New Orleans original Banana Foster.
Only a few days ago, Susanna and her husband, Herb, were at the Providence Performing Arts Center receiving the distinction of best ice cream in Rhode Island. When I asked how she was notified, Sue laughed, "well, about a month ago we received a cryptic letter from RI Monthly, saying 'Congratulations! You've won! Come to the ceremony to find out what you've won!'" She assumed it would be for some niche category—like best ice cream in Middletown made with bananas—which was certainly exciting, but Sue was totally amazed to find out they were being honored as the best ice cream in Rhode Island.
"As we would say in Britain, I'm chuffed." Seeing my look of puzzlement, Sue, originally from England, obligingly offered a translation. "I'm pleased and proud. During these 80 hour weeks of 90 degree temperatures in the kitchen, the validation feels good."
Visit Sweet Berry Farm to try some of Rhode Island's best ice cream for yourself! Susanna's Ice Cream is available in the freezer case at the Farm's Market, which is open daily from 8am-7pm.