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The first creemee I had from Sama’s Cafe in Middlebury was well over twenty years ago.  It was called Lyon’s place at the time.  While the names have changed a number of times since that first creemee, the consistent quality and affordable prices have remained.  In the summertime Sama’s is a gathering place for the entire community.  There’s a rhythm to the flow of customers; college students in the early afternoon, little league teams in the early evening post-game, couples and families after dinner.  The Sama’s creemee is the perfect punctuation to a summer evening.  Whether you are taking one for the road or relaxing on their patio drawing out the last remaining hours before dusk, it has a way of slowing down time.

Setting

Middlebury’s not a big town, yet Sama’s has a feeling of being out of the way, a fact I appreciate in a creemee stand.  In August you my well sit for five or ten minutes without a car driving by.  The seating area offers benches and tables if you are in the mood to sit and savor.  A short walk will take you to the falls of Otter Creek, Main Street shops or Middlebury College if you are in the mood to amble.  Having those options is something I’ve always appreciated about Sama’s.  Most creemee stands are either in the middle of nowhere or lack good seating.

Offerings and Price

$2.00 for a small and 25 cents for sprinkles.

Creemee Review

We opted for the vanilla-chocolate swirl with chocolate sprinkles.  Naturally that produced a chocolate dominated creemee, but the vanilla wasn’t completely lost.  The chocolate flavor was a rich mocha which was punctuated by the sweet chocolatey sprinkles.  The small at Sama’s is a pretty good size, definitely making this a good bang for your buck purchase.  The sprinkle coating was perfect.

Located at 54 College Street in downtown Middlebury, the Creemee window at Sama’s is open from 11-8 Sunday through Friday and open until 8:30 on Saturdays. 

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Mints in tins really seemed to take off in the late nineties when Altoids introduced their wintergreen flavor.  All of a sudden it seemed like mints were everywhere, knocking Certs (do they even still make those?) and lifesavers off of the prime candy aisle placement next to the gum.  Riding this expanded interest in fresh breath, VerMints grew from making only peppermint mints, to a solid line of delicious little mouth fresheners.  I don’t remember what the first flavor I had was, but I do remember thinking that it was pretty cool that a local company was making something that competed with a titan like Altoids.

By now I’ve tried most of the VerMints flavors, but keep coming back to ginger.  The ginger flavor is noticeable as soon as you pop it in your mouth, but it’s refined and a balanced spice. The flavor builds the more you suck on the mint or if you bite it in half.  It’s a really pleasant true ginger flavor, a bit like sucking on a piece of crystalized ginger (sans sugar) or a ginger chew.  One mint will change the taste in your mouth, two will guarantee fresh breath.

Verdict: A terrific, flavorful mint. 

We found these mints on sale at TJ Maxx of all places.  The tins lists them as “Distributed by , VerMints, Inc. Burlington, Vermont.” You can follow VerMints on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Here are some ideas of what to do with your empty tins.

I get frustrated by companies who don’t list where their products are made.  Labeling your product “Distributed by” or “Made for” gives the impression that A) you’re not making the product yourself B) that your product might not be made in Vermont.  I understand that for some products contracting out production makes sense, but if it is made here, why the ambiguity of using either of these phrases? 

The beauty of the creemee lies in its simplicity.  A swirled, soft ice cream in a plain little cone.  That’s it, nothing complicated or grandiose, just simple good creemee finished with a crunch as you nibble the cone.  The Sapbucket isn’t so pure that we’ll only devour creemees unadorned, but by and large that’s our preference.  It helps that there haven’t been too many advances in creemee technology in the 21st Century.  We’ll allow for the occasional sprinkles, maybe a dip once in a while, but never the flavor infusions that tip the edges of the creeemees with wild colors and dubious flavors.  If someone does offer an innovative approach on the creemee, the Sapbucket will give it a try, but we always approach with suspicion.

Which brings us to our next stop on the Creemee Crusade, Cookie Love‘s Love Shack in North Ferrisburgh.  They’ve been serving up their creemees for a while, and we’ve been hearing reviews yet never had the chance to stop.  Always seem to be heading by just after they’ve closed or without time to stop.  If you aren’t familiar with Cookie Love they make some damned delicious cookies, which can be found in both their prenatal and hatched stages.  So the obvious draw for Cookie Love creemee is a creemee rolled in cookie chunks.

Setting

Cookie Love is in on Route 7 in North Ferrisburgh.  It shares a parking lot with the town Post Office.  You’re coming here for the delicious cookies, cookie dough or creemees, not so much for the view.  There’s a picnic table if you don’t want to risk bits of cookie falling off your creemee and into your lap.  Which is probably bound to happen anyway, you just won’t veer into oncoming traffic while trying to save those bits of cookie.

Offerings and Price

Chocolate, Vanilla and Mixed creemees, with your choice of cookie topping.  A small topped with cookie rang up at $3.75, which is higher than your average creemee.  But remember, this one has a COOKIE on it.

Creemee Review

All of our preconceptions about creemee additions melted once we saw the Cookie Love creemee in person.  Look at that thing.  You’re probably salivating just checking out those giant cookie chunks.  We’ll we didn’t look for very long before diving in, and man was it good.  The chunks nestled nicely into the creemee allowing for good bites of both creemee and cookie.  We opted for their “Puppy Love” cookie topping (peanut butter chocolate chip) and that added another dimension to our chocolate-vanilla swirled creemee.  We veered from our normal creemee eating style to gobble up all the chunks before they fell off.  In some ways it felt like we were eating two deserts, creemee and cookie and then a smallish creemee as well.  We certainly didn’t mind.

So if you didn’t get the memo, Celia Saison is not Heady Topper.  That’s certainly not a shocker and really, anyone that buys this beer based on the hype of brews produced by the Alchemist alone is bound to be disappointed, no matter what comes out of the bottle.  But for those that had a chance to drink a beer or two at the Alchemist before Irene washed it away, you know that this beer is at the other end of the spectrum from the start.  Take away a brewers core ingredients and you’re bound to see them produce a very different product than what you are used to seeing.

Unfortunately Celia Saison doesn’t seem to stand up even when you give it a pass on it being a gluten free beer.  It feels like a puzzle with the pieces incorrectly jammed together so they fit, but form an unrecognizable picture.  The orange peel is distinct and pleasant enough and you can tell that this is generally a beer in the saison family, but other than that it’s just off.  After the orange the taste is overly medicinal and pretty off-putting.

The first batch of this beer was pulled off the shelves when Alchemist brewer John Kimmich didn’t feel it was up to standards.  I’m not saying this batch should have been recalled, but I’d wager a guess and say that this beer isn’t up to the standards of what most folks expect from the Alchemist, gluten free or not.  Here are a couple of other takes on it from the beer geeks at Beer Advocate and Steve Greenlee at the Boston Globe.

Verdict: If you’re a beer geek, stick to Heady Topper.  If you’ve got celiac disease, stick to cider.  

Actually brewed in Ipswich, Massachusetts, we decided to review this beer anyway.  

Parked at the edge of Battery Bark in downtown Burlington, Beansie’s Bus has served as a local landmark for decades.  The arrival of spring in Burlington is marked by the scent of fried foods wafting from the bus through the air of local neighborhoods.  Reliably serving up Michigan’s, fries and creemees to amblers, concert goers, families, and the occasionally aggressive seagulls that call Burlington’s waterfront home, Beansie’s bus encapsulates many great things about the creemee experience.  Your four major categories of creemee locations are: creemee stand,  gas station, creemee window at a dining establishment and creemee stand on wheels.  This last category is a particular favorite of the Sapbucket because you know the purveyors are working their butts off in a sweltering tin can and the creemee is likely to be great.  Plus, eating a creemee served from a bus was cool before anyone had ever coined the term food truck.

Setting

Battery Park and a spectacular view of Lake Champlain are the backdrop for your creemee experience.  Park benches for everyone, swings for kids, room for dogs to romp and couples to stroll, there’s something for all here.  Plus, with Beanse’s proximity to the Burlington Police Department, you can easily take care of any parking tickets or moving violations you’ve accrued in the Queen City.

Customers

Folks from the neighborhood, tourists, families, children.

Offerings

Chocolate, Vanilla, Swirl

Creemee Review

A good representation of your basic vanilla creemee.  Dense, tightly swirled creemee that fills up the majority of the cone.  The small will last you a loop or so around the park.  Good vanilla creemee flavor and crunch to the cone.  Creemees purchased later in the day generally seem to be fresher and are less likely to have any hint of “soggy” cone from being part of a sleeve opened the night before.

Berry season is almost upon us.  That means quarts and pints chockfull of strawberries and blueberries that disappear before you’re home from the market.  For those berries that survive the car ride home, their destination is often a starring role in a crisp, buckle or grunt.  There’s no better companion to fresh berries or a baked berry dessert than vanilla ice cream.  The Sapbucket recently did a taste comparison of two of Vermont’s finest purveyors of frozen dairy products.

Islands Ice Cream French Vanilla – The ice cream was a white-cream color with small flecks of vanilla bean throughout.  There’s no fooling that this is a milky ice cream.  It’s delightfully rich and thick, coating your mouth in a wonderful way.   That leaves the taste of sweet, vanilla creamy milk lingering as you contemplate whether you want another scoop.

Leonardo’s Vanilla Bean Gelato – The gelato has a yellowy cream color with flecks of vanilla bean size of freshly ground pepper.  The vanilla flavor jumps out at you from the first taste and is prevalent in every bite.  The gelato was slightly icier and sugary than the ice cream, but I describe those characteristics only to distinguish the two.  It was similarly rich and delicious, the perfect companion to a berry dessert.

Verdict: Two tremendous vanilla options for a summer brimming with opportunity for dessert. 

Made in Grand Isle, Island Ice Cream is available throughout Franklin, Chittenden and Grand Isle counties.  Leonardo’s Gelato is made in Barre, and is sold at locations throughout central and northern Vermont.  Like Island Ice Cream on Facebook here and like Leonardo’s on Facebook here.  

An under appreciated aspect of the Vermont beer scene is the incredible affordability and availability of growlers.  By and large you can snag them at breweries in all sorts of shapes and sizes with the added bonus of being able to try before you buy.  In recent years retail operations began getting in on the business, with Hunger Mountain Co-Op doing weekly fills on Thursday afternoons and Pearl Street Beverage installing a growler bar with rotating taps.  One would hope the popularity of these retail offerings will spread further.  I’d hazard a guess that since it won’t last more than a day or two most customers don’t just buy a growler and run.  Rather they browse the shelves for new bottles or pick up a few items for dinner.

It wasn’t until a holiday trip that I realized how good we have it in Vermont.  Stopping at a beer house restaurant for a quick beer my jaw dropped when I saw the growler list.  The prices were staggering, ranging from $20 to $40 for beers that in Vermont would set you back roughly $8 to $12.  Good beer isn’t hard to find, but good beer at bargain prices is something to celebrate.

On a recent Thursday at Hunger Mountain we grabbed a growler of the Trapp Dunkel.  I had my hopes on another offering, but as is true with some many things in life, if you snooze you lose.  The high profile and rare beers are long gone towards six o’clock, but I was still more than happy to grab my growler and head on the way.  Pouring the beer into a glass later showed of the beer’s deep chestnut brown color. The nose has a great roasted malt flavor and while the beer is on the darker side it has a thirst quenching quality.  It’s a crisp and bright beer with a light sweetness on the finish.

Verdict: A delicious dunkel at a bargain price. 

Brewed in Stowe, we’re thrilled when Hunger Mountain Co-Op features beers from the Brewery at the Trapp Family lodge.  Follow them on Twitter @TrappFamily and like them on Facebook