STORRS, Conn. -- The students at this main campus of the University of Connecticut always seem to have a reason to celebrate.
When we stopped at the UConn Dairy Bar around lunch time on a nice spring day, freshmen Natalie Hopkins, Allison Hopkins, and Julie Xistris were sharing a big dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream with crushed Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on top and another of Husky Tracks, a mixture of vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and chocolate swirls -- "Moose Tracks" to anyone other than a fan of UConn sports teams. (Extra spoons are 5 cents each.)
"We're celebrating the end of stat class," said Natalie.
"This is the best hard ice cream I've ever had anywhere," said Allison (no relation to Natalie). "Usually the line is out the door."
Sitting outside at a picnic table near the red barn of the landscape program, seniors Emily Butterfield and Rachel Fazio were soaking in the sun.
"We're celebrating the last class of her undergraduate career," said Fazio as she dipped a spoon into her banana chocolate chip and gestured to her friend, who was savoring each bite of chocolate peanut butter swirl. Fazio still had a few more classes to attend, but, she admitted, "I usually come here three times a week." Having a campus dairy bar whose ice cream is made from the milk of the university's dairy cows apparently proves irresistible. "People bring their parents when they come to visit and professors bring their children."
Freshman Brie-Ann Forhecz and sophomore Will Johnson were sitting on the lawn licking ice cream cones of Oreo and cherry vanilla under a giant tree just starting to leaf out . "This is our dessert," Johnson said, "We don't need an excuse."
Added Forhecz, "It's just a nice day."
With its upbeat red, white, and black color scheme, swiveling counter stools, and classic ice cream parlor chairs pulled around tables, the UConn Dairy Bar looks as if it had been transported from the innocent days of a fabled malt-shop past. The university's creamery has been operating since the early 1900s and still uses its original recipe for making ice cream. The dairy bar operation began in the early '50s, but for all its retro look, the current incarnation dates only from 1998.
And the ice cream flavors made in the back (the whole operation is visible through a wall of windows) are thoroughly contemporary. Cherry chocolate chunk, coffee espresso crunch, toasted almond amaretto, cake batter, and red raspberry ripple have evolved a long way from the antique days of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry -- or fudge ripple for the daring. The popular Jonathan Supreme flavor, named for the school's current Husky mascot, swirls peanut butter through vanilla ice cream and studs it with chocolate-covered peanuts.
Each month, counter staff come up with a novel combination of ice creams and toppings to serve as the Sundae of the Month. April featured scoops of banana chocolate chip and strawberry ice cream with strawberry topping, hot fudge, walnuts, and whipped cream.
Counter man Dan Dzurec , a freshman, helps make the ice cream most weeks. "I'm just part of the assembly line," he demurred. "We'll get in here at 8:30 and we're done by 4:30 or 5." Fellow staffer Michelle Boisvert , a senior, notes that the counter serves about 20 three-gallon tubs on an average day, and more than double that on a warm summer day.
Ice cream certainly couldn't come fresher. The cows live just up the hill and visitors are welcome to visit some of the barns where students in the agriculture programs get their hands-on training. You can also see a few head of sheep and beef cattle or stop at the horse barn where students might be taking a riding class.
But the most fitting visit is to the
Thank you, Verna, Lucy and Abbey, Ariella, Devine and Delilah, Tessa, Daphne and Jolt.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon, freelance writers based in Cambridge, can be reached at harris.lyon@verizon .net.