5 Ice Cream Shops Worth The Visit

Okay, I admit it: I love ice cream. So sue me. I'd rather eat it than sip a fancy merlot, eat hoity-toity food, or swill back a couple of cold ones. At times, I try and sneak some out of the freezer before dinner, a habit of which my wife is quite adept at discovering. The telltale signs of drops on my t-shirt or the bit I didn't quite clean at the corners of my mouth are dead giveaways. When I'm subjected to her skilled prosecution, I usually break under the cross-examination.

Still, my theory is that I am not alone and that there are millions of you out there who have the same obsession. Along with magazines like Cigar Aficionado, why isn't there an Ice Cream Aficionado? Well, I for one am going to do my part by revealing my all-time top five list. The downside? You might have to spend a small fortune to travel to some of these places and put on a few pounds in the process, but how can you put a price on memories like these?

#5 Leopold's Ice Cream, Savannah, Georgia
I knew there was something special about this Savannah ice cream hot spot when I first walked in. There's a black marble soda fountain, wooden telephone booth, and a bunch of movie props lining the walls. As it turns out, one of the current owners is a big-time producer from Hollywood who, like me, happens to love ice cream.

The Leopold family has been making homemade ice cream and sauces from scratch since 1919. All of their flavors are made from top secret recipes in small batches. Legend has it that their Tutti Frutti flavor was the inspiration for the song of the same name by Johnny Mercer, a loyal customer of Leopold's. Their chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge was, well, heaven. Do you suppose they will have ice cream there by the way? Who knows, but this is as close as you will get here on earth.

#4 Moomers Homemade Ice Cream, Traverse City, Michigan
Voted the Best Ice Cream Shop in America by the viewers of Good Morning America, Moomers is located just outside of town and worth the drive. Started by a first-grade teacher in 1998, this family business now serves more than 120 flavors and has lines queuing up in the summertime for their cold, creamy confections. My favorite was the Cherries Moobilee, made with black cherry ice cream, chocolate fudge, cherries, and bits of chocolate brownie — not for the calorie conscious faint of heart, I admit, but then, I am a professional!

#3 Graeter's Cincinnati, Various Locations
I first heard about Graeter's while in Cincinnati on a press visit. The downtown area was in full Oktoberfest mode and awash with people. Somebody mentioned the name Graeter's as being the best ice cream on the planet, and from then on, I wanted to try it.

I could actually see the Fountain Square location while covering the Running of the Wieners event but couldn't break free to get to it. Alas, it wasn't to be, at least in Cincinnati.

But as fortune would have it, my local Fort Collins, Colorado store carried it in pint-sized containers. I hurriedly bought some Chocolate Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip, ran in the door of my house, blew past my wife without so much as a hello and shoved a heaping tablespoon in my pie hole. Glorious! If they had this stuff to use as a bargaining chip, I'm sure many wars could be averted.

Graeter's was started in 1870 by a family that emigrated from Bavaria. Today, they still use the French pot method of making each lot in small batches. My first batch came laden with a chunk of chocolate that was about the size of a small candy bar. No skimping here.

#2 Hotel-Restaurant Lej da Staz, St. Moritz, Switzerland
My second choice is located in Switzerland. Here's what you do: First, hop on a plane to Zurich. Then, take a train up into the mountains via Swiss Rail and to the budget-friendly town of St. Moritz (yeah, right). Next, hire a local horse-drawn carriage to take you past the trees, along the lake and all the way to Grandmother's house. Okay, forget Grandma. Just go to Lake Staz and the Lej da Staz.

This is really a nice bed and breakfast with 10 rooms and a restaurant. I ate dinner there one night along with a group of other travel writers. After suffering through the wine appetizer and entrees (Feel sorry for me?) most were stuffed to the gills. When dessert came, they served vanilla ice cream along with pie. The creamy white concoction was enough to jolt us all out of their post meal malaise.

Yes, I know, it was just vanilla ice cream, but everyone came to life and was asking about how they made it. Was there some special recipe? Maybe the milk was unique? All I can say is that they must have happy cows there and this one was the stuff dreams are made of. My only regret was that I didn't ask for some sort of takeout container where I could have prolonged the experience in the privacy of my hotel room.

#1 DandE's, Ambergis Caye, Belize
My top choice is a tiny little hole in the wall in Ambergis Caye, Belize. It was a hot day and the name DandE's caught my curiosity. "Care for a taste?" asked the lady with a wicked little smile behind the counter as she held out a little spoon with a sample. 'Looks ordinary' I thought, as I slipped it into my mouth.

I'm sure at that moment my pupils must have dilated and a previously unknown part of my brain designed just for taste moments like this suddenly came alive. "What is this?" I asked excitedly. "Soursop," she replied, handing me another sample.

'So, this is how addictions are born,' I mused, as I handed her money while ordering their largest size of this flavor, made from the fruit of an evergreen tree native to the Caribbean. Here at DandE's (named after the owners), they also make custards and sorbets. The custard is made with eggs, sugar, and cream, and when combined with their special recipes and flavors, the final product is smooth and creamy with the consistency of butter.

Other favorites here include double rich chocolate, black cherry, coconut, mango, and many others. This one is worth the flight to Belize and the trip to Ambergis Caye. I guess while you are there you can also enjoy the beach, water, and laid back atmosphere.

Maybe my love for ice cream is a nostalgia thing? I remember eagerly waiting to hear the odd, slightly distorted sound of music coming down the street, a sure sign that the ice cream chap in his van was on his way. My biggest decision of the day back then was whether or not to order a multi-flavored bomb Popsicle or a banana split bar with cherry and banana flavored ice cream. Now, do I head to the store for a pint of Graeter's or hop on a plan to Belize?