I first tried Bellvale Farms Creamery last summer while hiking along the Appalachian Trail with some friends on a hot summer day. After bushwhacking our way up the sometimes-steep slope for a couple of hours, approaching the charming little building was like finding an oasis in the desert. A huge bucket of icy water would have tasted good at that point, but a cold, sweet ice cream cone along with impressive views of the valley wasn’t too shabby.
Since I’m not sure if my impression of the ice cream was mostly determined by exhaustion and dehydration, I decided I needed to go back and try it again, this time without the workout.
The menu list is large but not unmanageable. I was informed by another customer that the list of special flavors on the right side of the menu sign is extended throughout the summer, depending on ingredient availability. Too bad – I was looking forward to Blueberries & Creme, listed in the online menu, and I had read good things about the Apple Pie flavor as well. Still, there was no shortage of choices!
I was able to sample several flavors over the course of two visits, but most were unexceptional. For ice cream made with high quality ingredients coming from an award-winning local dairy, I was expecting an equally high quality of flavors in the actual ice cream base, but generally they fell flat and relied too heavily on added ingredients to provide the punch. I know this opinion may cause some rage amongst fans, considering that Bellvale currently has a 5-star rating on Yelp, but I honestly thought that without a bite of cookie dough or graham crackers, many of the flavors were just bland. There were a few shining stars, though, which is why I gave this place an overall rating of 3 cones.
Here’s a more detailed round-up of the flavors I tasted:
- Lick the Bowl – Cake batter ice cream with chocolate fudge: The first flavor I sampled, this tasted nothing like cake batter and I didn’t detect any fudge, either. After having great cake batter ice cream at Lula’s Sweet Apothecary in NYC, this was extremely disappointing.
- Calf Trax – Vanilla with peanut butter and chunks of peanut butter cups: I was looking forward to this one, too, but all of the peanut butter flavor came from the peanut butter cups, which even in a small sample spoon quickly became too sweet.
- Black Dirt Blast – Chocolate coffee ice cream with fudge & toffee pieces: This was an excellent flavor, but I think it is misnamed. I tasted no coffee, just chocolate. It was a very rich, dark chocolate that may have been enhanced by coffee, but the sweetness of the fudge and toffee pieces probably obliterated those delicate notes. I was pleasantly surprised by the fudge and toffee ingredients – I was expecting thick chunks of fudge and toffee, but the fudge was actually more like a fudgy swirl, and the toffee pieces were just small enough to add a nice crunchy texture to the ice cream.
- Cheesecake – New York-style cheese cake ice cream with graham cracker swirl: My friend got a double scoop of this one with sprinkles. Disregarding the sprinkles, the ice cream was way too sweet with the huge chunks of graham crackers, and didn’t taste anything like cheesecake to me.
- Bellvale Bog – Dark chocolate ice cream with brownie chunks and fudge swirl: This was unremarkable to me – again, too sweet with the brownie chunks, and I thought the Black Dirt Blast had a better dark chocolate flavor.
- Cookie Dough – Cookie-flavored ice cream with cookie dough pieces: This tasted just like the Cheesecake flavor to me – the only thing that made it “Cookie Dough” was the bits of cookie dough pieces, but the ice cream base didn’t taste anything like cookies to me.
- Peach – Chunks of real peaches in peach ice cream: This was very good – tasted like real, fresh peaches.
- Strawberry – Fresh ripe strawberries blended until smooth: This was also really good – really fresh strawberry flavor, light and fruity.
- Coffee – Strong coffee ice cream with cappuccino chips for the true coffee lover: I really liked this one, too. I ended up getting a double scoop of strawberry and coffee on my second visit, which is a weird combination, but they were both very good flavors. The coffee had little cappuccino chips that magnified the intensity of the flavors and added a nice little crunchy texture.
There is a giant cow statue in the front door. No mistaking that this place is associated with a creamery, with the cow statue and cow weathervane planted on top of the roof!
This is the real draw of the place – the stunning sunset views. This place definitely gets 5 stars for atmosphere – there’s nothing like a beautiful summer sky, streaked in pinkish and purple hues.
Final thought? If you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit. I’d say the fruity flavors are a better bet, but if you like your chocolate, the Black Dirt Blast won’t disappoint. Sit on a picnic bench with your cone (they make huge fresh waffle cones, which we did not try but I admired from afar), and enjoy the night sky!