Monday, March 19, 2012

Free Italian Ice Tuesday -- And It Actually Feels Warm Enough To Enjoy A Frozen Dessert

Rita's at the King's Contrivance location
Tomorrow is the annual day when Rita's Italian Ice kicks off its season by giving away from custard and Italian ice.  Most years, it's humorous because mid-March is too cold to make frozen desserts sound appetizing, but the warm spring makes this seem almost natural.

Local blogger Adam makes it seem delicious as well.  I'm a fan of many ice cream desserts, including  Meadow Frozen Custard in Columbia and the many Rita's Italian Ice franchises around the county.  But Adam -- who now blogs at Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp -- is a new employee at the Rita's on St. John's Lane in Ellicott City.

Adam wrote me about how even he is surprised at how much he likes the Rita's ice.  Personally, I think he is wrong to mention all the flavors.  Black cherry has been scientifically proven to be the best -- layered, of course, with custard in a gelati.  But I'll let Adam make his pitch:
I'm willing to guess the word "chain" might not have the best connotations for loyal HowChow readers. It's OK, I usually agree. As a longtime food blogger, I can fully understand the merits of Victoria's duck fat fries compared to the limp, salty things you get at Checkers, or the superiority of a hot-from-the-oven Coalfire pizza to anything advertised as remotely "artisan" from Domino's. But not all chains are bad. Some are even great. Case in point, Rita's Italian Ice.
Yep, I work at Rita's, but I fancy myself as an objective ice cream aficionado, and I know quality products when I taste them. Before starting at Rita's I had thought all soft serve ice cream was just the same, and figured paying for Italian Ice at a stand a complete waste of money when I could just pick up some of those little cups at the grocery store. Boy was I wrong. 
Rita's is a chain which really puts the job on its franchise owners to uphold the quality of its ingredients. The Ellicott City store, run by former University of Maryland quarterback and lifelong Maryland resident Erik Lipton, is no exception. The ice and cream ice is the main attraction here, anchored by a 36 hour freshness policy which guarantees you're getting a product that's fresh and never watered down. Thinking all Italian ice was the same prior to working at Rita's, you can only imagine my surprise when I saw Erik in the back of the store cutting up fresh watermelon just bought from Giant, which is stirred in in generous chunks to the hugely popular Watermelon Ice flavor. As for those flavors, there's a little something for everyone. From a sinfully good Black Cherry to a S'mores Cream Ice flavor with a taste of campfire toasted 'mallows and chocolate, Rita's seriously has something for everyone. Even sugarholic 20-somethings like me, who can recall late-night college study sessions with the candy inspired Swedish Fish flavor. 
But for as tasty and fresh the ice is, the custard is unbelievable. This is not your standard, overpriced reduced fat soft serve sold in other places. This is rich and indulgent, egg-based custard that is always served in vanilla, chocolate, and twist varieties, available with a catalogue of toppings that ranges from hot fudge to Heath pieces, rainbow sprinkles to peanut butter cups. And if you're lucky you'll stop in when we're offering our coffee custard. With a devoted and almost cult-like following, coffee joins the lineup with two other rotating flavors, strawberry and orange cream, and makes an especially great addition to our Blendini shakes. Looking to try something really good? Why not get the "Adam's Special" Gelati. You won't see it on our menu board, but after experimenting with a free "take home treat" after work, I've found the combination of coffee custard and chocolate mint ice to be the perfect reward on these warm spring days.  
Yea, I work for Rita's, but as a lifelong journalist and food blogger, do you really think I'd be willing to work at a place that did ice cream anything but 100%? No way. The lines outside the store during a summer day are enough to tell you this place is more than hype, and that's not only a credit to the product, but Erik's style of keeping it local with his ingredients and his employees. Still not buying the hype? Well, if you've got any lingering doubts, check us out this Tuesday starting at 11:30 AM. To celebrate the first day of spring Rita's will be giving out a free Italian or cream ice flavor of your choice to all who show up. I'm willing to bet that, if it's your first time, your free ice won't be your last. 
FYI -- Eric is set to open up a Jimmy John's on Route 40 sometime in the late fall. He's in final negotiations and will choose between two sites on the Route 40 corridor (one by Jason's Liqueur Store, the other next to Bon Appetit Bakery).


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when Soft Serve on Route 40 opens for the season? I have a real hankering for one of their cones.

Leeann said...

Oooh, hope Erik opens up a JJ by Bon Appetit! Yum!