Rococo Ice Cream’s Nacho flavor mixes tortilla chips with gooey nacho cheese, spicy tomato jam, finely chopped black olives and candied jalapeños. Photo by Julie Delphos

It was 1988 when, according to food nerd lore, Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor pioneered lobster ice cream. That flavor itself may not have exactly swept the globe, but it helped awaken the public’s appetite for unusual – and unusually imaginative – ice cream flavors. These days, incarnations once considered adventurous (think goat cheese-raspberry and cookie dough) barely even register as semi-daring. Which means as our collective palates continue to get pushed, we look to Maine’s ice cream visionaries to keep reinventing the cold stuff with bold new flavors. Here’s a handful to scoop up this summer.

Artichoke ice cream from Bresca and the Honeybee. Photo courtesy of Bresca and the Honeybee

ARTICHOKE, Bresca & The Honey Bee

“It actually dates back to the 1700s,” says owner and flavor wizard Krista Kern Desjarlais. “And I’ve updated it to include candied citrus and toasted Sicilian pistachios, so it doesn’t taste too vegetable-y.” Also credit the sweet aromatics she poaches the artichoke hearts in – vanilla beans and citrus rinds. The result? “A nice, subtle flavor – that sells like crazy.”

106 Outlet Road, New Gloucester, 207-926-3388, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. brescaandthehoneybee.com

What the Fluff ice cream from Sweetcream Dairy. Photo by Dalia Cousineau

WHAT THE FLUFF, Sweetcream Dairy

Co-owner Jonathan Denton’s mom used to pack him marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter sandwiched between two Ritz crackers for lunch. “The ice cream is an extra salty version of our sweet cream base, with ribbons of marshmallow, peanut butter and a Ritz cracker crumble,” says his wife and co-owner Jacqui DeFranca. “It’s creamy, sweet, salty and nostalgic.”

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128 Main St., Biddeford, 207-520-2386, noon to 9 p.m. daily. sweetcreamdairy.com

Gelato Fiasco’s Mascarpone Pistachio Caramel ice cream is meant to mimic a cannoli. Photo by Zach Boyce

MASCARPONE PISTACHIO CARAMEL, Gelato Fiasco

These three flavors may not be unusual on their own, but together, they’re rendered a bold triple threat. “It’s inspired by the filling for a Sicilian cannoli,” says marketing manager Bobby Guerette. “It has just the right amount of pistachio and globs of salted caramel sauce on a mascarpone cheese base.” It was first suggested by a customer in the Brunswick shop and has since earned a cult following.

74 Maine St., Brunswick, 207-607-4262, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m daily. 425 Fore St., Portland, 207-699-4314, noon to 11 p.m. daily. gelatofiasco.com

Black Licorice ice cream from Toots. Photo courtesy of Toots

BLACK LICORICE, Toots

As a flavor, licorice could euphemistically be called polarizing. And those who love it, really love it. “My grandmother is obsessed,” Olivia Marzilli says of Toots co-founder Sandra Grover. (Grover started Toots with her daughter Martha Grover-Lambert, and these days Marzilli is behind the counter). She adds, “Its light licorice-coffee base and white chocolate chips balance out any bitterness from the licorice chips.”

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12 Memorial Highway, North Yarmouth, 207-489-9344, noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; 137 Walnut Hill Road, North Yarmouth, noon to 8 p.m. daily. tootsicecream.com

NACHO, Rococo Ice Cream

“When you taste it, you really don’t want to believe it’s as good as it is,” chuckles owner and ice cream maker Lauren Guptill. “It messes with your mind.” And arguably your taste buds, too. To create this work of mad science, Guptill mixes tortilla chips with gooey nacho cheese, spicy tomato jam, finely chopped black olives and candied jalapeños. Adds Guptill, “It’s likely the world’s first and only nacho ice cream.”

6 Spring St., Kennebunkport, 207-835-1049, 1-6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. rococoicecream.com

HONORABLE MENTION: Biddeford-based Parlor Ice Cream doesn’t have a storefront, but its Sweet Corn and Blueberry flavor is inarguably the very essence of summer in Maine. Find it at retailers like Rosemont Markets and online at parloricecreamco.com.

Alexandra Hall is a longtime New England lifestyle writer who lives in Maine.


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