Back in the days when the world was still in black and white as a colour TV cost a king’s ransom and Polaroid’s didn’t come much cheaper, ice cream meant heading to the local corner shop to peruse what Wall’s and Lyons Maid had to offer.
It was the time when Fab, Zoom, Cider Quench, Cola Rola, Feasts, Woppas, Funny Faces and vanilla ice cream wafer sandwiches were seen as the height of frozen snack sophistication.
And the mid-afternoon ice cream run on a sunny summer’s day would have had youngsters – their 2½p clutched tightly in their hand – reaching for a Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb, Cornish Strawberry Mivvi or Space 1999.
Mention an ice cream sandwich now and you average child is likely to set off on a long discourse on the dessert-themed Android platform for phones and tablets (the mobile computer kind rather than a medicinal pill).
It’s a sign of how times have changed – reflected in the fact that the world can now be viewed in full HD and 3-D colour rather than grainy monochrome!
For those of a certain age, the arrival of the Android ice cream sandwich (and its more up-to-date rivals the equally sweetly named Jelly Bean and Kitkat) hasn’t necessarily been something to jump up and down with joy about.
Life was so much easier when all you had to worry about was choosing between a Haunted House or Lord Toffingham ice cream lolly.
But it’s not all bad news on the ice cream sandwich front. The last few years has also seen an explosion of artisan run ice cream parlours and makers in the UK – with the North East boasting a plethora of both award-winning and family run businesses selling everything from traditional homemade flavours to more experimental and creative offerings.
Archers Jersey Ice Cream, New Moor Farm, Walworth Gate, Darlington
John and Susan Archer and their three children started their ice cream business in 2002 in the wake of the devastating foot and mouth outbreak.
Having lost their original herd of Holstein Friesians in the epidemic, they instead began milking Jersey cows. And thus the ice cream business was born.
It has now expanded to include a number of Archers’ parlours across the North East, including Newcastle and Yarm on Teesside as well as the original at New Moor Farm. There’s even an Archer’s outlet now in Liverpool.
Archer’s ice creams (there are over 60 flavour options) have won numerous awards over the years – including many prestigious Guild of Fine Food Great Taste accolades.
The impressive seasonal range includes everything from Simple Jersey (sometimes all you need) to seasonal Christmas pudding ice cream, toffee fudge, lemon cheesecake, strawberry, banana, chocolate, cookies and cream and tiramisu.
And if you can’t make it along to one of Archers parlours, their ice cream is luckily available to buy from outlets across the region, including the likes of Bradley Burn Farm Shop at Wolsingham, Dropswell Farm Shop at Trimdon and Mrs P’s Country Kitchen in Barnard Castle.
Beckleberry’s, Blaydon, Gateshead
With more than 70 Great Taste Awards – the Oscars of the food industry – under their belt, Beckleberry’s must be doing something right.
And you can enjoy their award-winning ices and sorbets at their coffee shop cum ice cream parlour situated on the Upper Mall at Gateshead Metrocentre.
There are some amazing flavours to choose from. How about English breakfast marmalade, or Cointreau and orange, bubblegum or even popcorn? And don’t miss out on their sloe gin sorbet or sour cherry and amaretto.
High street stockists include the Moorhouse Farm Shop at Stannington, Knitsley Farm Shop near Consett, County Durham, and the National Trust shop at Gibside, Burnopfield.
Ciccarelli, South Beach, Blyth, Northumberland
It’s been a great year for this family run gelateria – they’ve recently won two gold’s for their lemon and lime sorbet and coffee ice cream, a silver for their vanilla and a bronze for their peanut brittle at the National Ice Cream Awards.
But if you can’t get along to Blyth, the Ciccarelli family also run a fleet of more than 20 ice cream vans.
Crescent Café, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland
This family run café and ice cream parlour known locally as Delaval Ices, has been going for nearly 90 years and specialises in homemade traditional Italian desserts.
The ice cream is made to a secret family recipe. Initially there was just the one flavour, ‘fior di latte,’ which translates as ‘milk flower,’ and because it only uses basic ingredients meant it could still be produced in the war years.
Now there are 14 different flavours appearing on a rotational basis, including crème brulee, bilberry, cappuccino, forest fruits and old fashioned stracciatella – vanilla with thin shards of chocolate.
Di Meo’s, Maribe Avenue, Whitley Bay
The Di Meo family has been making ice cream for more than 100 years. It can therefore be concluded they know a thing or two about what makes a good ice cream – reflected in the number of prestigious awards that have come their way, including consecutive ‘best in the UK’ accolades for their vanilla and strawberry flavours.
Other popular flavours with customers include the Spanish City split, Amarena cherry, coco paradiso and Belgian chocolate.
Doddington Dairy, Wooler, Northumberland
Doddington Dairy is nestled in the foothills of the Cheviots in Glendale, Northumberland.
Here on the farm run by the Maxwell Family for more than 50 years, a range of luxury ice creams is produced using fresh whole milk from their own herd of dairy cows.
Wherever possible the Maxwells source their ingredients locally and Doddington’s has become renowned for its often unique and innovative flavours. These include Roman Britain, a combination of apple, cinnamon, cherry and honey from the nearby Chainbridge Honey Farm at Berwick.
There’s Newcastle Brown Ale, Alnwick Rum Truffle and Heather Honey combinations alongside the classics like real strawberry, utter chocolate, simply vanilla, double ginger and homemade fudge chunk.
Stockists include many of the region’s farm shops and independent delicatessens as well as Waitrose stores.
Minchella Ice Cream Parlours, South Shields
The Minchella family has been serving ice cream across South Shields for more than a century and now own two parlours and three kiosks across the town.
Expect towering chocolate nut sundaes, knickerbocker glories, jelly sundaes and triple ice creams alongside other delights like the rarely seen double nougat wafer sandwich, the oyster delight, Turkish delight, Sicilian pistachio and Mad About Cookies. www.minchella.co.uk
Morwick Dairy Ice Cream, Acklington, Northumberland
Made from the milk of the farm’s award-winning dairy herd, Morwick’s Royal Double ice cream is produced in a traditional farmhouse style in small batches.
There’s 34 different ice creams to choose from (lemon meringue, pistachio, banana and raspberry pavlova being just a small sample) as well as fruit ices like pineapple, apple, orange, grapefruit and summer fruits, all served in the farm’s purpose built parlour open seven days a week during the holiday season.
If you’re heading up the Northumberland coast or to Warkworth, it’s well worth swinging by.
Spurreli, Amble, Northumberland
Spurelli opened in the Old Chandlery next to the boatyard almost four years ago and since then has won a clutch of Gold star Great Taste Awards for the ice creams it sells alongside coffee, speciality teas and patisseries.
Its Sicilian Pistachio ice cream was voted the Golden Fork winner for the best speciality food from the North of England in the Taste awards in 2011. Other favours include Alnwick Rum and raisin and natural yoghurt and wild berry alongside the ever popular regulars like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
There’s an emphasis on supporting local – they use fresh Northumbrian pedigree milk and cream from Marley Cote Walls Farm at Slaley, and a wide variety of other ingredients available to them on their doorstep.
Vallum, East Wallhouses, Northumberland
Vallum’s award-winning ice cream (another Great Taste winner) served in the tearoom at this artisan food hub on Hadrian’s Wall is truly local.
Made on site from the milk of the Vallum herd – the only Brown Swiss cows’ in the area – the ice cream counter holds 16 flavours with the sundae menu growing longer as each summer goes by.
A favourite is the chocolate brownie sandwich with chocolate sauce, and Vallum’s traditional knickerbocker glory and banana splits are a firm favourite with customers.
There’s more to Vallum than just the tea room and ice cream parlour, though. There’s a farm shop and restaurant run by former North East Chef of the Year David Kennedy, a smokery, kitchen garden, fabulous children’s play area and wildlife trails.
Wheelbirks, Stocksfield, Northumberland
Made using milk from the farm’s own 120 strong herd of Jersey cows, Wheelbirks serves its award-wining ice creams from its own on site parlour. There are some truly experimental flavours like liquorice and caramel, coffee and croissant and even garlic and balsamic vinegar and indulgent creations such as cookies and cream, passion fruit cheesecake and sticky toffee.
If you fancy a trip out to Stocksfield the farm is also open to the public.