I Dream of Jonathan. There. I Said It.
UConn Dairy Bar, Mansfield
May 24, 2009 & Other Visits
CTMQ is far too big and often unwieldy. It has sprawled from being just about museums into all sorts of directions and sections. I recently began eating Jane and Michael Stern’s “Eat Before You Die” Roadfood items across the state. They have a healthy dose of ice cream joints – and no one in my family is complaining about that.
However, they missed one. A HUGE one. I can’t believe the Dairy Bar missed the list… It has everything the Road Foodies crave: Local production, cows on premises, old timey atmosphere and most importantly, incredible ice cream.
The UConn Dairy Bar, or Dairy Product Salesroom as it was originally named, opened sometime between 1953 and 1954 to sell dairy products that were manufactured by the Creamery. It was attractively decorated in the colors and style of the time; black felt-covered menu boards mounted on tan tile walls, stainless steel dipping cabinets, and a curved yellow formica countertop complete with dark green bar stools. Prior to the establishment of this retail operation, the Creamery had been used exclusively for teaching and research.
Remember, UConn began as an agricultural college and if one were to only visit the east end of campus, one would argue it still is. And in a sense, it is. UConn is rural to its core – Storrs is hardly a town, let alone a city, and the drive there often surprises newcomers. When I attended school there, the Dairy Bar was a tiny little place but they’ve opened a newer operation in the interim (in 1998). While every student often complained about the food at the dining halls, no one could complain that we had our choice of fresh made ice cream every day.
No wonder we all got fat at school.
The retail facility now features a red, white, and black color scheme, ice cream parlor-style chairs and tables, several bar stools taken from the old location, and an observation window for viewing the ice cream-making process. The Animal Science building is named after George Cleveland White who served as a Professor of Dairy Husbandry at UConn from 1914 to 1944. He taught Milk Production, Cattle Judging, Animal Nutrition, and Herd Improvement classes.
The important stuff of the early 20th century.
The Creamery was established in the early 1900s and ceased the majority of its operations in 1991 (but not the ice cream! Thankfully, as that was my freshman year). At its peak, the Creamery employed more than 25 full-time employees, grossed over one million dollars per year, and supplied the UConn dormitories and other state agencies with daily deliveries of fluid milk, sour cream, cream cheese and ice cream. Today, the Creamery manufactures ice cream according to its original and highly popular recipe.
As noted, UConn makes its own stuff. The average milk pick up is 200 gallons. They use the Kellogg Dairy Center milk to manufacture all of our ice cream, cheese, and yogurt. On any given day, the KDC milks an average of 90-100 dairy cows, three times a day per cow! The Dairy Bar uses a fraction of the milk that the UConn cows produce, and the rest is picked up by a milk tanker truck from a farmer owned cooperative and taken to a dairy plant in West Springfield, MA.
On the first visit with my family, I went with their best offering: A cone of Jonathan’s Supreme (Vanilla ice cream, PB swirl, & Chocolate covered Peanuts). Man, this stuff is good. Really, really good… Hoang got pistachio for some reason and Damian enjoyed the Strawberry Cheesecake. Both of those were stand out stuff, but Jonathan’s Supreme is where it’s at for me. (Jonathan is the name of UConn’s husky mascot.)
Since Damian is too young for a tour of the creamery, we were content with viewing the operation through the large viewing window. UConn has a bunch of museums to visit, so the Dairy Bar is the perfect “carrot at the end of the stick” for kids. It is open year round – in fact, I was there once again in July with Damian for a CTMQ Visit to the Animal Barns and it was PACKED at 2 PM on a weekday. No students, just people like me willing to drive a ways for some of the best ice cream in the state.
Note: UConn Dairy Bar ice cream is available here and there in supermarkets. It is made via a partnership with Guida’s in New Britain and Royal Ice Cream in Manchester – all according to UConn’s recipes and specifications. I’ve never had it out of a container – and I’m sure its good – but c’mon, you’ve got to go to Storrs for the true experience.