Nothing goes better with a hot Vermont summer day than a cold, sweet, creamy cone of soft serve ice cream.
Wait, soft serve? What are you talking about? There’s only one type of ice cream that reigns supreme in the Green Mountain State: the creemee.
A creemee is not quite synonymous with soft serve, but they share some similarities. Both take prepared ice cream “bases” that vendors can mix flavor into and serve from the same machine, according to E.B. Flory, dairy chief of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
Creemees, however, are supposed to contain a higher percentage of butterfat — a minimum of 14%, versus 10%-14% for soft serve, Flory said. Creemees are often sold in maple, black raspberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors, or as a twist of two flavors. They can come with toppings or be dipped into chocolate or other sauces to create a hard outer coating.
How many creemee stands are there in Vermont? Until recently, this seemed an unanswerable question. But then Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts revealed on Twitter that his agency maintains a licensing system that tracks this sort of thing.
So VTDigger did what VTDigger does: We filed a public records request.
The data we obtained shows that roughly 400 Vermont establishments have active licenses to operate “frozen dessert” machines. That count, however, includes vendors who sling creemees, as well as those who dish out soft serve.
About a quarter of the licensees were chains such as McDonald’s, Cumberland Farms and Walmart. There were also some oddball spots, such as universities, movie theaters and hospital cafeterias.
But most of the licensees were the classic picture of a place to scarf down a maple creemee: general stores, snack stands, sugar shacks and creameries.
We put together the form below to let our readers vote on what they believe is the best creemee in the state. But first, a few notes.
Most creemee vendors serve a prepared base mix from a vendor, such as Hood. Only six establishments have “milk handler” licenses to make the ice cream from scratch, according to the Agency of Agriculture: Sticky Fingers Bakery in West Dover; Scout & Co. in Burlington; Olsen's Ice Cream in Vergennes; Mountain Creamery in Woodstock; Blueberry Haus in Guilford; and Big Cones LLC in Wells River.
We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the rare vendors that offer dairy-free creemees. Vegan VTDigger colleagues mentioned Offbeat in Winooski (which only offers plant-based options); Mill Market and Deli in South Burlington; Toby’s Treats in Milton; and Al’s French Frys in South Burlington.
What about the Agency of Agriculture’s favorite creemees? Flory said she didn’t think she was “allowed” to pick favorites but that she loved a maple creemee twisted with black raspberry or peanut butter.
“I have a small Jack Russell that is quite a fan of dairy products, and she really liked that one,” Flory said.
For Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, “nothing is better than just a standalone maple creemee.”
He said he has not tried the roughly 400 locations yet. “But I think it's a goal that we all should achieve, just like the 251 Club,” he said, referring to the organization that encourages people to visit every Vermont municipality.
You can vote for your favorite creemee place using the form below, then see the results in the winners chart beneath it.
Editor's note: Following publication of this database, we have added additional vendors that, for whatever reason, were not included in the Agency of Agriculture's records. If you think we're still missing your favorite creemee spot, send us a note at email@example.com.