Written by Art Petrosemolo
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” is a novelty song written in 1927 that became a traditional jazz standard but the words and song remain part of popular culture even without the rest of the song…
So, what gives Art? you say. A few weeks ago, I told you I was a coffee nut… well I am also an ice cream fanatic….and what better place to live than Lancaster County – the home of dairies and homemade ice cream. They are as prevalent as Dunkin Donuts in New England! And even better, I am only 3.2 miles from Lapp Valley Farm on Mentzer Road. It’s a double-edge sword…. I am a stone’s throw away from my favorite Maple Walnut every week or twice a week… or more…. But if I don’t show some restraint, I could be 300 pounds.
I believe Lapp’s makes the absolute best ice cream and my story on them was on the front page of the May 24th Ephrata Review.
If you don’t get the paper or read it on-line, let me tell you a little about this operation. The current Lapp running the dairy is David, and he is fourth generation. The Lapps are of Amish heritage. David’s great grandfather bought the farm during the great 20th century (1930s) depression and it started as a diversified farm and grew into one of the premier mid-size dairy farms in Lancaster County with 70-80 milking Jersey cows.
I understand now that Jersey cows (originally from the Isle of Jersey in England) produce the best milk with more butter-fat, solids and high proteins. They can produce milk daily for about eight years.
The Lapp cows have about 60 calves a year. To be honest, as a city boy, and I hate to admit this, when I asked why so many calves, David Lapp looked at me with a perplexed look…. Hey I didn’t know that cows had to have calves to produce milk! I know now!
The cows produce close to 500 gallons of milk daily and about all the production, except what is saved for ice cream, is sold out of the farm store… much of it through a unique drive-thru window that accommodates automobiles, bicycles and push-scooters as well as Amish and Mennonite buggies.
So, what makes this ice cream special? Well, David Lapp and a couple of experienced young women make ice cream in very small batches – five gallons – three or four times a week during the season. It’s quality over quantity.
It is then put into containers, from as small as a pint up to the containers used in the store dip chest, and blast frozen. With small batches, David feels he has better control of the flavoring and overall quality.
Now, if you are a regular Lapp customer, you’ll have a favorite flavor (I am a toss-up between Maple walnut and Raspberry) and also know that Lapp makes sixteen flavors. Don’t look for something new every week… although he doesn’t admit it, I am sure he operates on “if it works, don’t fix it.”
Lapps’ workers make hand-rolled waffle cones and they can account for up to half of the 1000 single or two-scoop cones sold on a busy Saturday in tourist season. Oh, don’t take your friends on a Sunday as the Lapps, like many local businesses, are closed to honor the Lord on Sunday.
Ben Lapp, David’s dad and the Lapp who started selling ice cream in the early 1970s says the use of GPS in automobiles and internet searches in the past few years has pushed their business over the top which is good and bad.
The family actually has to put construction cones and a rope across the Mentzer Road farm entrance or visitors will be driving down the driveway when the shop is closed. Lapps also has three locations at Green Dragon Farmers Market in Ephrata and a seasonal store in Paradise.
The farm’s cows are milked every afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and visitors may watch the milking as well as – sometime just before milking – when the hungry calves get fed.
Are there other quality ice cream operations in Lancaster County? There sure are like Fox Meadows Creamery in Ephrata which I have not tried yet as well as Oregon Dairy and I am sure lots more.
But for me, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it.” Lapps Dairy Farm is three miles away. My little Audi TT finds it on its own and they are never out of Maple Walnut. Why would I go anywhere else?
I am in the midst of writing about knight training and jousting for Renaissance Faires. More about that next week.