A number of years ago, I had a transcendent ice cream experience. I was visiting a friend's family in the small town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the father brought home-- no joke-- six giant cartons of ice cream.
"Can I eat as much as I want?" I asked.
"Of course," said the family, bemused.
"I don't have to stop unless I want to?" I asked.
"Why would you?" they asked.
I was so overcome that I started to cry. I literally cried. And then I ate as much ice cream as I could. Here is me, almost in tears. Note the lovelight shining in my eyes.
After I returned to NYC, I didn't remember where this magical ice cream had come from. All I recalled was that the source creamery somehow involved the word "state," and that it was in Pennsylvania.
Fast forward three years. Last week, I was driving through Pennsylvania on I-80, on my way to Pittsburgh (more about Pittsburgh later), when I saw a road sign that said "EXIT FOR STATE COLLEGE."
"We need to get off the highway," I said, pulling into the right lane.
"Why?" asked Brian, my travel companion.
"Because," I said, "I think there's ice cream near here."
We drove many miles away from the highway. We found State College, which is not a college at all, but rather the town where Penn State is located. (Apparently everybody knew this except for me.) We parked in an empty, cold, dark garage.
In the parking lot across the street, I saw two trucks. "BERKEY CREAMERY" said the words on their sides.
"We're close," I said.
We rounded the corner, and there it was: Penn State's famous Berkey Creamery.
Is it famous? Is it just famous to me because I ate their ice cream once and cried? Hard to say.
Here is where the magic happens:
The Creamery is staffed exclusively by fresh-faced college students, which makes sense because it is run by a college. Also it is in a place called "State College."
Here is one such fresh-faced college student making me a Death by Chocolate milkshake, which costs literally $4, because the rest of the country is apparently less expensive than New York:
Here is a list of all the flavors of ice cream you could get. I tried the peanut butter swirl, and that was awesome, and I tried the chocolate chip cookie dough, and that was awesome, too, but obviously I got the Death by Chocolate, because, come on, I don't write a "peanut butter swirl" blog.
Here is Brian, eating this delicious ice cream, which was the size of his head and cost $3.50:
Here are some shots of the freezers upon freezers of ice cream that were just lying around in this joint:
Here are some facts about the Penn State Creamery, as gleaned from their informational handout, which obviously I took and read in detail because this is a serious blog and we do not cut corners.
- It is the largest university creamery in America.
- It was founded in 1895.
- Students come from thousands of miles away to take the Creamery's Ice Cream Short Course. (Yes, this is a college course in making ice cream.)
- Each year approximately four million pounds of milk pass through the Creamery's holding tanks.
- In 2004, the Creamery produced 60,000 gallons of lowfat chocolate milk for the University dining halls, and 225,000 gallons of ice cream.
Let's focus here. TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND GALLONS OF ICE CREAM.
BOTTOM LINE: An extremely worthy detour off of I-80. Possibly even the worthiest.