When a girl gets to the point where she's accustomed to balsamic vinegar in her ice cream and espresso gelato so potent it leaves her heart racing, it's a pleasant surprise to find a place that celebrates the scoop shop as a childhood pleasure. The charmingly family-friendly Ample Hills Creamery, new to Prospect Heights, does just that.
That's not to say there's anything that feels amateurish about it. Ample Hills falls firmly in the modern locavore camp, touting their Battenkill Valley milk, locally sourced ingredients, and the like; all their products, from the ice cream itself to the cookies or Peppermint Patties stirred in, are made on the premises (which, owner Brian Smith claims, is unique in New York). But their flavors run between serious and whimsical, from an adult stout-and-beer ice cream to a "Breakfast Trash" studded with Froot Loops. (They'd be the exception to the made-in-house creed.)
So popular it had to close temporarily in its first week of business, due to overwhelming demand, Ample Hills seems to have hit a sweet spot of well-made ice cream that hasn't over-refined itself. It's a place to bring the family.
And how's the ice cream itself? From what we've tried so far, uniformly excellent in taste, if not texture. Some flavors we tried were beautifully silky, creamy in the mouth, while others were a bit thinner, and one icy; still, even the comparatively weaker ones were enjoyable, and some were memorably good.
Many of the flavors at Ample Hills are of the other-stuff-studded kind, with cookies or crunchies or other things incorporated. Like Sunday Brunch, a maple and cinnamon ice cream which balances those flavors in a way that's not too sweet, with generous chunks of chewy, irresistible French toast. There wasn't quite enough ice cream in our scoop, but what there was, we liked. The ice cream itself was even better in the Salted Crack Caramel; it had the richest mouthfeel of any we tried, an intense and just salty enough butter caramel ice cream that would have been indulgent enough on its own, but gets even better with what they call "crack cookies," buttery chocolate-covered Saltines.
The simpler flavors were good, too, if less memorable; a strawberry that was quite sweet, but with a sweetness that recalled that fruit rather than a lot of sugar; a cookies-and-cream with a light but creamy base. I liked that there were large enough chunks of the "extras" (like the Oreo-like cookies here) that you really get to taste them, but it might make for slightly awkward eating in a cone.
They've also got drinks, from a strong cold-brewed iced coffee to a Frozen Hot Chocolate and a Frozen Salted Caramel ($4.50). The latter uses their caramel syrup in a blend with ice and milk; it's got a curious texture that's both rich and icy, somewhere between a milkshake and a slushie. It's a way to appreciate the intensity of that flavor in a less concentrated (though undeniably rich) form.