Quarantine Ice Cream

“Ice cream today or tomorrow?” my mother messaged me.

“Today,” I instantly replied and finished my Feature Writing revisions.

Despite some odd days of snow, April 18 is warm enough to get creamies and escape the house to support the independently owned restaurant Barn Owl Creamery & Grill in Altona, New York. I went with my dog Chewie, sister, mother, and three brothers. Since COVID-19 prevents us from dining in, we had take-out creamies in our vehicle with the windows open for fresh air to abide by CDC’s guidelines.

Barn Owl Creamery & Grill is a branch of Altona’s most popular wedding and prom venue, Rainbow Wedding & Banquet Hall. The is family-owned and operated by the Sample family. The restaurant opened last fall, so I never had the chance to go before the pandemic.

On our way, we passed several farms, and I saw beautiful shades of green beginning to sprout from the fields. It was warm enough to open the window, and the wind prickled my nose with the sweet scent of mowed grass while my brother in the passenger seat navigated for my mother with Google Maps. Meanwhile, my siblings and I poked fun at each other with jokes and observations with our black-brown coated dog, who circled the backseat nervously while we wound down the patchy-paved curved road.

The restaurant has a classic rustic board-and-batten exterior with windows along the top of the building and a picket fence, where people would usually eat during this time, and two benches on a square strip of sidewalk. The only other window is for ordering, and the front door is locked to prevent customers from entering, part of the COVID-19 protocol seen everywhere this spring.

Even though people can’t go inside to enjoy their food, a couple of individuals walked at safe distances while waiting for their food or waited in their vehicles with the windows open.

The menu can be found on Barn Owl’s Facebook page and ranges from summer snack bar fare to boozy shakes, hard ice cream, such as Cookies & Cream and Maple Walnut, and creamies. The creamy flavors are limited to the typical vanilla and chocolate but have multiple syrups and toppings to further flavor them – Coffee n Cream, Cheesecake, Blue Goo, and Strawberry.

Before ordering, my mother asked us what we wanted and ordered the creamies with a handmade purple mask. Learning that the restaurant only accepts cash, she came back and grabbed the money.

Not long after, Chewie was the first to be served vanilla ice cream in a doggie dish, specialized for furry friends, and instantly lapped every inch with his black and purple spotted tongue in a matter of seconds. (As any dog would).

When I received my small creamy, Coffee and Cream, and the coffee-flavored syrup drizzled on the ice cream like decorated ribbon that dripped along the swirls of the cold treat. It tasted like an espresso with fluffy cream that had a dense texture but remained smooth and balanced with the rich coffee flavor. The cone crunched as I bit into it and didn’t get soggy like other cones.

Three of my siblings ordered the same creamy as I did, and shared that it was good. My youngest brother ordered a chocolate creamy with sprinkles and said that it was chocolaty. It’s not the average watered-down creamy that easily drips down the cone once it comes out of the machine, like what McDonald’s serves. (Even if it’s not a hot day).  My siblings’ giggles and joyful commentary to our dog made the experience worthwhile because most of the time we are stuck on screens and attending our virtual classes.

My mother had a small boozy shake, Chocolate Covered Cherry, which consists of cherry whiskey and Irish Cream with chocolate ice cream. The shake was presented in a white Styrofoam cup with a wrapped straw. (She drank it at home). She explained that it was sweetly executed with chocolate and a subtle whiskey aftertaste. It was smooth and easy to drink, unlike the F’real milkshakes found in gas stations, which must be eaten with a spoon.

Even though the restaurant doesn’t accept credit cards, it’s worth helping with small gestures while respecting the CDC’s instructions for preventing COVID-19. I encourage those to do the same when they can to support these small local businesses; restaurants, cafés and ice cream shops.