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Five mail-order ice creams. Four pregnant women. Welcome to the mother of all taste tests.
By Jean Chatzky

(MONEY Magazine) – Remember how the sound of an ice cream truck used to echo through the dense, hot air of the neighborhood? How kids would come running from backyards, lured by the promise of cold, sweet relief? Those were the days, eh? Well, they're back, but in a decidedly grown-up way.

The ding-a-ling of the Good Humor truck has been replaced by the buzz of FedEx guy ringing your doorbell (and he's not delivering Creamsicles). Dairies in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states now ship homemade ice cream that's free of preservatives and full of fresh ingredients. They're also using a bigger flavor palette. A scoop of sweet basil ice cream with honey and pine nuts, anyone? Grapefruit and Campari? Honey lavender? Sure there's vanilla, but now it's a fancier (and tastier) Madagascar vanilla.

"There's a movement in America toward artisan ice creams," says Megan Steintrager, a writer at Happy Belly Guides, which rates ice creams coast to coast. "Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia is a good example--they won't make strawberry when strawberries are out of season, and they won't buy milk from farmers when there's onion grass in the field because it changes the flavor."

To test five, we persuaded four very pregnant women (three of the fathers are MONEY staffers) to dig in. It didn't take much arm-twisting. We took care of the ordering, which is done online or over the phone. The ice cream usually arrives one day later, packed in dry ice. (Some companies ship only on certain days.) If all goes according to plan, you wind up with ice-cold, but not overly cold (too much dry ice can make the ice creams too hard), pints that retain their creamy texture and distinctive flavor. But let's not waste time. Because when a pregnant woman wants ice cream--and when she wants it now--it's best to give it to her.

Money Magazine FIELD TEST WINNER 08.06

VANILLA

SIGNATURE FLAVOR

Delivery

HOW WE DID IT We ordered two samples from each vendor--vanilla and the signature flavor. Texture and taste were rated. We also noted customer service and condition upon arrival.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

What do top artisan ice creams have that mass-market brands don't?

• They use locally sourced ingredients when possible.

• They don't use any artificial colors or flavors.

• And they allow less air into their products, so a pint is denser and richer.

TIP

The best temperature for consumption is 2 °F to 27 °F. To prevent ice crystals from forming, keep pints frozen after they arrive. Always store ice cream deep in your freezer, not in the door.

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.