As a native of Massachusetts, I consider myself, as well as any other Bay Stater, to be a credible authority on ice cream. It's just something we understand in these parts—a regional gift, if you will, like conversing fluently about sports or deciphering the words of Boston's mayor, Tom Menino. Maybe it's in the genes. Maybe it's in the water. Maybe it's just a way of life. But it's there, undoubtedly: a knowledge of and appreciation for great ice cream.
Take, for example, my five-year-old. On a recent excursion to a frozen yogurt shop, he eagerly dug his spoon into his kiddie-sized helping, gulped down a couple of bites, frowned, turned to his mother and said, "Mom, this ice cream isn't very good."
What can you expect? He's from Massachusetts. He knows ice cream.
From Brigham's to Friendly's, from Herrell's to Bart's to J.P. Licks, ice cream abounds in Massachusetts, especially here in the Valley. And no one does it better than Flayvors of Cook.
Located in Hadley, mere minutes off Route 9 just south of the Hampshire Mall, Cook Farm sits in a spectacular country roadside spot, surrounded by open farm fields with views of the Holyoke Range from Mount Norwottuck to the Skinner House. A series of picnic tables with cow-inspired designs provides several outside seats from which to sit and enjoy the bountiful view, or to watch any of the dozens of cows on this working farm.
Owned by the Cook family since 1909, the farm is home to Holstein and Jersey cattle, and the Flayvors website (cookfarm.com/flayvors) provides lengthy descriptions and photos of some of its most important cows (including Fayvor—hence the spelling of "Flayvors"). Patrons who come for ice cream can stroll through a small section of the farm that's easily accessible from Flayvors, though the Cooks ask that an adult always accompany children.
With daily menu items including homemade soups, mac and cheese, salads, sandwiches, and more, Flayvors is hardly just an ice cream spot. But its other offerings, no matter how enjoyable, are ultimately superfluous. This is, first and foremost, an ice cream spot, in spades. In addition to offering the standard but always satisfactory trio of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, flavors at Flayvors include black raspberry chip, java crunch, orange pineapple and chocolate almond chip. The two signature flavors, Ginger and Inez, are named after the two cows pictured on their road sign. I've never had the Ginger, but highly recommend their Inez: a mouthwatering combination of coconut ice cream with almonds and chocolate chips.
Not surprisingly given the ubiquitous bovine presence, nearly all 24 ice cream flavors (the sole exception being peanut butter cup) are made at Flayvors. The farm also sells its own milk, which is pasteurized and bottled locally, the owners note, and offered as whole milk, skim milk, cream and raw milk, too. Flayvors also sells cream by the pint and by the quart.
But while you can take their flavors home with you, you'll want to return to Cook Farm for the view. And the cows. And for more ice cream, of course.