Looking for ice cream that can only be described as "wicked awesome"? Look no farther than Lakewood Ranch's new Wicked Awesome Ice Cream Emporium.
Owner Michelle Noel opened the shop in January after losing her corporate job during the pandemic last year. She wanted to do something fun that also showcased her passion for authentic New England-style ice cream. (Noel is a New Englander herself, born and raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.) Now, people flocking to Sarasota from up north can have a taste of home, complete with chocolate “jimmies” and “frappes.”
So what differentiates New England-style ice cream from other kinds? It's all about the air.
“New England ice cream is made with less air, about 50-60 percent overrun, as opposed to the typical ice cream with more air,” Noel explains. “This makes the ice cream denser, and gives it a good 'chew,' as we like to call it.” The name Wicked Awesome came from the common term used in Boston to describe something as “cool” or “impressive,” and Noel says those who have walked into the shop recognizing the phrase have felt welcome.
“We began setting up shop in September 2020, after I found this location. It was already going to be an ice cream shop, but the previous owner unfortunately passed due to Covid,” says Noel. “I felt called to this location, and knew it would bring a lot of joy and fun to families in the community.”
By November, she'd signed the lease; Wicked Awesome officially opened in January 2021. The shop has 36 handmade flavors, including six original New England-themed flavors that Noel helped to create.
“We do have to explain to some customers that wicked is not a bad term up north,” says Noel. “It is a phrase commonly used, and those who are from that area will understand.”
Noel adds there are other ice cream-related terms that northerners tend to use. This includes “jimmies” instead of “sprinkles,” “cremees,” a Vermont word for soft serve, and a variety of terms for the typical milkshake, like “frappes” or “cabinets."
A “frappe,” without the accent on the “e” is an ice cream-based shake that is thick and creamy, with only a little bit of milk used to blend it up. A "cabinet" is a Connecticut term for a thick milkshake, named after the cabinets blenders are stored in to make the sweet concoctions.
Noel says there's also a difference in the overall ice cream shop experience up north.
“There are usually two or three shops in each town with a counter window you walk up to and order at,” says Noel. “You never see the ice cream being scooped. You just get your delicious treat and you're on your way. Here, people like to taste test and see the ice cream first.” (Wicked Awesome does have a display and allows people to taste flavors before buying.)
Her six New England-inspired flavors each have a fun twist. Boston Tea Party, already a customer favorite, is a vanilla-based ice cream with Earl Grey tea, lemon and golden Oreos mixed throughout. “People wouldn’t think to have tea mixed with ice cream, but it is delicious,” says Noel.
The shop also offers Vermont Maple Walnut, New Hampshire Wicked “Scorcha" (a chocolate-based ice cream with raspberry ribbons and cinnamon swirl for a kick), Maine Moose Tracks, Connecticut Mocha Chip and Rocky Rhode Island, a twist on the classic, with marshmallow swirl and almonds. There's also an extensive line of other flavors and a variety of toppings. Waffle cones are made in-house, and the shop also offers homemade whoopie pies, brownies and cookies. A soft-serve—or cremee—machine is coming soon, for customers who want something lighter.
“We have grown so much since opening, and people have come from as far as Sun City to try our ice cream,” Noel says. “There is nothing like an independent ice cream shop that recognizes regulars, and offers a colorful and vibrant place to gather.” She says Lakewood Ranch has proven to be a great location, as families look for fun activities during the pandemic.
"I remember the ice cream shops of my childhood, and I really want Wicked Awesome to be a neighborhood place for everyone, especially kids, to remember and enjoy," she says. "Besides, what's more fun and enjoyable than ice cream?"
Wicked Awesome Ice Cream Emporium is open Tuesday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is located at 4122 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton. Check out the shop's Instagram and Facebook page for specials and shop updates.