Utah's Backyard Table Summer months are a rare delight in the Beehive. Sunny days, cool nights and clear skies make the outdoors so attractive that we tend to linger in the parks and campsites, on our lawns and decks until long after sunset. It's the peak of al fresco weather, and all-American steak and ice cream can make the menu.

Utah's Great Frozen Delights Do you need to hear the stat again about how much ice cream Utahns eat? More importantly, Utahns are eating better ice cream (and gelato, frozen yogurt, etc.) than ever before. Here are some of the best.

Ice cream Burch Creek Mercantile Owner: Robert Higgs Nothing says vintage like a scoop of ice cream with homemade fudge on top served from a fully working soda bar from 1910. Robert Higgs had exactly that in mind when dreaming up his venture: something old-fashioned and unique.

"I just wanted to offer something to this community that would bring families back here," he says.

Burch Creek Mercantile serves 74 flavors of Farr's ice creams, sundaes and banana splits. Bear Claw is his personal favorite, but Play Dough is their best seller. 3920 Washington Blvd., Ogden, 801-605-3384

Gelato Dolcetti Gelato Owners: Mark and Elizabeth England Dolcetti Gelato is the result of a union between two creative minds. Mark and Elizabeth England have been in the gelato biz for six years. Mark's artwork is seen throughout the shop, including his original welded sign suspended out front. Elizabeth gets creative with flavors, including the epic bacon-chocolate and the delicate honey-lavender, which she extracts from the hive in her backyard. The gelato-making process is an art form in and of itself.

"There is a lot to know to make it work, and be soft, smooth and creamy," Elizabeth says.

900 S. 900 East, SLC, 801-485-3254

Frozen yogurt LunaBerry Owner: Yeeling Lee A few years ago, Yeeling Lee was inspired by California's hip frozen yogurt scene. She set out to recreate the upscale frozen dessert restaurant feel, while adding her own creative spin. After a year of fine-tuning, tweaking and lots of taste testing, LunaBerry opened its doors for business. Unlike other yogurt shops, LunaBerry makes their yogurt in-store. Original seems to be everyone's favorite flavor, including Yeeling's.

"I go around and taste other yogurts because I always want to make mine better, but our customers don't want us to change anything," Lee says.

358 S. 700 East, SLC, 801-359-0427

Nitro Sub Zero Ice Cream Owner: Jerry Hancock Jerry Hancock was mulling over the idea of opening up an ice cream shop, but wanted to step up his game against competitors. With the help of his chemistry background, Jerry concocted a scientific concept, allowing customers to pick the fat content and consistency of their desired flavor by freezing the frozen treat with liquid nitrogen right before their eyes.

"It's kind of your own experiment; you walk in and make anything you want," Jerry says.

1200 South Town Centre Drive, Provo, 801-494-0988. Other locations.

Frozen Custard Nielsen's Frozen Custard Owner: Steve Nielsen Once a high school teacher, Steve Nielsen abandoned the education ship to take a risk on a family business.

"We wanted our kids to be able to work hard," he says, "but didn't have a farm to do it on."

An old-fashioned custard stand was his solution. He started out in Crossroads Mall in 1989 but later opened his stand-alone shop. Before the 1930s, all ice cream was like frozen custard. Concrete, Nielsen's bestseller, is named for its thick consistency -- custard plus a mix-in. Steve's favorite is chocolate. 570 W. 2600 South, Bountiful, 801-292-7479

More Ice Cream Ideas Don't just take it from us -- great restaurants are serving great ice cream desserts. Bambara's Backwards Float IBC Vanilla Cream Soda with a scoop of House Churned Root Beer Ice Cream Bambara, 202 S. Main Street, SLC 801-363-5454

Bambara's Tropical Fruit Sundae Coconut Ice Cream topped with Tropical Fruit Compote with a Pizzelle Waffle Cookie

Faustina's Double Chocolate Milk Shake with Chocolate Shavings and Whipped Cream Faustina, 454 E. Broadway, SLC 801-746-4441

Easy Street's Hot Fudge Gooey Brownie Sundae Easy Street at the Sky Lodge 201 Heber Ave., Park City 435-658-2500

Copper Onion's Banana Split with Pistachio Brittle, Copper Onion 111 E. Broadway # 170, SLC 801-355-3282

 

Dressing Up Your Scoop Ice cream makes a dynamite and easy summertime dessert, whether you're eating in the dining room or the back yard. Especially if you top it with originality. When you don't have to spend a lot of time making the ice cream, you have time to make ice cream extra special.

Nutella Sundae Slightly warm Nutella chocolate spread; spoon over vanilla ice cream and top with salt-roasted hazelnuts.

Red & White Sundae Boil 1 1/2 cups cream; stir in 6 oz. white chocolate. Stir until smooth. Pour raspberry or pomegranate syrup over vanilla ice cream and white chocolate.

Jamaican Sundae Pour a jigger of dark rum over a scoop of vanilla and top with chopped crystallized ginger and a crisscross of lime zest.

Caramel Bacon Sundae Spoon caramel sauce (cook 1 cup sugar until light brown, stir in 5 Tbsp. butter, then 1/2 cup whipping cream) over vanilla ice cream and top with crisp bacon crumbles.

 

Vanilla Ice Cream Tasting

The clear winner: Haagen Dazs Really sweet, eggnoggy

Runner-up Dreyer's Creamy but no flavor, What flavor?

Not so much Boulder Organic Weird tang, watery, lame-o.

Never mind 365 Whole Foods Brand No flavor, meh. This is why they put other flavors in this stuff.