It's difficult to top the beautiful rural allure of Connecticut's Quiet Corner, particularly when those winding country roads lead to ice cream.
In its 26 years of business, We-Li-Kit, situated on Route 97 in the Abington section of Pomfret, has become a go-to summertime stop in northeastern Connecticut. Owners Linda and Chaplin Rich first started the ice cream business as a way to supplement income from their working dairy farm, and it's evolved into a destination for locals and visitors alike, attracting customers from as far as Hartford and Rhode Island.
We-Li-Kit (pronounced "we LIKE it," not "we LICK it," for the record,) produces about 25 daily varieties of premium ice cream during its season, which runs from mid-April until the last weekend of October. Each starts with a base of milk and cream from Guida's Dairy (at 16 percent butterfat) with flavoring and ingredients added by hand.
That freshly made product almost didn't happen. When they first started out, the Riches considered setting up a weekend stand and buying UConn Dairy Bar's ice cream to sell, but another farmer suggested they try making their own, Linda Rich says. They bought some used equipment and experimented, making trial by error batches.
A banana ice cream, for one, started as a batch to use up several pieces of overripe fruit. They threw in chocolate chips and walnuts, and the flavor "went like crazy" when customers saw it the next day, she says. (Rich hadn't written down the recipe, and had to go back and count the banana peels, she says, laughing.)
More than a quarter-century later, We-Li-Kit has established itself as a landmark not just for its sweet treats, but for the associated farm experience. Guests, particularly families with young kids, often linger to see the animals living on the property, like goats, donkeys and chickens.
Several of its flavors are named for the farm's dairy cow breeds: the top-selling Guernsey Cookie (coffee ice cream jam-packed with Oreos); Holstein (chocolate ice cream with white chocolate chips and almonds) and Ayrshire Chip (strawberry with chocolate chips.) A Purple Cow variety blends white chocolate chips into a black raspberry base.
Other novelty favorites: Roadkill, or vanilla ice cream with walnuts, white chocolate chips and cherry swirl; Cricket Crunch with vanilla, mint cookies and chocolate chips and Mud with a chocolate base, Oreos and fudge swirl. Peanut butter fans appreciate the Chipmunk Tracks, with vanilla, M&M candies and peanut butter swirl, and the Reese's, with peanut butter cup pieces packed into chocolate ice cream. Newer special flavors include white chocolate cherry cheesecake.
Customers still remain loyal to the classic choices, like butter pecan, maple walnut and cherry vanilla. Demand for pumpkin, its most popular fall flavor, has already started, Rich says. And as the stand prepares to close for the season in October, customers rush to place orders for tubs and other large quantities of ice cream to get through the winter.
Ice cream is served in cones and cups ($3.50 to $5.50 plus tax); sundaes ($4.50 to $8.99, including banana and brownie options) and as frappes and floats ($3.49 to $5.49.) Toppings, including sauces, sprinkles, nuts and fruit, are 50 cents apiece. Special-order ice cream cakes are available for occasions.
We-Li-Kit adds personal touches to its ice cream creations, like fresh whipped cream and waffle cones (and bowls) that are made to order. On weekends, the stand offers a few savory items, including clam cakes and clam chowder. The farm also sells its own pure Connecticut maple syrup, seasonal produce like sweet corn and vegetables and assorted cuts of beef from its cattle.
"We're just a family farm, trying to keep farming going," Rich say. "It just evolves and it's been a meeting place for people in town… I like the fact that we're a place…where you can come and it feels like home."
We-Li-Kit, 728 Hampton Road. (Route. 97), Pomfret, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours will change after Labor Day. 860-974-1095, welikit.com.
This summer we're telling the stories behind Connecticut's beloved seasonal restaurants — the destinations that open for an all-too-brief time period in fair weather. These are the small lobster shacks with the buttery rolls you crave in January when you're shoveling snow, the ice cream stands that throw open their windows with the first warm breeze, the beach-town eateries where the salt of fried whole belly clams and onion rings is enhanced by ocean air. Find the series throughout the summer at ctnow.com/summersweetspots.