ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – As Americans prepare to celebrate National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, traditional flavors are likely to reign supreme throughout much of the United States. Here in the Greater Olean area, however, ice cream preferences are anything but vanilla.
"Chocolate peanut butter cup just tastes better than all the rest," said one St. Bonaventure University student.
"I'd have to say it's chocolate Panda Paws that's my favorite," said another.
Though the self-proclaimed ice cream experts at Friendly's on West State Street verified that their most popularly sold flavor is indeed vanilla, a survey of the preferences of more than 15 members of the St. Bonaventure community suggested that the classic flavor is off many student radars, at least for now.
"From the perspective of a lactose-intolerant person, which I believe is very important, vanilla ice cream makes me sicker than all of the others," said Stacey Valimont. "So as for me, I prefer a Kit-Kat flurry."
Other students favored chocolate above all else.
"If we're talking just regular old hard ice cream," said Andrew Church, a recent St. Bonaventure grad, "Then chocolate is the kind I want all the time."
Many students echoed similar sentiments.
"Chocolate is where it's at," said Mary-Katherine Hoag while her suitemate nodded her head in agreement.
"Oh yeah, anything chocolatey is what I like," added Cynthia Rich, who spends her summers working at a Dairy Queen outside Buffalo. "It has to be regular chocolate, but sometimes if I'm feeling adventurous I'll get chocolate with brownies or chocolate with Oreos."
At her local Dairy Queen, Oreos are a hot commodity among customers too, she said.
"The Oreo Blizzard is without a doubt the most popular flavor," Rich said. "But there's a pretty even split between customers who mix theirs with chocolate ice cream and customers who mix theirs with vanilla."
Her observation reflects the results of a poll conducted by CBS News in 2010. The online survey asked the American people about their ice cream preferences in an effort to establish America's favorite flavor. The survey revealed that Americans are evenly divided between favoring chocolate and vanilla, with each flavor garnering 25 percent of the vote. The next most-popular flavor was strawberry, weighing in at 8 percent, followed at 5 percent by mint chocolate chip and butter pecan and at 3 percent by coffee and chocolate chip.
Other popular choices included rocky road, pistachio and cookie dough, a flavor that has found favor among locals in recent years.
"Last year our best seller was cookie dough," a Twist 'N' Shake employee said without skipping a beat at the counter. "The customers just eat it up."
And though favorite flavors vary, one thing holds true for all who were interviewed: They love ice cream.
"I seriously love Chocolate Panda Paws," said rising junior Sabrina Basile. "I love when you bite into the cone and the chocolate peanut butter comes out of the paws. It's like finding pieces of joy in your ice cream."
For Bridget Hoag, also a rising junior, mint chocolate chip earned her vote.
"I absolutely love it," she said. "A lot of ice cream flavors are just too sweet. With mint chocolate chip, I think it has just enough bite to be perfectly refreshing and satisfying."
Helen Stangle, another rising junior, preferred plain old vanilla.
"Oh, it's the classic flavor," Stangle said. "It's my absolute favorite, and I'll get it every time."
And according to students surveyed, the ice cream itself is only half the experience.
"I like that you can walk up to the window and just say, 'I want this,'" Basile said about Twist 'N' Shake. "You can eat your ice cream outside without even having to go indoors and you can sit with friends on a nice summer day. It's just one of my favorite things to do."
"Twist 'N' Shake is great because of the environment," he said. "You can take a nice stroll in the sunshine and meet so many friendly dogs while you're eating your ice cream, and it makes for a very nice time."
For Stangle, a resident of Allegany, it's Original Village Tastee that has her heart.
"I started going there when I was younger, and so now it's where I always go," she said. "It's just a nice place with a nice environment, and I don't care to go anyplace else."
With temperatures heating up for the summer, members of the local community will have plenty of time to venture to the local ice cream joints. Maybe they'll even find a new favorite flavor of their own.