Old-Fashioned Ice Cream & Fun at Seneca Farms

A few weeks ago, K and I joined my family for a long weekend in the Finger Lakes wine region. Located in Upstate New York, the Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long and narrow lakes that resemble human fingers on a map. The Finger Lakes are known for their wine, especially their crisp whites like Rieslings, and have become a popular tourist destination.


My dad has known about the Finger Lakes for a while, as a close friend from his study abroad time on Cape Cod (my dad is Australian) used to live in the area. Now that us sisters are of legal-drinking age, we have driven out to the Finger Lakes a couple times to take advantage of the wineries. The first time, my youngest sister Ava couldn’t make the trip so we vowed to return with her in tow one day. This was the year we made it happen. My family (including K and Ava’s boyfriend) rented a house on Keuka Lake and spent two full days driving from winery to winery, sampling the surprisingly good wines and meads. My favorite wineries included Heron Hill, the Thirsty Owl, and Belhurst Castle. Other highlights of the trip included cheese tastings at the Muranda Cheese Company, playing cornhole outside of the Ithaca Beer Co. taproom, and Saturday night’s dinner at Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca Lake.

IMG_7918Sunday ended up being an exceptionally warm day, so I successfully lobbied our group to stop at Seneca Farms for ice cream. It was located down the road from our rental house in Penn Yan, New York. We knew it must be popular, judging from the full parking lot, cars in the drive-through, and plenty of families sitting beneath a pavilion out back. The signage by the road advertised not only ice cream, but food as well (apparently, it is quite well-known for its fried chicken).

IMG_7919Seneca Farms is separated into two sections, with the ice cream parlor in front and the restaurant in back. We made a beeline into the front section of the building. And inside, Seneca Farms felt like a blast from the past, with old Coca-Cola memorabilia and retro furniture and furnishings. Which made perfect sense when I learned that Seneca Farms has been family owned and operated since 1950.

IMG_7920 Colorful ice cream menus featured a few dozen flavors of homemade ice cream, plus a rotating selection of frozen custard and soft serve. Beyond the normal ice cream flavors  like Chocolate, Strawberry, and Mint Chocolate Chip, there were other Northeast favorites like Grasshopper, Deer TracksWhite Mountain Raspberry, and Maple Walnut.

The frozen custard flavors were limited to Vanilla, Chocolate, Twist, or the rotating specialty flavor.  This particular day, the special was Peanut Butter (you can check the “Custard Calendar” here for current specialty flavors).

IMG_7921You can turn any flavor into a sundae, shake, float, or flurry. But we kept things simple with cones… Especially since Seneca Farms offers gluten-free cones free of charge!

I went with a small gluten-free cone of Peanut Butter frozen custard with rainbow sprinkles for an added crunch. The sprinkles turned out to be quite patriotic! Ava ordered a small cup of the same custard (not pictured here), plus a cone of Salted Caramel Nut for my dad and Pistachio for mom. We promptly took them outside to enjoy in the sunshine.


Small Peanut Butter frozen custard in a gluten-free cone… with patriotic sprinkles


Small cones of Salted Caramel and Pistachio

The verdict? Everyone happily polished off their ice creams! The Peanut Butter frozen custard tasted like the filling in my grandma-in-law’s famous peanut butter pie (which is similar to this recipe). The custard was a bit more dense and rich than regular soft serve, and the peanut butter flavor was strong but not overwhelming. Ava pointed out that there were even teeny-tiny specks of peanuts throughout our custard, and she later proclaimed her cup as “maybe the best soft serve” she’s ever had! I agreed that it was top-notch. I also stole a bite of my mom’s Pistachio and dad’s Salted Caramel. While the latter was nothing special (too sugary and not salty enough), mom’s scoop of Pistachio was flavorful and studded with bits of real pistachios. It reminded me of my grandfather (my mom’s dad), who seemed to always have a half-gallon of pistachio ice cream in his freezer. When we visited him as kids, it was either pistachio ice cream or no ice cream. So I learned to love the flavor as a youngster.

Overall, I think Seneca Farms is a lovely place to enjoy good old-fashioned ice cream (or frozen custard!) in a fun environment.

The Stats:
Seneca Farms
2485 Rt. 54A
Penn Yan, NY 14527

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