Those who know me or have read my blog for a while know I am obsessed with Catbird Creamery on Maine St. in Westbrook. They won my first ever Restaurant of the Year Award and since that time also have been widely praised by local food media, made multiple appearances on nationwide food TV, and been listed by Yahoo as one of the top ice cream shops in the country. And while that last one is impressive, I have tried others on the list and can confidently say that Catbird wasn’t ranked highly enough.
With all Catbird’s accolades, I find myself forced to stop in regularly to eat some of their unbelievably delicious…ahem…I mean, stop in regularly to make sure they aren’t slipping and everything is as good as it always was. But what is it that makes Catbird Creamery and ice cream creator Andrew Warren so insanely awesome that I make the drive there from two towns over just to have a cold treat, even in the winter months? Well, I’ve come up with a list of ten things I love about Catbird Creamery. Here they are:
1. Texture – Catbird’s ice cream has the most creamy, decadent texture on the planet. It’s never icy, so you don’t feel like you’re eating a sno-cone with superfine ice. Instead, it’s more like a soft, frozen buttercream cloud pillow throughout. You can expect the same consistency from your first bite all the way to your last.
2. Ingredients – Andrew doesn’t use anything you can’t pronounce to make his treats – no artificial flavors, colors, or maltodextro-anything, just good ingredients like milk, sugar, bananas, mint, and whatever other whole foods are needed. The ingredient lists are very short because there are no weird fillers, stabilizers or conditioners. I was able to confirm this once in person as he made whipped cream in front of me by dumping cream and sugar into a large pot and manually whisked it before adding it to my sundae.
3. Flavors – The flavors Andrew designs are utterly magnificent and occasionally downright crazy. He uses lots of herbs and fruit, among other ingredients, to produce interesting flavors like Lemonbalm and Merigold or Rhubarb Pie. Some of the more popular flavors that tend to stay on the menu include Tamari Caramel, Strawberry Balsamic, and Brown Sugar Vanilla. But maybe the most enjoyable are the off-the-wall flavors that often only have a single run. I’ve even seen Bacon and French Fry, Buttered Toast, and Basil Sweet Corn Crab. The fun part is seeing what’s on the menu that day, and at least half the time, there’s something I’ve never tried.
4. Service – The service at Catbird is a 10 out of 10. Customers always walk in to a happy smile and a greeting. Andrew or his employees are exceptionally pleasant and all have the same unfathomable service standards. Want to try every flavor before you choose your ice cream? Go for it! Want multiple flavors in your baby size? Go for it! Want some weird concoction you made up in your head? Go for it! The examples of unbeatable service I’ve seen there are many and they go way above and beyond what anyone would expect.
5. Everything is made from scratch – I pretty sure someone else milks the cows and grows the sugar cane, but beyond that, everything at Catbird is made by the ice cream wizard himself. From the chocolate, to the cones, to the cookies – yes, there are cookies – everything starts from nothing and magically becomes a to-die-for treat.
6. Eggs in a nest – Choose a cone bowl or a cookie, your flavors of ice cream, and any number of house made toppings like Strawberry Peach Compote, Hot Fudge, Crushed Chocolate, or Hot Butterscotch. Then add some whipped cream and an edible ornament on top. It’s the greatest sundae ever made. It looks delicious, it is delicious, and there might just be something wrong with you if you don’t like it. Make sure you get your morning walk in and then indulge in the greatness that is Eggs in a Nest free from guilt.
7. Furious George – Only the single, greatest ice cream ever made – hot pepper ice cream, dark chocolate chunks/chips, and caramelized bananas. It’s probably not a hit with children or those with super sensitive taste buds, but it’s the best I’ve cream I’ve ever eaten. I certainly don’t like it just because its hot either; I’ve had plenty of hot pepper ice creams – spice creams? – that don’t hold a candle to the angry monkey. Hot and sweet at the same time, the concoction produces a stunning dichotomy that cools your mouth as it heats it.
8. Water – Sure, this doesn’t sound exciting, but the cups and dispenser of ice cold water available to customers are pretty spot-on. The sweet treats Catbird produces often require a little thirst quenching even if they are cold. There’s no waiting or asking, just walk up there and pour yourself a little high quality H2O and continue indulging in your dessert.
9. Cakes – Need a cake? Catbird makes ice cream cakes like you wouldn’t believe. I got one for my birthday once and while we were eating it, a friend exclaimed “this might be the best dessert I’ve ever had.” Yep, they’re that good. Pick chocolate or butterscotch cake, your ice cream flavor or flavors and let the cake boss know if you have any other requests. You’ll be notified when it’s done and the resulting magic is ready to be picked up.
10. Portion sizes – Baby, kiddie, or just regular, the sizes are always bigger than you think. A little turns into a lot, and if you get a sundae for two…well, I can’t even imagine because I’ve never ordered or even seen one. I assume it would be the size of a grand piano. I just might have to try one some day when I haven’t eaten for a week or so.
So that’s what makes Catbird one of the very best ice cream shops in the country. If you’ve been, you know, but if you haven’t, you don’t. Believe me when I say you should go, because the first time at Catbird is like a first date with your wife or the birth of your first child. You’ll look back on it with fond memories for the rest of your life. And of course, when you do go, tell ‘em Peterpeterportlandeater sent you.
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