Hancock Shaker Village: All This And Ice Cream Too?
They may have had odd views about how to keep the human race going (essentially: leave that messy task to earthbound wretches), but apart from that, the Shakers were an exemplary lot, and not just because of their famously prescient taste and high standards of craftsmanship. They provided safe haven to mainstream society’s forgotten souls—people of color; unmarried, abandoned, or widowed women; effeminate men; orphans; the bankrupt—asking only that those joining the fold abstain from sex and diligently use their God-given gifts on behalf of one and all. In exchange, the faithful were provided with a level of security and quality of life, including education, enjoyed in those days only by the elites. Abstinence? Small sacrifice.
Especially, with SoCo ice cream as consolation. Not that the Shakers had it (though they did eat exceptionally well), but today’s pilgrims to Hancock Shaker Village now can, thanks to this season’s latest wrinkle, a SoCo Creamery scoop shop set up in the 1910 barn. This island of creamy, not-too-sweet solace is not, as one might expect, near the entrance, where the Village’s pleasant cafe and gift shop are. It is out there in the midst of the village, where the going gets hot.
For nearly two decades, SoCo Creamery on Railroad Street in the center of Great Barrington has been where first-time visitors to the town have tended to go to get their bearings. That Danny Mazurky’s ice cream keeps them coming back again and again helps explain the lines out the door in high season. For a long time, the Railroad Street shop was the only outlet for SoCo (short for South County). Now devotees can find it throughout the region at specialty food stores, such as Guido’s and the Old Chatham Country Store. More recently still, production at SoCo’s Main Street facility has revved up in order to supply stores and restaurants throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. “Still, it’s never mass produced,” Mazurksy assures us. “Small-batch production allows us to customize flavors for chefs who want something seasonal or wildly exotic.”
Such as Dirty Chocolate, so named because the creamery workers who whip up those small batches find it impossible to do so without getting truffle-y goo all over themselves. Parents bringing little ones to the Village’s behind-the-scenes baby animal tour (April 16 - May 8), beware.
Hancock Shaker Village
Route 20, just west of Route 41
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
members/free; adults/$17; 13 - 17/$8; 7 - 12/$4; under 7/free
5 Railroad Street