Tom Carvel personified the American dream. Born in Greece in 1906 as Athanassios Karvelas, he began dishing out ice cream from a beat-up vending truck that, in 1934, suffered a flat tire in Hartsdale, New York. Two years later—in the same spot where his truck broke down and took up bird watching—Carvel opened his first roadside ice-cream stand, which the company stakes as the first retail ice-cream franchise to ever swirl onto the American marketplace. Today, Carvel’s creamy products serve up sweet reprieve from 500 stores and more than 8,000 supermarkets across the nation. Daily-made ice creams continue to headline a menu that now includes sundaes, shakes, and novelty items such as the Flying Saucer and the Banana Barge. Ice-cream cakes layered with chocolate crunchies have also evolved into one of Carvel’s calling cards, and, like piñatas that stock their wardrobes with an assortment of fake mustaches, are customizable to specific celebrations, including birthdays and holidays.
An innovator in cupcake design, I Am Cupcakes offers nearly 50 varieties of the hand-held treats, from simple vanilla and chocolate creations to more intricate flavors, such a french toast or lemon lovers. Stop by I Am Cupcake’s Little Ferry storefront to pick up 1 or 12 chocolate peanut-butter surprise cupcakes, filled with bits of Snickers, M&M’s, and peanut-butter cups, or walk out with moist, cream-cheese topped red velvet cakes. You can also preorder a batch of colorful cakepops, or ask the shop’s pastry artists to design full-size couture cakes for birthday parties, weddings, or to bring to a job interview. I Am Cupcakes can even host cupcake-decorating parties on-location for special events.
A multidisciplinary cultural development center, GainVille specializes in language lessons for children but also offers classes for adults, ESL classes, and academic support, including educational-placement programs, counseling, and tutoring. A teaching staff of native Spanish, Italian, French, Mandarin, and Arabic speakers leads immersive sessions that not only cover grammar and vocabulary but also delve into the art, history, cuisine, and famous yo-yoists of the regions where each respective language is spoken. To fill up on brain food before or after class, students can head down to the café for some healthy international cuisine.
Each day, Sweet Avenue Bake Shop’s chefs whip up dozens upon dozens of classic and gourmet egg-, dairy-, and cholesterol-free cupcake creations. The daily changing menu features at least 12 artistic creations at any given time. Classic cupped combinations, such as vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, are spruced up and named after hairstyles, including Dark Side of the Moon ($2.50). Special cupcakes, such as the coffee-liqueur-soaked tiramisu and the red berry-filled sangria ($3.50 each), conduct entire orchestras of flavors in odes to beautiful incisors.
When Palermo’s Bakery opened nearly three decades ago, it was a small storefront affair. Husband and wife team, Joanne and Jerry Bruno, baked small-scale confections at first, but over the years, Jerry became adventurous, constructing elaborate designer cakes that grew more intricate over the years. Twenty-five years later, thanks in part to those same creations, the small Italian bakery has grown into two custom cake shops with more than 50 staff members.
Still helmed by the Bruno family, Palermo's Bakery creates lavish wedding cakes bursting with fondant flowers, and specialty cakes sculpted into an array of improbable shapes, such as 3D champagne bottles. Though baked goods and pastries vary by location, they often include more than 20 flavors of cookies, Italian treats such as cannoli, and kosher desserts such as rugalech. All of the duo’s whimsical creations are available for pick-up or delivery.
Since 1848, Applegate Farm has existed under many guises, but its purpose has always remained the same: to provide fresh dairy products for local families. Originally home to the Sitger family and their golden guernsey milk, the farm has changed hands several times since the late 1800s and survived through the Civil War, both World Wars, and all six Star Wars. It experimented with its first ice-cream cone in the late 1920s under the guidance of owner Julian Tinkham, who also had the good foresight to preserve the farm's historic structures so that future generations could visit the 19th-century farmhouse that once helped slaves to freedom or count the number of tiles in an authentic 1919 tile silo––one of only three built in the state.
Since then, the farm has expanded and operates under the current leadership of the Street family, who hold themselves to the same dedication to quality that has sustained the dairy for more than 164 years. The range of ice-cream flavors changes seasonally but usually includes at least 63 distinctive varieties ranging from orange pineapple and toasted almond to vanilla peanut butter and Graham Central Station––which won top prize at the New Jersey State Ice Cream Festival. No-sugar-added and dairy-free treats can also be found in scoopable form, along with ice-cream cakes, ice-cream pies, ice-cream sandwich breads, and other things that are best when sliced.