It's no secret that I have a major sweet tooth. I would venture to guess that about 50% of my food consumption is either ice cream or chocolate. With that in mind, you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that a chocolate shop with a seasonal ice cream pop-up was located just a few miles away from my alma mater, Wheaton College. As a member of the Wheaton Alumni Board, I am on campus often and I couldn't believe I had gone this long without knowing there was a Wonka Land just down the road!
I drove to Norton, MA on Saturday for Commencement (the Alumni Board marches in the procession) and I decided to reward myself at the end of the volunteer day by making my first visit to Hilliards Chocolates in North Easton.
Hilliards is a family-run business, started by Perley and Jessie Hilliard in 1924. They opened their very first shop in Quincy. As the business flourished, they expanded, opening their North Easton location in 1950. Presently, they have three locations - North Easton, Mansfield and Norwell.
When I arrived, it was storming, but not even the rain could dampen Hilliards' natural charm. The exterior of the North Easton location looks like something from a story book.
In honor of their seasonal ice cream pop-up, they had the windows hand painted with delicious frozen confections.
When I opened the door, the smell inside was intoxicating. The store supervisor, Ashley, saw the look on my face and said, "We just made the waffle cones."
I strolled through the candy section first. When I saw the penny candy wall I was hoping they would have my favorite treat . . .
And sure enough they did! Chocolate covered gummi bears are my kryptonite.
Ashley informed me that all the bears are pineapple flavored, which I never realized.
Around the corner I found chocolate covered champagne gummi bears. Am I living in a dream?!
I was also magnetized to the chocolate covered Rice Krispie treats with rainbow sprinkles.
If you're looking for a Father's Day gift for next month, Hilliards has partnered with Shovel Town Brewery (also based in North Easton) to make this beer brittle.
After a full lap around the candy shop, I walked over to the ice cream parlor. Right next to the counter they have these adorable ice cream-shaped chocolate pops. Directly above, you can see coffee bean size bags of Hilliards home made chocolate sprinkles. Ashley told me that people buy them and start eating them straight out of the bag!
I couldn't wait to enter the world of Hilliards ice cream. Ashley was going to be my guide as I sampled some of their signature flavors.
As I was deciding, I learned that one woman makes all of Hilliards' ice cream. In addition to the ice cream itself being made in-house, they also make everything that goes into the ice cream - the brownies, cookies, candies and caramel are all made at Hilliards. Even the chocolate-dipped waffle cones are dipped in their own chocolate.
I sampled eight flavors and am sharing my tasting notes:
- Chewy cashew turtle soup - This was the first flavor I tried and it's a local favorite. It's coffee ice cream with pieces of Hilliards chocolate cashew turtles. And we're not talking about tiny, ground up pieces. There were huge, decadent pieces of turtle in there. I was instantly obsessed with this and was kicking myself I didn't bring a cooler for the car so I could take home a whole pint.
- Cherry cordial - I am a huge fan of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, so I was curious how this would stack up. Hilliards' version is cherry ice cream with pieces of their chocolate covered cherry cordials mixed in. Let's just say, after the first bite, my eyes rolled into the back of my head.
- Coconut almond delight - At Lizzy's ice cream in Harvard Square I always order their Almond Joy flavor. I tried this wondering how it would compare. Hilliards' version has a generous amount of real coconut and oh-so-many almonds! I loved this.
- Cupcake - Before I tried this, I asked Ashley if it would be sickeningly sweet and she said, "This one is super popular with little kids." I took a small bite and it tasted like licking the bowl when you make Funfetti cake. One bite was delicious, but I think a full dish would be too much.
- Coffee brownie madness - This flavor has two things I love: coffee ice cream and fudgy brownies. That being said, I didn't enjoy this as much as the chewy cashew turtle soup. If you're craving a coffee base, definitely go with the turtle.
- Swamp - There is no way to have any idea what this flavor is unless you ask. The name might have you thinking it's some kind of chocolate base, maybe with something sticky like fudge or caramel. It's actually vanilla ice cream with M&Ms, malted milk balls, sandwich cookies, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and brownies. Yes, people, this exists. It's a good thing I don't live closer, because I would be at Hilliards every night ordering this.
- Salted caramel - I was super surprised to learn that this flavor was not actually a caramel base. It's vanilla ice cream with salted caramel swirl and chocolate chips mixed in. Ashley said this is one of the most popular flavors for frappes and I can absolutely see why.
- Peppermint stick - You know how you can tell if an Italian restaurant is legit by their margherita pizza? That's how I feel about ice cream shops and peppermint stick. It's one of my favorite flavors and when I go somewhere new, I like to taste their rendition. Hilliards' version was one of the best yet, with pieces of their home made candy canes mixed in. I also ordered it with their signature chocolate sprinkles. That combo made every bite taste like a York peppermint patty!
The Hilliards team is trained to scoop every dish and cone the same way, making sure you always get that generous portion you're hoping for. They even weigh the scoop before they hand it to you.
The ice cream parlor also offers floats using Simpson Spring sodas. Simpson Spring has been bottling water and soda in Easton since 1878.
I took my dish of peppermint stick over to the seating area, which has the classic soda shop vibe.
How cute are the back of the menus?
While I was enjoying my ice cream, I continued chatting with Ashley and I asked, "What do you like about working here?" She paused for a second and then replied, "The best part about working here is that it's a family business. I know the owner and the manager, and they really care about their team and the customers. We have so many regulars here. You get to know people by name. At a Dairy Queen, you're just a number in a line."
Hilliards definitely has that community feel. I witnessed it as individuals and families came in from the rain to get that particular ice cream flavor they crave.
The ice cream pop-up is open each year from Easter to Columbus Day. I will be back at Wheaton in July for a board meeting and you better believe I'm stopping at Hilliards on the way home. And this time I won't forget to bring the cooler!
*This post was created in collaboration with Hilliards. I was provided complimentary ice cream. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100 percent my own.