Last week someone mentioned that he preferred Sweet Occasions' ice cream to the Penguin's gelato on the basis of service, value and overall quality. I decided to test his claim last night.
Upon entering Sweet Occasions, the first thing I realized about the store was that although I had never before set foot in it, I had previously sampled its ice cream--in Madison, Wis. A sign near the store entrance informs customers that Sweet Occasions obtains its ice cream from the Chocolate Shoppee, which is a pretty popular ice cream shop located on the State St. strip in downtown Madison. I had a little taste of this ice cream a couple of weeks ago on a trip to visit the Madison farmer's market (which is huge and unbelievable, if you haven't been), although not enough to make a lasting impression on me. Whenever I'm in Madison I try to satisfy my frozen custard craving by making a trip to Michael's, which offers a very good (not great) version of the product, and, I think, is generally considered the best place for frozen desserts in that town.
At any rate, Sweet Occasions offers about 10 flavors, including a couple with no sugar added and a couple frozen yogurt varieties. Some of the flavors include boysenberry, chocolate, strawberry, lemon meringue, coconut, pistachio, and vanilla hazel nut. I sampled the chocolate, pistachio and boysenberry, and ordered the pistachio. In my opinion, the best quality in the Sweet Occasions ice cream is the texture/mouth feel. It has a great creamy, light feel to it, similar to the Penguin's gelato. Where the ice cream falls short, though, is in its actual flavor: all of the flavors I sampled had a strong initial taste, but lacked depth, and thus seemed pretty bland. I actually got bored with the pistachio I was eating, decided not to finish it immediately, and put the leftover in my freezer once I got home. It was fine as a leftover, but the ice cream just doesn't excite my taste buds like a good outing at the Village Creamery, the Penguin, or even Oberweis can. Thus, while Sweet Occasions offers very large scoops at low prices, the Penguin and Village Creamery will remain my first area ice cream options. Sweet Occasions has good ice cream, good service, and good prices, but I simply don't think it can hit the same highs as its aforementioned competitors. The shop also orders a variety of candy and baked desserts, in addition to ice cream.