New London — At Michael’s Dairy at Mitchell College Wednesday, thoughts of spring, ice cream and competition were on everyone’s mind.
In preparation for the dairy’s opening on Friday, it sponsored a “Create-a-Sundae” competition, where 30 members of the Mitchell College community submitted sundae recipes in hopes that their creation would be featured on the menu this summer.
Dairy manager Jessica Brodeur and John McGowan of Radio Mitchell chose 10 finalists — five students and five faculty and staff members — whose concoctions were sampled by a panel of judges, including Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and Dean of Students Jason Ebbeling.
“I’ve got the worst job ever,” Finizio joked. “It’s really, really rough, but I’ll do my best.”
After the four judges shared the 10 sundaes, they offered up the remains to self-proclaimed “back-up judges” in the audience. Mitchell sophomore Robbie Cohen threw a thumbs-up into the air after tasting “S’more Please” and called “Death by Chocolate” a chocolate wonderland.
With 46 flavors of ice cream to choose from, and countless toppings and sauces, contestants did not have trouble dreaming up sundaes. The “Nutty Buddy” submitted by Melissa Shafner, a staff member, consisted of butter pecan, peanut butter and pistachio ice creams, with nut toppings and whipped cream.
“I’ve been coming to Michael’s Dairy since I was a little girl, and those have been some of my favorite flavors,” Shafner said. “It looked like a fun idea, so I entered.”
The winner of the contest was the “Luau,” a tasteful mixture of coconut and orange pineapple ice creams topped with strawberry and pineapple toppings and coconut shavings.
Its creator is Christopher Scott, assistant director of the Thames Academy, a pre-college transitional program run by Mitchell. He said he was inspired by the warm idea of a luau in the depth of winter.
“I haven’t tasted it yet, but I can assure you, it’s a slice of heaven,” Scott said prior to the competition. After winning, he decided to retire from sundae making and give others a chance at victory. He did, however, pledge to order the Luau every time he visits the dairy.
Among the runners-up were “Cookie Monster,” “Cookie Dough Day Dream,” “Death by Chocolate” and “Bee Nutty.”
Until it was sold to Mitchell College in 2006, Michael’s Dairy had been family-owned for 70 years. Now run by Mitchell College students as part of the college’s hospitality and tourism programs, the dairy offers a learning opportunity for many Mitchell students.
Bob Forcier, chairman of the hospitality department, calls the dairy a “learning lab.”
“It’s a place to talk about inventory, purchasing, service or anything else,” Forcier said. “Students can get the full dose of management, the whole works.”
The dairy hopes to continue the tradition of competition, perhaps introducing a signature milkshake contest next year.