Woo-hoo, July is National Ice Cream month! Yes, coneheads, that is official, and therefore you must perform your patriotic duty and slurp down mountains of the frozen, loving stuff (wait, you are, I've seen the lines).

Woo-hoo, July is National Ice Cream month! Yes, coneheads, that is official, and therefore you must perform your patriotic duty and slurp down mountains of the frozen, loving stuff (wait, you are, I've seen the lines).

Ronald Reagan, who apparently had clear ideas of how to use his valuable time as president, actually made the all-important July ice cream month proclamation in 1984 (maybe he was worried that, say, November would sneakily lay claim to the title when no one was watching).

Celebrating national ice cream month is a cool breeze in Columbus because we are fortunate to have a sweet number of great homemade ice cream purveyors, several of whom have become famous for certain flavors (I'm looking at you with lust, Salty Caramel). But like chocolate chip and cookies and cream, you can get those delicious varieties year-round.

So for this In Season, I gassed up the car, grabbed some moist towelettes, loosened my belt and traveled to some high-profile frozen desserters seeking out only their limited-time flavors; that usually meant fabulous summer fruit. Here's a few frosty observations.


Graeter's

Web: graeters.com

Graeter's has been making ice cream since 1870. The Cincinnati-based cold-treat specialist has been warmly embraced by Columbusites, and it's no wonder - their stuff is terrific.

Summer highlights: Peach, Strawberry Chip, Watermelon Sorbet

Notes: A recent visit to a crowded Lane Avenue shop proved that peach was the favorite Graeter's summer feature - it's in smoothies, sundaes, milkshakes, you name it. Their peach ice cream was rich, smooth and dense, with bits of fruit in it, but really more of a creamy thing. I liked the watermelon sorbet even more - it was bright, with lots of fruit flavor and had a pleasant floral quality, too. Try it in Graeter's winning new salt-crusted pretzel cone.


Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Web: jenisicecreams.com

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams are the pride of Columbus and an encouraging example of tremendous success being awarded to people who always do things the right way for the right reasons.

Summer highlights: Raspberry Yogurt with fresh raspberry bits, Apricot Yogurt, Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry

Notes: Jeni's sophisticated and intense flavors are always seasonal-leaning. From her newest batch, I liked the contrasts between seductively smooth raspberry yogurt and its tart blasts of frozen fruit. The apricot-kissed yogurt might've had the most fabulous yogurt character of any frozen confection of its kind I've tried -and the most lovely texture, too. Lastly, a very mild corn flavor was perked up with a swirl of bright, jammy raspberry. Try all three together - a trio comes at a discounted price with a wedge of Jeni's killer waffle cone included.


Johnson's Real Ice Cream

Web: johnsonsrealicecream.com

The family-owned Johnson's Real Ice Cream in Bexley has been churning out truly old-fashioned-style frozen goodies for 57 years. Their well-earned longevity is not a fluke.

Summer highlights: Pomegranate Blueberry Sorbet and Red, White & Blueberry Ice Cream

Notes: The Pomegranate Blueberry Sorbet is probably as newfangled as this place gets. It had decent if subtle fruit, a medium sweetness and a surprisingly lightly crystallized texture for sorbet. The very timely and very easy to like Red, White & Blueberry added frozen strawberry bits and blueberry ripple to an excellent, old-school vanilla base. Try it in one of Johnson's fancifully frosting-decorated "clown cones."

For more food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog Under the Table at ColumbusDiningGuide.com