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On the hunt for seafoam

June 28, 2011|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Hagerstown native April Fitzwater owns Arctic Blast Sno-Cones in Halfway.Seafoam was one item she made sure she had on hand for her snow cone customers.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

When I was a kid growing up in Hagerstown's South End, there were certain things that always seemed to be part of the summer ritual.

The list usually included swimming at Municipal Pool, feeding the ducks at City Park, taking in a Hagerstown Suns game and most importantly — eating a snow cone with seafoam.

We grew up in a Smurf blue house on South Street, which was prime walking distance to our favorite snow cone site. A sweet older lady, whose name I can't remember, lived just up the block on South Potomac Street and made snow cones on her side porch.

She'd throw the chunks of ice into the shaver, ask us for our favorite syrup for the snow cone (spearmint for me) and we waited with anticipation until she scooped out the maple syrupy goodness of seafoam and put a dollop on top. The snow cones were 50 cents and it was an extra quarter for the seafoam and with every lick we agreed it was worth the money.

What exactly is seafoam? It's hard to explain. It's a topping but not something you'd want to eat by itself by the spoonful (although one business owner said some of her customers do). That's not to say that it isn't good. It's just something that has to be experienced.

Seafoam is not quite the same thing as the hard candy that bears the same name. What it closely resembles is marshmallow topping — its thinness varies from place to place — with a maple-syrupy taste to it. When it hits the ice of a snow cone it gets slightly gooey and then starts to meld in with the syrup of the snow cone.

Since I moved back to Hagerstown last year, this is my first summer in the Hub City. When the temperatures started to rise, my craving for a seafoam-covered snow cone increased.

Ron Horn purchased Superior Ice Cream on Chestnut Street about 13 years ago, taking over for the business known locally as Superior Dairy.

Horn, a Hagerstown native, grew up with the option of seafoam on his snow cones.

"I used to go get snow cones with seafoam at a neighborhood snow cone stand in the South End," he said.

So when they added snow cones to the menu a few years ago, Horn said he wanted to make sure seafoam was part of the toppings list.

Horn said it was hard to find a recipe, until one of their employees shared her grandmother's recipes. And because of that, the recipe is a closely guarded secret.

He will say that their seafoam is "fluffy and has a very sweet taste."

It looks as if the secret is out, Superior Ice Cream goes through a lot of seafoam — making three batches in half-gallon buckets that usually last the weekend.

He said he's found that root beer is a favorite snow cone flavor that customers choose.

"It just gives it a root beer float taste to it," he said.

April Fitzwater owns Arctic Blast Sno-Cones on Wolford Avenue off Virginia Avenue in Halfway. A Hagerstown native, Fitzwater said she was familiar with seafoam before opening up the business this summer.

Seafoam was one item she made sure she had on hand for her snow cone customers, so she acquired the recipe she has now. However, she's still looking for an old family recipe.

Seafoam evokes early memories for Fitzwater.

"I remember eating it when I was a kid about 8 or 9 years old," she said.

She said she likes to top hers on a cherry-flavored snow cone.

"It has a good taste," she said of the seafoam. "It's really hard to describe how it tastes."

Selina Grogg has been the owner of The Big Dipper off Virginia Avenue for the past six years, although she has been behind the counter for 22 years.

In the beginning, the ice cream shop just sold ice cream so there weren't any requests for seafoam. But once the shop's previous owner started to sell snow cones, Grogg said that's when customers started to ask about seafoam.

"It's very sweet, and very good," Grogg said. "It's like a maple-flavored marshmallow topping."

She said some people come in and will eat it by the cup.

But don't ask her exactly what's in it, Grogg said it's a trade secret. She too likes to keep her recipe a secret.

She said she has a lot of requests for the topping. "Sometimes two people will come in and one will ask for seafoam, and the other person is 'What's that?'" she said.

Grogg said she's a fan of the topping.

 "I like it on spearmint," she said. "It's refreshing on a hot day."

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