The Hester Street Fair hosted its second annual Ice Cream Social yesterday afternoon, with eight frozen treat makers scooping up both their signature flavors as well as a few new experiments.

That's only about half the number of vendors they had last summer for this event, when the ice cream party also got its own separate space in that "annex" area, but the line-up was so strong here yesterday that it was tough to be too disappointed. Among my favorites:

* Ice and Vice is making the best ice cream in New York City right now, a fact confirmed once again by my scoop of After School Special, which is just their Basic B Vanilla studded with Fruity Pebbles, but so much more intense and wonderful than that sounds. Really, if you care about ice cream, you need to visit their parlor on East Broadway near Clinton Street, and soon.

* Malai is billed as "Indian ice cream" but the proprietor told me there's nothing especially, nor exclusively, South Asian about her flavors or her process. Whatever, Malai's Turkish Coffee was excellent—bold, creamy, deeply satisfying--and made me wish I had room to try several of her other varieties as well. Malai debuted an environmentally troubling plastic push-pop format for the occasion, but that's not necessarily a permanent thing.

* Belying their too-cute name, Mom and Popsicles broke out some serious frozen treats for the Ice Cream Social, including a milk-based Chicory Chocolate, which was packed with chunks of dark chocolate and a hint of cayenne just to keep everybody on their toes.

Also on hand was the ubiquitous (but always welcome) La Newyorkina, scooping a terrific Blueberry Sourcream, which I enjoyed with a squirt of cajeta syrup; Sam's Fried Ice Cream, just as much of a (delicious) belly bomb as ever; NeauxLA Snoballs--syrup poured over ice chunks--which was sweet and refreshing (I had a Tiger's Blood and Mango combo) but more crunchy than my teeth could comfortably handle; the boozy Tipsy Scoop; and Melt, with their trademark cookie-based ice cream sandwiches.

Adding to the ice cream festivities was an impressively stocked free toppings bar, courtesy of Hester Street Cafe, as well as a blind taste-test contest, pitting generic grocery store ice cream against more expensive artisanal brands. Guess which is which... win a tiny trophy!

One more thing: the Hester Street Fair overall seemed under-appreciated on this day, with nothing close to the crowds you routinely find at all the Fleas and Smorgasburgs. This is a small, pleasantly shaded venue, with a nice little lawn in the back, a free ping pong table, lots of good food (including ice cream) every Saturday, and a generally relaxed vibe. It happens on Saturdays through October 31 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and if you've never been, or are weary of the mob scene over in Brooklyn (and Queens), this is a great time to check out it.