A cone of Mexican Chocolate and Salt Caramel obscures MDI's "Fearless Flavor" tagline on the sign.

Being in the branding biz myself, I am a tad wary of taglines. Too often they grossly overstate – or prove mismatched to the product. So when I first gazed at the sign bedecked with a fierce, spoon-clutching fist and read the claim, “Fearless Flavor” – I raised an eyebrow and muttered “we’ll see.” But Mt Desert Island Ice Cream (51 Exchange Street) didn’t – and continues to not – disappoint.

Many flavors are flat-out fierce (Thai chili, anyone? Chocolate wasabi, maybe?) and some are fearlessly funky.  And I mean that in a good way – not in a “what’s that funky smell” kinda way.

Case in point – The Dude. How often do you find a White Russian-flavored mound of creamy goodness named after cinema’s most famous aging slacker?

Others bring out the fierce in brave combinations of earthy sweet and herb (try the stellar Blueberry Basil sorbet) or simply elegant (the maple and corn meal heartiness of Indian Pudding).

To a scoop, MDI ice cream’s best feature is that it’s not overly saccharine. Sweet yes, but not sugary. The company creates new flavors often – I hear tell of a Danish Blue Cheese Blackberry about to hit town – and avoids the “throw in the kitchen sink” fadiness of that mass-marketed chain from Vermont.

Some flavors celebrate childhood (Nutella), and others rejoice in the pleasures of growing up (Stout with Fudge, Jack Daniels).

My favorite MDI flavors even push boundaries closer to all-out savory. Salt Caramel for instance blends the tang of sea salt with a long-lasting umami richness of a dense cream caramel. I can’t get enough of it.

Much has been made about President Obama’s visit to MDI’s flagship in Bar Harbor last summer, but his choice of scoop (Coconut) is where MDI – for me – misses the mark. It’s pleasant, but lacks a certain lushness and flavor punch.

For the perfect Coconut, stroll around the corner onto Fore Street and enter Gorgeous Gelato.

Blogger’s Note: Visit Portland Food Map for a round-up and links to other reviews of ice cream and gelato joints from bloggers around town.