RE: plain ole vanilla
Last week's Boston Globe Food section had a taste-test of different brands of Vanilla.
My favorite has always been Brigham's. Probably only available locally here in New England, but I'm not sure about that.
If I'm eating just ice cream, I want a pint of Ben & Jerry's (Phish Food, Cherry Garcia, etc.). But when I want ice cream on "something" (apple pie, grilled fruit, etc.), I always go for Brigham's Vanilla.
(not that I would ever turn-down a dish of plain vanilla...)