FOOD AND THE CITY

Here's the scoop on that new ice cream shop in Auburn Bay

There's a new, made-from-scratch ice cream shop in town — down in Auburn Bay, but it's worth the drive (if you don't already live in the deep south).

'We want to be a place for people to come after school, meet their neighbours ... a sort of community hub'

Darren Sortland, who launched XO Ice Cream and Waffles with his wife, Melanie, at their Auburn Bay shop. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

There's a new, made-from-scratch ice cream shop in town — down in Auburn Bay, but it's worth the drive (if you don't already live in the deep south).

"We wanted to be somewhere we could be part of a community," says Darren Sortland, who launched XO Ice Cream and Waffles in the 100 block of Auburn Meadows Drive S.E. with his wife, Melanie, after the 2015 downturn forced him out of the oil and gas industry.

"We were looking for a community outside of the core, that was kind of being neglected from niche places like this," he says. "There are a lot of families out here — we want to be a place for people to come after school, meet their neighbours, and become a sort of community hub."

After starting on their business plan a couple years ago, Darren spent the past year perfecting his ice cream recipes in an industrial-sized machine they had delivered to the family's basement in Lake Bonavista.

Architecture and design firm McKinley Burkart came up with the interior and branding — pale pink tile walls have an Instagrammable ice cream graphic on one wall to encourage sharing on social media. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

With a background in hotel and restaurant management and experience opening cafes during a stretch of time living in Paris, he wanted to go back to doing something he liked. "I thought about it, and it was ice cream. And kids and families."

They hired architecture and design firm McKinley Burkart to come up with the interior and branding — pale pink tile walls with an Instagrammable ice cream graphic on one wall to encourage sharing on social media. Unique square takeout containers stack easily in the cooler in the front to grab and go, and pink lights shaped like Xs are suspended from the ceiling. A foot rail along the front of the ice cream display case allows kids to peer in and choose their flavour.

They opened their doors just weeks ago, in March.

Waffle irons turn out crisp, deep, made-from-scratch Belgian-style waffles served with the option of a scoop of ice cream or hot fudge sauce. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

All their ice creams and sorbets are made from scratch, without artificial flavourings and extracts, in small batches — their machine does only six litres at a time.

"It really allows you to fine tune flavours and make changes when you need to," says Darren.

Their flavours are classic, but modernized; there's chocolate and salted caramel, but also strawberry-rhubarb and blackberry-lavender sorbet. They aim to have a menu of 10 classics — vanilla, chocolate, mint chip and the like — as well as rotating flavours inspired by the seasons (and themselves).

All their ice creams and sorbets are made from scratch, without artificial flavourings and extracts, in small batches. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

"We wanted a mix between traditional and new age," Darren says, "to get people curious and thinking."

Along one wall, waffle irons turn out crisp, deep, made-from-scratch Belgian-style waffles served with the option of a scoop of ice cream or hot fudge sauce. A blood orange sorbet is being rolled out next week, and when things warm up, there will be waffle ice cream sandwiches.

As for the name, it was meant to be whimsical and fun, reminiscent of childhood. "X is the waffle, and O is the scoop of ice cream," says Darren, who came up with the name with Melanie over a bottle of wine one night.

"Xs and Os are kisses and hugs, it's tic-tac-toe, it's being a kid. It perfectly encapsulates our vision for this place." 

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.