From traditional to over-the-top: On the hunt for the GTA's best ice cream
Bar Ape and Wong's Ice Cream in Toronto, and Wooffles & Cream in Markham are top picks
It's a good time to be an ice cream fan in the city.
Between traditional hard ice cream, airy soft serve, and non-traditional flavour combinations, the possibilities are endless.
Lately, it seems that some shops are focusing more on visually stunning, over-the-top presentations for the cone and cup rather than the assemblage of flavours. But if you can't have some fun with ice cream, then what's the point?
My argument has always been about taste. I don't mind if my soft serve is topped with doughnuts and oversized chunks of brownies, as long as it tastes good.
There are a handful of places that prove you can have some fun and create memorable, icy treats.
Here are three of my favourites.
Wong's Ice Cream
Wong's Ice Cream is at 617 Gerrard St E. in Toronto.
In the last two years, there have been a lot of Asian-themed dessert shops specializing in ice cream flavours that experiment with savoury and sweet combinations.
One of my favourites in this category is Wong's Ice Cream located in the fast-changing Chinatown East neighbourhood.
Wong's is a little tricky to find at first — it's discreetly tucked into the second floor of a complex between grocery stores and noodle shops.
The owner, Ed Wong, left the corporate world to pursue his dream of opening an ice cream shop. He is an ice cream nut who experiments with Asian favours like pineapple cilantro, black sesame and salted duck egg, and toasted ramen miso.
"Everything I do here is influenced from my childhood. Either from eating dim sum or snacking on Asian treats," he explained.
Wooffles & Cream
Wooffles & Cream is at 8360 Kennedy Rd., Suite 81 in Markham.
Whenever I'm in the Markham area, I try to find an excuse to stop by Wooffles & Cream. It's situated inside New Kennedy Square plaza next to a cluster of Chinese fast-food spots.
Most of the places in the plaza are of the traditional variety. There is a steady wave of older generation locals that visit this food court for Shanghainese noodles, Cantonese-style char siu and barbecued pork.
Far from traditional, Kayan Woo and Mabel Yeung's closet-sized shop sticks out.
Woo and Yeung serve a menu of spherical egg-based waffles popular in Hong Kong, but at Wooffles they incorporate a variety of ingredients into the bubbly waffles and stuff them with soft serve ice cream.
"We wanted to serve traditional HK style waffles but with our own twists," Woo said.
In the lap cheong waffle, Yeung stuffs thinly sliced Chinese sausage into each cell of the waffle to give it a savoury, umami flavour. It's then served with a tea-flavoured ice cream from the menu.
"It takes us back to our childhood, but now that we have adult palates we wanted to play with some adventurous ingredients," Woo said.
What I love most is the experience of enjoying a waffle here — the hot and cold as you tear each cell of the waffle and dip it into the ice cream.
There are sweet elements and savoury elements, but nothing feels contrived or over-the-top.
"We want to play with unexpected flavours but still maintain the fun parts of eating waffles and ice cream," Woo said.
Bar Ape is at 283 Rushton Rd. in Toronto.
After working at a few ice cream shops in Toronto, owner James Carnevale launched a travelling gelato business called Bar Ape, where he would ride into various neighbourhoods in the city on a three-wheeled Piaggio Ape truck serving gelato bars.
Carnevale found an audience quickly with his seasonal ice cream bars and he eventually moved into a small space on St. Clair West where he now operates a walk-up gelato stand. This is a "grab-n-go" type place — there's barely any seating outside — but it's well worth the visit if you're a fan of gelato.
The gelato bar menu changes seasonally and everything runs out quickly. My favourites in the past have included strawberry balsamic and chocolate with black olives.
Suresh Doss's weekly food segment airs every Thursday on Metro Morning. Watch for video of his jaunts across the city on CBC Toronto's Facebook page.
Do you know a GTA restaurant that Doss should visit? Tweet us @metromorning or send us a message on Facebook. And if you try any of the places he features, we want to see photos!