Location: 283 Rushton Road, Toronto
You wouldn’t be blamed for getting kinda bored of gelato in Toronto. You seemingly can’t walk more than a few blocks without coming across a gelato shop in the city. A lot of it is quite good, but after a while, it all starts to feel samey.
Enter: Bar Ape, which mixes things up by selling their gelato in soft serve form. Of course, this means that they can only serve two flavours at a time (though chocolate-covered gelato bars are available in a variety of combinations), but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for something that’s so delightfully unique.
On this particular visit the two flavours were chocolate sorbet and fresh mint. I got the twist, which comes with both.
Sorbet is generally made without dairy, so I was concerned that it would be icy or thin, but it was rich and creamy, with a really nice dark chocolate flavour.
The fresh mint was even better; unlike 99 percent of mint ice creams, which are made with mint flavouring, this was clearly made with actual fresh mint leaves. This gave it an interesting herby flavour that really made it stand out. The combination between it and the chocolate was a home run.
The only real downside? The wooden spoons. They’re becoming more and more common in the city, and I feel bad for criticizing them — they’re obviously more environmentally-friendly than plastic — but the rough texture and mild woody flavour makes them an off-putting implement for eating ice cream. Plastic (or metal) or GTFO.
Location: 1640 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
I’m not sure why, but there are way more gelato shops in the GTA than regular ice cream. I’m pulling this number right out of my you-know-where, but I’d guess there’s something like four gelato places for every one ice cream shop.
So when you’re talking about the best gelato in the city, there’s quite a bit of competition. But Hollywood Gelato is certainly a strong contender for that list.
On a recent visit, I got Rocky Rocher (chocolate hazelnut) and Sicilian Pistachio. The texture was phenomenal. It’s slightly stretchy and richly creamy; you’re not going to do much better in the texture department without a plane ticket to Italy.
The flavour, however, wasn’t quite up to snuff on this particular visit. It was still very good, but the flavour on the Rocky Rocher was a bit muted, and the pistachio was slightly too strong (I think someone was a bit heavy-handed with the pistachio flavouring in this particular batch). There was also a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste that lingered on my palate for a while after I was done.
(I think I’m coming off more negative here than I should — don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious. It just wasn’t quite as delicious as it usually is.)
On another visit, I got a couple of the wackier, Easter-inspired varieties: Creme Egg and Kinder Surprise. Surprisingly enough, they were a lot better than the more traditional flavours I had on my previous visit. The Kinder Surprise, in particular, really nailed the milky, chocolatey flavour of that particularly treat.
Location: 6170 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Generally speaking, I think McFlurries are a waste of time. I mean, they’re just a poor man’s Blizzard, right? If I’m craving a blended ice cream treat, why get an imitation when I can have the original?
It turns out I might be wrong about this, because I just had the Butterscotch Blondie McFlurry, and it was easily better than any Blizzard I’ve had in recent memory.
It had a really rich caramel flavour from the abundant butterscotch, and the sizable blondie chunks were chewy, tasty, and satisfying. It’s super sweet, obviously, but there was enough going on here that it didn’t feel one-note.
The ice cream was a little too melty, but aside from that? Shockingly good.
Location: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
I recently blogged about the tasty Chinese crepes at the Emerald Park food court. Also at that food court? Nanashake, which serves vegan, banana-based soft serve and shakes.
I almost got the soft serve (because I have a very hard time saying no to soft serve of any kind), but then I remembered that “shake” is right there in the name of the restaurant, so I got one of those instead.
They have a few different flavours — strawberry, pistachio, date, etc. — but the guy behind the counter said chocolate was the most popular, so that’s what I went with.
It was quite refreshing. It tasted more like a smoothie than a milkshake (it is vegan and made predominantly with bananas, after all), but whatever it is, it’s good. The banana/chocolate flavour was satisfying, and its level of sweetness was much more subtle than a typical milkshake. It probably won’t satisfy an all-out dessert craving, but it’s a refreshing and tasty beverage that I’d happily drink again.
Plus, it is (presumably) healthy; something that’s good for you and actually tastes really good is always nice.
Location: 6075 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
Here’s a question: why isn’t frozen custard a thing in Toronto? It’s so good, and its absence makes me simultaneously sad and infuriated, because why? It makes no sense!
For the uninitiated, frozen custard is basically like ice cream but better. It’s made with egg yolks along with the traditional ice cream ingredients, which gives the final product a richer, more velvety texture and an irresistibly custardy flavour.
There used to be a frozen custard joint in the city called Jedd’s, but aside from the fact that it was never very good, it closed down. Recently, a place called Rita’s opened near Kensington Market, but based on one sampling (which was right when it opened, so I should probably give them another shot), it just tasted like regular soft serve.
So — for now, at least — all frozen custard cravings need to be satisfied via a road trip to Buffalo. Though the frozen custard at Anderson’s isn’t exactly the best I’ve ever had, it’s rich and creamy, and it has a really nice custard flavour. It’ll do.