Instagram-Friendly Ice Cream at Sweet Jesus

Sweet JesusLocation: 106 John Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.sweetjesus4life.com/

I don’t think there’s a more blatant case of an Instagram-famous restaurant than Sweet Jesus.  They serve up concoctions that are so finely-honed to be drooled over on social media that actually eating them almost feels like an afterthought.

They mainly serve very elaborately topped cones that are impossible to eat without making a huge mess; but then, what do they care?  Again: actually eating them is secondary to the likes that they’ll accrue online.

Thankfully, they eventually acquiesced to common sense and offered the option of a cup instead of a cone, which is slightly less photogenic, but much more reasonable to eat.

I got the Sweet Baby Jesus, which is supposed to come with caramel soft serve (I’m pretty positive it was actually vanilla) topped with peanut butter caramel sauce, chocolate peanut crumble, and chocolate sauce.

Sweet Jesus

I should note that I actually like Sweet Jesus.  I’ve been there a bunch of times, and I have no doubt that I’ll be back a bunch of times.  But it could be so much better.

The biggest issue is the soft serve itself.  It’s fine; it’s basically on par with what they serve at ice cream trucks.  I like the stuff, but it’s not exactly high quality ice cream.

And because they insist on making these things as cones instead of the sundaes they should obviously be (for no reason other than that the elaborate cones look better on Instagram), the ratio of sauce/toppings to ice cream is way off.  This would be fine if they were using better quality ice cream, but they’re not.  Which means that the big pile of ice cream you’re left with after the toppings have been eaten feels kinda useless.

As for the Sweet Baby Jesus, it was tasty enough.  Peanut butter and chocolate is a surefire combo, and yeah, it works here.  But both of the problems I mentioned above are definitely present.

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Tasty Soft Serve Gelato at Bar Ape

Bar ApeLocation: 283 Rushton Road, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.bar-ape.com/

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.

Bar Ape

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.

(Mostly) Great Gelato at Hollywood Gelato

Hollywood GelatoLocation: 1640 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.hollywoodgelato.com/

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.

Hollywood Gelato

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.

Hollywood Gelato

(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.

Chocolate Buffalo from Bagel Nash

Bagel NashLocation: 7355 Bayview Avenue, Thornhill
Websitehttp://bagelnash.ca/

They sell something called Chocolate Buffalo at Bagel Nash, a bakery in Thornhill.  I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it, but here’s a few points:

  1. I hadn’t even heard of a Buffalo pastry up until this point.
  2. It was bad.
  3. No, like really bad.

Bagel Nash

  1. Like, I tried it, I had a few other people try it, and then I threw it in the garbage.  That bad.
  2. It was incredibly dry (it was possibly one of the driest pastries I’ve ever had), and it didn’t taste nearly as deliciously chocolatey as it looked.  It was mostly just sour, oddly.  It tasted a bit like an enormous rugelach — but then I’ve never had a rugelach that bad.
  3. I have no idea if it’s an acquired taste or if it was just terrible, and I don’t particularly care to find out.  I can’t imagine that I’ll ever try a Buffalo again.

Tasty Vegan Treats at Nanashake

NanashakeLocation: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Websitehttp://www.nanashake.com/

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.

Nanashake

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.

Nanashake

Plus, it is (presumably) healthy; something that’s good for you and actually tastes really good is always nice.