Toronto Ice Cream: An Overview 

I’ve gone to a number of Toronto ice cream places. And there are more I want to go to. Sorry, no pictures because I just want to enjoy ice cream, not document it. Here is ice cream from my side of the gurney, and in no order: 

  1. Sweet Jesus 
    Let me begin by saying I threw this out halfway through. Soft-serve covered in delicious pieces of birthday cake seems like an amazing idea: who doesn’t love cake and ice cream? The soft-serve was not that great, and the cake was stale and fake-tasting. So disappointing. No wonder there are rarely any crowds when I walk by on hot days (Bloor location). 

  1. La Dipperie 
    OK, I really like this place. Very good vanilla soft-serve dipped in a selection from 30+ dips and a whole bunch of toppings. And everything from 1-bite size to large. I don’t appreciate it when the only size is giant, or the only way to get a fun (not plain) cone is to get a huge waffle cone. Peanut butter dip with pretzels! So many chocolate dips! Key lime! They have vegan options I didn’t try. 

  1. Grk Ygrt 
    Exactly what I want from frozen yogurt: tart and creamy. I wish it came in a cone. The flavour is vanilla, and there are various parfaits like cherry cheesecake, but it’s so good that I would have been happy to have it on its own. 

  1. Sweet Olenka’s 
    This used to be my favourite for vegan ice cream in years past (higher quality than Cosmic Treats, below). Last week I went by the Kensington location and none of the flavours really appealed. I asked the “ice cream connoisseur” (as she introduced herself) to try the blue cheese walnut, but got such a small sample that I couldn’t taste it and was sort of turned off and went to Grk Ygrt instead (see above). It may be partially because I was treated to a weird scripted introduction by the staff member. The next day a friend and I went to the Queen St. Location and the same staff member did the same ice cream connoisseur routine to us, then mixed up my friend’s order in a bizarre way. I got (non-vegan) rum and raisin and it was very disappointing. It tasted like vanilla, and I never thought I would complain about too many raisins in ice cream, but somehow it didn’t work. 

  1. Cosmic Treats 
    In my opinion, the best variety of flavours for vegan ice cream, but not particularly high quality ice cream. I was so happy when they had tiger stripe and I was vegan, though. 

  1. Eva’s Original Chimney 
    This is ice cream in a housemade, super thick sugar cone. It was way too much cone, and not particularly good. Neat to see how they make the cones, not very tasty unless you like a lot of hard, sugary cone. 

  1. Dutch Dreams 
    I lined up for this Toronto institution once. It’s totally the kind of place where to get what you want, you need to order the waffle cone, and then it comes with candy floss and other tasty crap on top. The ice cream is nothing special, as far as I can tell. Once was enough. 

Ice creams I want to try: 

  1.  JR Sweets – peanut porridge ice cream! Housemade Jamaican ice cream! I need to do this soon. 

  1. Bakerbots – because everyone says how amazing it is. Ice cream sandwiches don’t appeal to me that much, but I guess I need to try it.  

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Squash Wars: Blue Doll

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a truly terrible squash, or at least it had been until I tried Blue Doll last night. It looked like a potential winner, with its Buttercup-like blocky shape and little undeveloped Turban-butt. I was hoping for a dry, dense, sweet flesh when I put it in the oven last night. Removing it from the oven, the signs were already not good: pools of water formed in the seed cavities. The pale yellow flesh browned nicely, but it was about as dry, sweet, and dense as you would expect an overgrown zucchini to be after an hour in the oven. Hard pass.

This wasn’t a squash war, it was not even a battle.

I Finally Found a New Variety of Squash to Try! Ahem, I mean: Squash Wars: Melonette Jaspee Vendée

It’s winter squash season again finally. And I found a variety of squash at the farmers’ market that I’ve never seen or tried before:Melonette Jaspee Vendée. I bought it as soon as I saw it, and then ended up chatting with the squash woman for 20 minutes after that, but left feeling not hopeful that this would be a new favourite. She said they had had a difficult growing year, and that the best she could say about this variety is that it made it through the season. She was like “it won’t be your favourite, but it’s sweet” which was not promising to me at all. I like dense and meaty, and not necessarily sweet.

I was pleasantly surprised when I baked it though: it has a texture similar to spaghetti squash, though not as noodle-y, but with a bit of buttery-mapley flavour, and not too sweet. It’s distinct from other squash I’ve had, and even if I wouldn’t trade honeynut or kabocha up for it, it could make a nice change once in a while.

Squash Wars Summer Edition: Anonymous Squashes

Unlike winter squash, people often don’t know the varietal of the summer squash they are selling. I tried three from the farmer’s market that the sellers couldn’t identify- a yellow one with a bulbous end and light yellow stripes, a small green striped one, and a short, plump light green one. Looking at The Compleat Squash, my best guess is that the small striped one is Striato d’Italia and the plump green one is Costata Romanesco. That book didn’t have any striped yellow summer squashes, but a seed catalogue online has a similar looking hybrid squash called Sunbeam.

Yellow: not much flavour when raw. Grilled, it had a nice flavour but didn’t stand out from other squash I have had.

Small Green: buttery and delicious when raw. This one actually surprised me – I haven’t had a squash that tasted like this before. Grilled or sautéed it did not stand out from the other squashes, though.

Plump green: unpleasantly astringent when raw. Fine, but nothing special when grilled or sauteed.

Melon Vs. Melon: Galia

It looks like a cantaloupe on the outside. It looks like a honeydew on the inside. Galia a hybrid melon (but not a honeydew cantaloupe cross), and I got a local one from the food co-op recently. It has a pretty subtle flavour: sort of like a cantaloupe, but without the musky taste. The texture is a little softer than a honeydew, but not as meaty as a cantaloupe. I like it, but it’s not blowing me away or anything.

Squash Wars (Summer Edition): Yellow Crookneck

IMG_2399 The first summer squash of the season that I chose was yellow crookneck – this the best I could find readily available in Toronto last summer. The skin and flesh are tender even when fairly large, and even better it retains a subtle squash-y flavour when large as well; it’s not some bland generic zucchini. I don’t think it quite matches the sweet, nutty flavour of the Italian summer squash I grew in PEI, but it’s tasty raw and cooked. I grilled it for one meal, and ate it raw as squash “noodles” for another. The challenge for the summer will be to see if I can find any summer squash locally that beats last year’s best.

Melon Vs. Melon

OK, so the winter squash, my first (curcubit) love, is long gone for the year, and it will be months until it returns*.

But, we soldier on, and there are summer squashes, melons, and other interesting squash relations to try.

Today I made winter melon soup, basically a simple, light scallion and ginger broth with shiitakes and cilantro, good for summer and also suitable for this subtle-flavoured melon. So, winter melon, aka ash gourd: once it was cooked in the soup, it just tasted like the broth but had a texture similar to raw cantaloupe. It was enjoyable but not earth-shattering. I wouldn’t mind eating it again, but probably won’t go out of my way. I did taste a chunk of it raw, and liked it a lot more – I could taste the fresh, delicate flavour sort of like an unsweetened honeydew melon but crunchy like a watermelon. I would use it in a fruit salad, or make a salsa of it with tomatoes and cilantro, or add it to a vegetable salad.

 

*On the plus side, one of my favourite squash farmers has planted (for the first time) and agreed to pre-sell me as many tiger stripe butternut squash as I want, come the Fall