Marble Slab by Jenny
Screaming for Ice Cream?
Children love ice cream. For many children, it's their favourite food. Many tastes change as we develop into adults, but the taste for frozen desserts doesn't seem to be one of them. We all have our favourite flavours, and some of us prefer cones while others swear by bowls. But there's hardly anyone who doesn't love ice cream. Whether you're on a date, trying to cool off on a hot day, or going for a walk with the family, there isn't much like a good scoop of ice cream to brighten up your day. The only problem is that well, ice cream is kind of childish. Luckily there's gelato: a truly refined and mature dessert. And as luck would have it, Vancouver hosts some world-class gelaterias that are waiting, rain or shine, to provide you with the chilly sweetness you crave.
But what exactly is the difference between gelato and ice cream, anyway? Is "gelato" just a fancy word for ice cream? There doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule to this, but typically gelato has a lower fat content than products branded as premium ice cream. Because it has less air, gelato is also denser, giving it a creamier texture despite its lower fat content. While ice cream ranges in quality and price with stores often selling scoops of generic brands, gelato is generally of a higher quality, putting it on par with premium ice creams. Of course there's nothing wrong with an inexpensive scoop of Chapman's, but for $2 more a gourmet dessert experience is within reach.
The term "gelato" comes from the Italian word for "frozen" and the dessert has a history which stretches back at least four hundred years. Today, there are countless gelaterias and ice cream parlours to choose from. Here are some of the very best Vancouver has to offer.
With locations throughout the Lower Mainland and across Canada, it's not difficult to find one of these franchises. Situated right by English Bay, the Denman street location of Marble Slab offers the irresistible combination of quality ice cream and one of Vancouver's most beautiful beaches. What could be better on a hot summer's day? While perhaps not boasting the most impressive variety of flavours, Marble Slab offers some enticing options, like cinnamon bun or birthday cake. Where this creamery truly shines though is not in the ice cream itself, but in the add-ons.
Marble Slab goes beyond the basic waffle cone to offer a variety of chocolate-dipped and sprinkle-encrusted specialty cones that challenge the concept of the cone as a mere vehicle for ice cream. While perhaps still playing a supporting role, Marble Slab reminds us that the cone itself can be a force to be reckoned with. But if the specialty cones weren't enough, this shop really sets itself apart from the competitors with the toppings. Each cone comes with the choice of one topping, with additional toppings available for a fee. While customizable add-ons might not impress the true gelato purists, it's a fun chance for both kids and adults to get creative. Banana bread gelato with gummy bears? Who could say no? With options ranging from mini marshmallows to shredded coconut, the potential approaches infinite.
Dolce Amore, which is Italian for "sweet love", is aptly named. Located in Vancouver's Little Italy on Commercial Drive, this shop has a truly authentic feel. Expect a lineup on summer evenings, as patrons queue up to take a look at the dozens of brightly coloured and decadently decorated desserts. You can always tell a good gelateria by their presentation, and at Dolce Amore's gelato is truly an art form. There are no gummy bears or miniature marshmallows here, just real delicious creamy gelato and sorbetto. Run by fourth generation Italian immigrants, Dolce Amore proudly displays its cultural roots with an assortment of intensely flavourful frozen desserts. The sorbetto is particularly delicious and is an great option for anyone on a dairy-free diet.
Made from fruit puree and sweetener, sorbetto (or fruit sorbet) is just as tasty as gelato. Unlike typical ice cream, quality sorbetto like they serve at Dolce Amore is made from real fruit. You can really taste the difference! The lemon sorbetto is almost overwhelmingly tangy, and the mango sorbetto tastes exactly like a perfectly fresh mango. It doesn't take like mango flavour mind you, it tastes like mango. What could be more refreshing? Perhaps amused by how clearly overwhelmed I was with choices I had sampled, my server proudly explains how customers drive in from the suburbs, commuting over an hour just for their pistachio gelato. "It might not be environmental" she says winking, "but it's definitely understandable."
One of the best things about Dolce Amore, aside from the beautiful arrangement and the unrivalled taste, is the generous portions. Be prepared for a heaping scoop of gelato. In addition to their heaping scoops of gelato and sorbetto, Dolce Amore offers gelato cakes, pies, and gelato sandwhiches. When it comes to genuine quality flavour without frills or gimmicks, it's hard to beat Gelateria Dolce Amore.
When it comes to gelaterias, La Casa Gelato is the mother ship. Since 1994 these guys have been producing some of the finest gelato in town from their tucked away location in Strathcona. Now with more than 508 flavoures (and counting), no one comes close to the variety and creativity of this elite creamery. Forget about chocolate and vanilla. We're talking jalapeno blackberry gelato that is almost too hot to handle. We're talking aged balsamic vinegar gelato that tastes like balsamic vinegar. With 218 flavours available on site at all times, it would take hours just to sample all the options. Whether you're looking for something classic or for something completely off the wall, this place has got it. There's even apple wasabi gelato.
This establishment is a true Vancouver institution, and located in an industrial area of town is rather a hidden gem. Usually packed with people and with dance-pop pouring out of the speakers, this is truly a unique ice cream experience, and is worth visiting any time of year. My favourite memory here is witnessing the crowd take a break from sampling the sweets to spontaneously dance the macarena. Upon walking in the door, you buy a poker chip representing your desired serving size. You are then free to roam the store, sampling as many of the flavours as you like. When you find the one for you (or, if you're feeling lucky), you trade in your chip and get your scoop. When it comes down to it, making the final decision is nearly impossible. Thankfully, there isn't anything here which isn't worth having — even if only for the novelty of eating ice cream that tastes exactly like garlic. Yes, they have garlic flavoured gelato, and yes, you should try it.
In every neighbourhood in Vancouver, at all times of year, there are delicious frozen treats ready to be sampled, scooped, and enjoyed. If ever you feel yourself pining for summer days in the cold of winter, why not head down to La Casa Gelato or Dolce Amore to get a little taste of summer, ready when you need it most.