The great Toronto Ice Cream Sundae Challenge: Parfait presentation
One of the things I like about The Thomson Hotel's 24 hour dineresque restaurant, the Counter, is the $7.00 PB&J sandwich on the menu. I've never tried it myself (PB&J will never win when bangerang fried chicken is on the menu), but just that they offer it, gives a little insight into the concept of the place. Now, I say dineresque because The Counter isn't really a diner. It's decent place, with nicer food dressed up to look like diner-style. Diner's, for instance, don't offer $7.00 peanut butter and jam sandwiches, they offer $3.00 ones. But diners also don't offer the same level of quality found at the Counter. It's all well and good to reminisce over greasy spoons and hot hamburger sandwiches and mammoth ice cream sundaes — oh right, ice cream sundaes.
So what the Counter does, at least in theory, is to take diner food and remove the frozen, pre-packaged, general shittiness out of it. The menu has all the hallmarks of a diner — all day breakfast, wild eclecticism — while skewing it a little and of course, bumping up the price. So in keeping with this theme, the restaurant obviously offers an ice cream sundae, which is, along with fruit pie, perhaps the dinerest of diner items. Here's what their take looks and tastes like.
ICE CREAM 3.5/5
Perhaps the biggest strike against the Counter's sundae is the ice cream itself, which actually isn't as big a thing as it might seem. Most of the places profiled in this challenge so far have been ice cream parlours and, as such, the bar was set pretty high, pretty early. The Counter's ice cream is more grocery store than creamery. It was also, surprisingly, the first sundae I've tried to use straight up vanilla ice cream, which has less in it to mask imperfections.
Not that the ice cream wasn't good, it was. It was just icier and grainier than the others. Not as thick and creamy, but as I said it wasn't a huge deal; it's still ice cream after all, even the bad stuff is delicious, and this stuff wasn't bad.
At The Counter they pass on things like crushed chocolate bars, nuts or other candies in exchange for shaved milk and white chocolate, both caramel and chocolate sauce and lots of whipped cream — almost equal parts of each. It's a great combo that keeps the flavours pretty streamlined and doesn't let anything overpower the dish. Just creamy sweet flavours of chocolate and vanilla.
That's right, full marks for a parfait glass. You eat with your eyes and this sundae won me over as soon as it was placed in from of me. Rather than a meager looking scoop hiding inside a paper bowl, this is piled high and ready for the spotlight. You could have filled this thing with soft serve and Kraft caramel and it would have been a winner (which would probably taste pretty good, too).
Here's the other thing about great presentation, people are often willing to pay for it. An ice cream sundae standing tall in an elegant piece of glassware looks like it's worth the $7.00 price tag, while a couple of scoops stuffed in a paper cup seems pricey at $5.00. And I won't even dwell on the environmental aspect of plastic spoons and paper cups because that's not what this is about; it's about getting to charge $7.00 for a sundae, and the Counter gets to charge $7.00.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: 5/5
My server asked me if I had a headache because he's never seen someone eat an ice cream sundae so fast. I couldn't help it though, it was delicious, and it might have even changed my opinion of sundae creation. I once belonged to the church of crushed chocolate bars, pieces of crunchy Skor, Crispy Crunch or even Smarties sprinkled on top or mixed in, but now they just seem like a distraction in comparison. Shaved chocolate is a perfect addition because it's not so stiff to detract from the rest of the dish, but still provides wonderful texture and flavour — parfait indeed.
TOTAL SCORE: 22.5/25 (90%)
Previously in this series: