Toronto Ice Cream Challenge

The Great Toronto Ice Cream Sundae Challenge: The final roundup

After two long weeks and a dozen or so bowls of summertime's favourite snack, my ice cream sundae challenge can be added to the history books, but not without some reflection first.

First and above all else, I've learned it is officially impossible to get sick of eating ice cream sundaes; it just can't be done. Note I said "of" and not "from" — it is entirely possible to get sick from eating ice cream sundaes, so keep the limit to three.

Also, there is no such thing as a bad sundae. Oh sure, you could cover one in olive brine, barbeque chips and oyster sauce and that would make it pretty gross, but even something like those stale 7-11 sundaes you eat with a disposable wooden spoon are delicious.

These sundaes of course were much better than convenience store quality.

In fact, my only complaint has to do with creativity. The problem with sundaes in this city, and probably every city for that matter, is the clear lack of vision and experimentation. I want to meet the Frankie Solarik of ice cream, a lone mad scientist stowed away in his molecular creamery. A real life Willy Wonka making sheep's milk soft serve topped with bitter melon foam and unexpected ingredients. I want my taste buds tricked and toyed with. I want obnoxious toppings served in unnecessarily elaborate ways. I want to roll my eyes at the whole idea and wonder out loud when ice cream became so complicated, and then I want to have a taste and shut my big fat mouth because I've never had anything quite so glorious as that spoonful of sundae.

To my knowledge, that sundae doesn't exist in this city yet.

But don't get me wrong; what I did have was pretty phenomenal. Here are some of the standouts, by category:

BEST ICE CREAM: Ed's Real Scoop
This is by far the most difficult category to judge, of the 12 sundaes sampled, a good six at least could easily be selected for this category. So why did Ed's win? To be honest, in the most unscientific of ways — it just tastes really good. It's more than that of course, more than taste. It's texture, temperature and just that feeling. Eating Ed's ice cream just feels better than all the rest for no good reason at all, and I'm okay with that logic.

BEST TOPPINGS: XOCOCAVA
Espresso granita? Salted caramel? Yes please. This place looks beyond the traditional sundae ingredients we're all accustomed to. Rather than simply adding more sweetness to a sundae, Xococava adds salt, bitter and sour to the mix. Their sundaes are complex, sophisticated and utterly unique.

BEST PRESENTATION: SWEET CREAMERY
The Sweet Creamery takes this prize for giving ice cream parlours something to aspire to. While paper cups remain the status quo, Sweet Creamery makes the bowl part of the prize. Now, I realize they didn't invent the waffle bowl; they just use it most effectively.

BEST VALUE: TOM'S DAIRY FREEZE
I got some flak for slagging on Tom's, and perhaps it has to do with my bias against soft serve. It just feels like a sub par ice cream to me, one that needs to be ragged on a little bit. It's unfair though because it's also one of the most satisfying and when you can score one for $3.00, who am I to judge anyway.

BEST IN SHOW: XOCOCAVA
This should come as no surprise as I gave it an impossible 104% during the challenge, but for all the reasons I mentioned above as well as their unnaturally rich ice cream, their dark chocolate sorbet, their glassware and their reasonable prices.

THE SERIES


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