The Village Creamery is Markham's secret spot for ice cream hidden inside a store
Markham's best artisanal ice cream is tucked away in the back freezer of a Unionville grocery store. Somewhat known to regulars, but hidden from the rest of the city, more than 30 flavours of gourmet, small-batch ice cream sits on the shelves of The Village Grocer.
The packaging is nondescript and easy to overlook. The brand, known as The Village Creamery, offers hand-crafted ice cream a cut above anything else in Markham.
It delivers everything a premium ice cream should and more: Bold flavour and a rich, dense and creamy texture.
The Village Grocer, owned by The Macdonald Family, has been a local gem since 1986. Thomas MacDonald, son of the owners, said the store started with only four employees and now staffs more than 140.
They are known for their made-from-scratch prepared meals from family recipes, outstanding bakery and top-grade grocery items. Soon, they’ll be known for having the best pint of ice cream Markham has to offer.
“My Dad, who never fully retired, is a visionary,” Thomas says. “He called me into his office one day and without ever knowing the full process behind it said let's make ice cream, when can we start?”
This is where Ed Lameiro, a former ice cream maker and notably happy-go-lucky customer fits in.
Ed and his wife, Wendy, have 12 years experience in the ice cream business. The Village Grocer subcontracted the ice cream duties to Ed and Wendy - the heartbeat behind The Village Creamery.
This is their passion project. Their four kids are fully grown, but a baby to dote on is very much present in their lives: hand-crafted ice cream.
An ice cream lab was built in the basement of the store and they started as soon as they could.
The Village Creamery line offers exceptional ice cream with incredible flavour profiles. Equal to proper technique, incorporating only first-rate ingredients is key to produce high quality ice cream.
Bestsellers from their bakery serve as the basis for many of the flavours. Ed uses customer favourites and duplicates it into ice cream. Mix-ins directly from the bakery are folded into the base - The Village Grocer’s famous Jelly Roll, Butter Tart, Turtles Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Peach Cobbler and Red Velvet Cake - the list goes on.
The Village Creamy uses clean ingredients with no flavour enhancers or hard-to-pronounce additives. The ingredient list is simple and short - the way it should be.
Using a cream with a high milk fat percentage is vital to create a rich and smooth base. After experimenting with reputable dairy brands in Ontario, Ed decided to use cream made by Reid's Dairy in Belleville.
The Village Creamery products are far from the ‘frozen dessert’ found on grocery store shelves. Most ice creams in the market use 10% milk fat cream - the bare minimum to be technically categorized as ice cream.
Premium versions must contain a minimum of 12% milk fat and Super Premium ice cream must contain at least 14%. The Village Creamy goes above and beyond with a 17% milk fat content - this provides the intensely creamy and luxurious texture customers rave about.
The fruit-forward flavours are crafted precisely to complement the decadent cream base. Because the cream is so rich, a bright and bold fruit flavour is needed to shine through the strength of the high-fat base.
The fruit is sourced and preserved when fresh and at its peak ripeness. Instead of purchasing frozen fruit, which is what many ice cream producers do, The Village Grocer buys pallets of produce when it is in season and at its prime. Ed makes his own fruit purees and blends them in-house.
When you eat the Strawberry ice cream, regardless of the time of year, it should be reminiscent of biting into a strawberry in the middle of July.
The Wild Blueberry ice cream delivers a vibrant colour and strong aroma that can transport you to blueberry barrens in the Maritimes. Although Ontario blueberries are more accessible, The Village Grocer specifically orders them from Nova Scotia.
“Ontario blueberries are fantastic, but the Nova Scotia ones are better for my ice cream. The best is the best,” Ed says.
Ed lives and breathes ice cream. He never rushes the process and has taken anywhere from three days - working day and night - to six weeks to perfect a flavour before it hits shelves.
He crafts ice cream almost everyday in the ice cream lab. To preserve the freshness, he only makes about small five batches per day. Ed says he can't think of anything more pleasant to do during the pandemic.
Customers have given Ed samples of their favourite flavours from other ice cream parlours across Toronto. Ed will study it, test recipes at home and work endlessly to reproduce it. Toasted Marshmallow is one example, not only did Ed reproduce it, he made an even better version of it.
Ed says he can’t say no to customers and genuinely loves to make people happy - even more so if it's through ice cream. “It’s simple. All I have to do is make the best ice cream ever,” Ed says. “If you have the perfect marriage between great technique and high quality ingredients, you can't fail.”
Customers are helplessly addicted to the ice cream. “We get cursed for introducing it into people's lives. They say they eat way more than they should,” Thomas says.
Here’s the inside scoop on what The Village Creamery is working on next: Ice cream sandwiches. And just as you would expect from the ice cream, the cookies are also handmade from scratch.
The Village Grocer features a new flavour each week and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m at 4476 16th Ave in Markham.
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