Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nostalgic Toronto Ice Cream Haunts

The Ice Cream Store

Oh, the kids around the block are like an
   Ice Cream store, 
'Cause there's chocolate, and vanilla, 
   And there's maple and there's more.

And there's butterscotch and orange -
   Yes,  there's flavours by the score;
And the kids around the block are like an 
    Ice cream store! 
                                                          - Dennis Lee, Toronto's first Poet Laureate

This poetic gem by Toronto's first Poet Laureate, Dennis Lee always make me nostalgic... Why you might ask? Every July, from 1993 -2001, I  kicked-off my annual Cool Sundae Bike Tour  by reciting this delicious Dennis Lee poem.  This ride was one of my many favourite annual neighbourhood bicycle tours I designed and personally led through quiet side streets during the hot blistering summers in Toronto.  The month of July always seem to get hot and dry. The intense heat always have us screaming for cool treats like ice cream, gelato, tartufo, granita along a two-wheeled adventure in Toronto's various neighbourhoods!

 We started at Castle Frank Subway Station and pedalled up to the Corso Italia neighbourhood along St. Clair Avenue West.  Nestled in the St. Clair Ave W/Vaughan Road/Bathurst Street triangle was  Dutch Dreams,  where we savoured fabulous ice cream in a building looking like a red Dutch windmill!

After that cool stop, we continued towards the old Neilson Factory that's now a chocolate factory on Gladstone/Dundas Street West.  This old factory started off cranking out local ice cream thanks to Neilson's eldest son, a wrestling champion who claimed that his fitness level was achieved thanks to cranking the ice cream on a daily basis! I say he takes the title as Hand-made Ice Cream champion in Toronto! Thus the humble beginning of locally made ice cream in Toronto.

After food for thoughts (or ice cream for thoughts), we cruised over to Little Italy neighbourhood for another nooks and crannies special - Sicilian Ice Cream Company to sample a medley of homemade Tartufo, Gelato and Granita. Bellisimo! Thank you Galipo brothers for bringing their traditional Capo D'Orlando, Sicily gelato recipes over with them as they emigrated to Toronto in 1959! Once in a while, you still see me popping in for a box of frozen Tartufo to take home to savour!

Remember Yokahama Noodle at 326 Adelaide Street West? It's long-gone from that best-kept Japanese foodies spot, but the memories linger for their home-made Japanese Green Tea Ice Cream... it was a rich and smooth ice cream thanks to the 35% cream and finely grind Macha Green Tea ...  Sigh.... Yes, after a light lunch we had room for a tiny sampling there. When this little pokey Japanese eatery closed shop, we reluctantly replaced with a stop  for Durian Ice Cream in one of the Vietnamese stores in Toronto's Second Chinatown (Spadina Avenue/Dundas Street West area).

Somehow, we slowly pedalled our way through the winding tree-lined streets of the historic Annex neighbourhood, and ended up in old-moneyed Rosedale's best-kept secret, My Favorite, run by Indira and her daughters.  We simply had to pay homage to another local pioneer, Greg Mahon, the ebullient founder of Greg's Ice Cream, who starting using local, natural and premium ingredients since 1981! My Favorite (yes correct spelling at the store) were the first to serve his ice cream flavours like Green Tea, Roasted Marshmellow and Coffee Toffee (my three all-time favourites) outside of his original shop on Bloor Street West (across from the ROM).

Ah the good old days! Some of these spots are still around, and sadly, some departed, and new nooks and crannies have popped up. Stay tuned to the new ones I'll be featuring in my next blog. Meanwhile, what's your favourite Toronto haunt? Feel free to share your memories of past ice cream parlours  by posting in the Comment section,  and don't forget to put your favourite neighourhood cool spot on the 2011 Toronto Ice Cream map by checking out the poll on the right hand side of this blog!  Stay cool!  Stay tuned for my next blog, the new cool neighbourhood nooks & crannies!


  1. I'm a big fan of the old-fashioned ice cream truck! -AK

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