Ice cream used to be a kid’s food. As a child I would eagerly await the warm weather so that we could make the pilgrimage to one of the Dairy Queens in Sudbury (which at the time were nothing more than stands and were only open in the summer). Otherwise, I would store change under the mattress in the event that the Dickie Dee ice cream bike decided to grace our street with it’s presence. My mother didn’t necessarily approve (perhaps because there was a good chance the driver was a pedophile) so I was careful not to order the phantom because the carcinogenic purple dye stuck on my tongue would be a dead give away when I got home again. The rare time I traveled past the Hungry Bear in French River or the Espanola turnoff (depending if I was heading south or west) there was an off chance we would stop but was usually few and far between and usually centred around my mother’s craving for a scoop of Tiger Tail.
Unfortunately, in a manner synonymous with walkers infiltrating cities across America, hipsters have decided that ice cream in now in their wheel house. Maybe it started earlier than I thought. Years ago, Dennis the Menace was scrapped as Dairy Queen’s “spokesperson” and replaced by savvy commercials and sultry lips beckoning those with the wallets to come and bring the kids if you want. A bigger testament to this theory is what has happened in Toronto. Grown adults are now forfeiting coffee houses and Netflix marathons to stand in line for hours to pay asinine amounts for ice cream. In most cases, kids are nowhere to be found. Take Bang Bang Ice cream for example. In addition to the possible sexual connotations of the name, I previously blogged that was there one night I got in line only to find soft-core cartoon porn projected onto the wall while a hipster dad in front me in line (who presumably only went to grab the kids an ice cream sandwich) had to cover his hipster kid’s eyes. In other words, their ice cream came with a side of ass. A second example was a recent trip to Sweet Jesus, the newish soft serve joint. Shunned by some zealots for its anti-Christ antics like an emblem featuring an upside-down cross or a website that ironically features satanic looking children with tattoos, pet monkeys and gold chains, a key characteristic of this place is a disgruntled and tattooed ice cream artist taking your order instead of a 16 year kid who has their first job and splotches of melted product all over their shirt. The flagship location is a few blocks away from the Rogers Centre and I sat watching the parade of people waiting to score a treat. From the other direction a dad and his daughter (who was maybe 12) arrived. The look of befuddlement on the dad’s face was priceless. I could read his mind as he looked down at his daughter’s equally puzzled face. Essentially he was thinking that all he wanted to do is get his daughter a cone after the game and the limiting factor was an hour wait because of a bunch or grown adults were waiting in line. I’m sure if the girl was confused or upset or both but they quietly departed perhaps in search of another post-game treats that wouldn’t be impaired by Toronto’s urban “walkers”. Maybe these places should have a kid’s express lane where parents can bring their kids for a quick and porn-free ice cream experience. Trust me…the hipsters don’t mind waiting….it makes them cooler and gives them opportunities to discuss their social angst, explain their tattoos and show off their baggy jean shorts.
I fully acknowledge that this is likely another trend that the hipsters have plowed through similar to tacos, burgers and anything with kale but I’m hoping it is short lived. We have already removed a good portion of our children’s ability to be kids with social media stimulation and fears to let them explore their own neighbourhoods. Let’s give them their ice cream back for Sweet Jesus sakes.
When it comes to the latest trends in the food world, dessert is never left out. In fact, it seems to turn over more quickly than vegetables like kale and cauliflower. In the past few years alone, for example, we have seen the peak and trough of cupcakes and donuts. With the emergence of any of these trends, you can count on three things; a flurry of such shop openings on every street corner, a simultaneous spike in prices and people lining up to hop on the bandwagon.
The newest dessert trend is ice cream. Despite the fact it doesn’t travel really well, people are flocking to dairy bars across the city looking for the latest spin on the simple treat. The latest to throw their cone in the vat is Sweet Jesus. Located at King and John, this small space offers coffee and churros all day (I tried these as well and must say both the coffee and churros with cajeta was more than acceptable) and at noon the ice cream insanity begins. The crowd arrives and cramps into the small space while snapping pictures like they are stalking celebrities on the red carpet at the Bell Lightbox around the corner. I guess one cannot have too many photos of coffee bags and neon signs.
In order to calm my nerves in the midst of selfie sticks and indecisive foodies, I started humming Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” in my head. This 1971 song cracked the top 10 in the US and Canada and was deemed a gospel song by Lawrence Welk despite the fact vice-president at the time Spiro Agnew called the duo subversive to the youth of America in another example of classic conservative naivety, stupidity and confusion. Regardless…it has a nice melody so I went to my happy place signing “It’s a joke that I am in line at Sweet Jesus” over and over again in my head amidst the chaos.
The menu is pretty simple. There are 4 kinds of soft serve available (marshmallow, vanilla, chocolate and raspberry lemonade) available for $3.75 in which you can have dipped for a dollar. There are also a dozen or so jacked-up, fancy cones for $6. You can also get a $4 Mexican popsicle if so inclined. I went with the lemon coconut cream pie which is exactly like it sounds. You order, give your name, pay (cash, debit or credit) and wait in the mob until your name is called. Each cone (the base being the old school cones you would get at any parlour) is carefully constructed like a school art project using squirt bottles (eg. for the lemon curd) and plastic containers (eg. for the coconut). In other cases, marshmallows are hand placed on the ice cream tower like Christmas decorations on a tree. It’s horribly inefficient and time consuming but I suppose it rumbles up the same internal thrill as watching Giuseppe make you a table side Caesar salad at a outdated Italian joint. The product itself was acceptable but far from mind-blowing and six bucks is way too much despite the American-like portion size. The soft serve itself was more icy than creamy and the toppings became monotonous quickly.
I don’t know why I partake in standing in line for food. I think it’s an attempt to try and understand the psyche of a foodie. I would love to do a brain scan to assess the part of the brain that glows red while one is standing in line waiting for the latest trend. I have never been a lover of crowds. Sweaty bars and mosh pits make me cringe as much as selfie sticks. I suppose if there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as a result it would be worth it but I couldn’t say that somebody’s B minus art project fits into that category. In the end, Sweet Jesus was not worth the hassle. The line was long, the setup was inefficient and the product wasn’t mind-blowing. The staff were nice though and I commend them for continuing to smile while the food paparazzi made ordering ice cream seem like a Drake sighting. For now, I’ll leave the soft serve to Costco and the art to my grade school son.