What are your earliest memories of ice cream? Was it licking a cone of soft vanilla before running around with sticky little hands at a McDonalds playground, perhaps? Or transforming into a ball of excitement upon hearing the melodies of a Mr. Whippy ice cream truck meandering through suburban cul-de-sacs on a lazy summer afternoon? Whether you enjoyed it in its early days of 1930s, or decades later, these Dessert Correspondents think that the summer of 2018 may be well-remembered as the year that soft serve was revamped from nostalgic treat to #desserttrend.
The first time we saw soft serve take an interesting twist was about 3-4 summers ago when we first arrived in NYC. Established a decade ago, Momofuku Milk Bar was the front-runner in soft serve creativity, taking the vanilla cone and wreathing it in shattered cornflakes. Then, Milk & Cream Cereal Bar and Kith took it to a whole new level by creaming other cereals, and dipping the resulting swirl into a multitude of colourful childhood crumbles. Say hello to the likes of cinnamon toast crunch, fruity pebbles, frosties, rice krispies and lucky charms in lick-able form!
Then inspiration was found from the East, with the likes of Cha Cha Matcha, Matcha ‘n’ More, Soft Swerve, Sprinkles, and a string of other recent arrivals deciding that plain white vanilla soft serve simply did not befit the exciting humdrum of New York. How about some alien green or even a dash of purple to enliven the party? And so they swirled matcha green tea-flavoured soft serve with creamy lucky charms or startling purple ube/taro bejewelled with sprinkles and more cereal flakes.
And if soft serve can be green, then why not other colours? Indeed, why not other flavours, other than vanilla? And New York exploded with soft serve creativity. Summer 2018 saw oolong milk tea soft serve with popping tapioca balls from Bar Pa Tea, a nutty pistachio and black sesame from Patisserie Chanson, a stroopwafel-like salted caramel rendition at Mah Ze Dahr accessorised with chewy caramel biscuit crumbles, salty-yet-sweet-so-very-naughty croissant butter and mango from Supermoon Bakehouse, and one smothered in honey butter crisps from 375 Fries.
And just to be more inspired, how about substituting the quotidian cone for a waffle fish as at Taiyaki, a heavily sugared churro at Chikalicious, or a paparazzi-worthy Hello Kitty head of fairy floss/cotton candy from Binki?
If you prefer a classical frosted dip, we sat on a grassy knoll on top of a glass building in Williamsburg and crunched and licked our way through the aptly-named Mister Dips‘ strawberry vanilla and chocolate dipped cones, and later joined the throbbing line of tourists and West Village-wannabes for a Big Gay Ice Cream Salty Pimp (vanilla infused with dulce de leche, dipped in salted chocolate) and a Rocky Roadhouse (chocolate, almonds, marshmallow galore).
Our prediction for summer 2019? Well, with the opening of a magnificent 88-flavoured ice-cream parlour, and perhaps soft serve over-saturation, we forecast crazy creative ice cream flavours! The Celsius/Fahrenheit is officially falling, the countdown to next summer begins, yes!