Chorney-Booth: Three ice cream shops (and a cheese store) to keep you cool through summer

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Calgary is, without a doubt, an ice cream town – we eat the sweet stuff by the cone, the cup, and the pint and are willing to line up to get the latest and greatest frozen concoctions. Hometown heroes like Made by Marcus, Abbey’s Creations and Village Ice Cream all have multiple locations throughout the city, while the local Foothills Creamery has set a high standard for mass-market ice cream.

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Collectively, the city has developed a taste for unique flavours and high-quality scoops, opening the door for a new generation of dairy artisans. There’s even an annual city-wide celebration of ice cream, the YYC Ice Cream Fest, running from July 19 to Aug. 5, in support of Calgary Meals on Wheels. Until then, here are a few new places to try this summer:

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Vikram Singh serves up some cookies and cream gelato at Gelato Eh! on Canyon Meadows Drive. Brent Calver/Postmedia Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia

Gelato Eh!
When Vatsal Rana moved to Calgary from India in 2021, his background in computer science and engineering didn’t lead to as many job opportunities as he had hoped for. Despite not having experience in cooking or food service, he took to learning how to make gelato under the guidance of a gelato-making friend, soon discovering he not only had an aptitude for the craft but also a knack for developing flavours. Last September, Rana opened the first location of his Gelato, Eh! Shop, at #3121, 380 Canyon Meadows Dr. S.E. His first order of business was introducing ice cream eaters to gelato, which is denser and more intense than ice cream despite carrying less milk fat.

“There is a lot of really good ice cream in Calgary, but not a lot of places that do gelato,” Rana says. “Whenever anyone tries gelato for the first time, they do see a difference.”

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Rana personally makes all his gelato and dairy-free sorbet from scratch, using fresh fruit and all-natural flavours (with the small exception of selections like bubble gum and cotton candy, designed to satisfy children from the surrounding residential areas). While Rana has about 60 flavours in his repertoire and is constantly developing more at customer requests, he offers 12 varieties in his display case at a time, usually a balance of fruit-based sorbets and richer gelatos. It’s been such a success that Rana is set to open a second location in Marda Loop, hopefully by the end of this month.

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A fresh batch of lemon mint gelato awaits at Gelato Eh! in a Lake Bonavista strip mall. Brent Calver/Postmedia Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia
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Gelato Eh! has opened a shop on Canyon Meadows Drive near Lake Bonavista. Brent Calver/Postmedia Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia

Hunny Ice Cream
Hunny, a craft affair run by two ice cream-loving sisters, has been producing small-batch ice cream since 2019 to sell online and at pop-ups, but it just opened its first scoop shop this spring. Located at 417 Riverfront Ave. S.E. (and currently only open on Saturdays and Sundays), Hunny is a bit tough to find – it’s on the north side of the building behind a door marked Cafe 417 — but once inside, ice cream fiends will find ultra-creamy flavours served in light and crispy waffle cones and well as mochi ice cream and Instagram-ready floats.

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Part of Hunny’s mandate is to bring more Asian flavours to the Calgary market, with varieties like miso caramel, pandan and black sesame appearing among its ever-changing monthly selections, alongside other favourites like cookie butter and a crunchy cinnamon cereal flavour. They also do a special tong yoon ice cream with glutinous rice balls for the Lunar New Year. To further set itself apart, Hunny uses honey rather than refined sugar in its ice cream base for a gentler hit of sweetness.

Milk Ice Cream Club
Also run by a pair of relatives that started as a pop-up before setting up a brick-and-mortar shop, Milk Ice Cream Club is the brainchild of cousins Anita Ly and Tiffany To, who started selling ice cream in their family’s restaurant in Mount Pleasant several years ago. The pair moved into a new permanent shop in Crescent Heights (at #110, 1000 Centre St. N.) last June. Milk has since become not only a neighbourhood favourite, but a destination for ice cream fans from all over the city seeking out interesting flavours.

The new shop has given the owners a chance to collaborate with local businesses such as Element Cafe and Willow Cake and Bake to develop seasonal flavours, including plant-based selections. Asian flavours are also a specialty here (the “White Bunny” is a riff on White Rabbit Chinese candy and there’s also HK milk tea and Viet coffee flavours), and nostalgia also plays a role in flavours like Dunkaroos and Fudgesicle. Look for a salted duck yolk flavour later this year to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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Springbank Cheese Co. opens in Aspen Landing
For a more savoury take on dairy products, Springbank Cheese, a company that has operated in Calgary since 1989, just opened a new location at 339 Aspen Glen Landing S.W. While all five Calgary locations have a connection to one another, this new one is owned and operated by Carie Lee and Adrian Watters, who also own the Willow Park and Crowfoot stores. The store is jam-packed with a wide selection of cheese (including local brands like Sylvan Star) and other snacks ideal for a backyard soiree.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @elizabooth or sign up for her newsletter at hungrycalgary.substack.com.

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