The slow food movement has brought locally-sourced ingredients and small-batch production to the forefront of food trends, materializing in the form of farm-to-table restaurants and a resurgence in the popularity of farmers’ markets. No aspect of Vancouver’s culinary landscape has been left unaffected—not even ice cream. Capturing the hearts and Instagram accounts of Vancouverites are two establishments that create ice cream with seasonal and regionally-sourced ingredients.
Earnest Ice Cream, founded in 2012 by Ben Ernst and Erica Bernardi, began when Ernst, who moved to Vancouver from Seattle, was waiting for his permanent residency paperwork. While brainstorming things for Ernst to do in the meantime, Ernst’s wife Olive “ssuggested jokingly that Ben start an ice cream business. I had remarked that if he wanted a business partner, I would be glad to do so,” says Bernardi. It was a surprising albeit serendipitous suggestion. “I never thought of myself an entrepreneur until this idea percolated through and made so much sense,” recalls Ernst. “We were both looking for what could we do that was our own and would have an impact on our world and on our community.” Earnest Ice Cream began with Ernst and Bernardi selling their glass jars of ice cream out of a freezer attached to a bicycle at farmers’ markets throughout the city. They continued their momentum by starting to offer their treats wholesale through several retailers in the city, and eventually opened up two brick-and-mortar shops (on Fraser and Quebec streets) to satisfy the city’s insatiable appetite for the coveted cold dessert.
Ernst and Bernardi collaborate with Vancouver-based suppliers to create hyper-local and distinctively West Coast flavors. Their 33 Acres of Malt is made with wort from 33 Acres Brewing Company, and to create their Honey & Chamomile ice cream, they source honey from Hives for Humanity, a Vancouver-based foundation that protects local pollinators. Earnest also serves decadent affogatos (a shot of Matchstick espresso served over ice cream)—a delicious way to justify a scoop before lunch.
Also bringing small-batch, seasonally-inspired ice cream to the people of Vancouver is Rain or Shine Ice Cream. Co-owner Josie Fenton says that she finds taste inspiration from “practically everything” and often thinks to herself, “Could I put that into an ice cream?” Take the summer flavour Buttered Sweet Corn with Salt and Pepper, for example, made with corn grown in Abbotsford. Rain or Shine has a permanent menu of “Keepers” and a rotating menu of “Seasonal Flings”, which enables the team to dream up combinations that correspond with produce available at the peak of its freshness. Savory flavours are studded throughout Rain or Shine’s menu, such as permanent staple Blueberry Balsamic and the seasonal option Apricot plus Powell Street Sour Ale.
Rain or Shine takes the “cone or a cup” option a step further by offering tasting flights and ice cream tacos at both its Cambie Village and Kitsilano locations. The taco is composed of a waffle cone that has been shaped into a hard taco shell, stuffed with two scoops of ice cream, and topped with whipped cream. It is only available on Tuesdays, naturally, but is well worth the wait.
Both businesses produce holiday flavours, including pumpkin pie and gingerbread, near Thanksgiving and Christmas; when the weather cools, Fenton suggests an ice cream sundae topped with hot fudge or caramel “to warm things up”. Because as Vancouverites know all too well, it doesn’t have to be warm and sunny in order to enjoy a delicious scoop.