When it comes to frozen treats, Vancouver has no shortage, be it yogurt, ice cream, or gelato, but the dark horse of the pack has to be soft serve, a dessert better acquainted with fast food than artisan creation. Changing the local conversation is Soft Peaks, an organic soft serve shop that popped up in Gastown earlier this year. Founded by brothers Dan and Ken Kim, Soft Peaks is at once a flashback to childhood and the embodiment of modern day food culture.
The Kim brothers, who were born in Seoul, South Korea but have called Vancouver home for nearly 20 years, first noticed soft serve emerging as a trend in the summer of 2013 in New York and Asia. “When I had something like this in Asia I said, ‘Oh my god, I wish we had this in Vancouver,’” Ken explains. “Because I wanted to go somewhere like this, I assumed other people did as well. So we made a more Vancouver-like store, changing the ingredients and toppings to be between Asian-style and Canadian-style.” The final products offer something for everyone: the signature creation, Honeycomb Peak, is topped with a piece of sweet, local honeycomb; the Asian-inspired Green Forest has organic matcha powder, sweet red beans, and condensed milk; the North Pole Breakfast, covered in Cornflakes, is perfect for the milk and cereal lover; and the chocolate fiends have Mudslide, topped with chocolate syrup and Tim Tam flakes. Each one is artfully piled, toppings drizzled, placed, and sprinkled with precision and care.
The soft serve itself has a surprisingly, and perhaps comfortingly, small number of ingredients: the prominent factor is milk (purchased from local organic dairy Avalon), which is combined with yolk from locally farmed eggs, natural sugar, a little bit of cream, and organic milk powder. “[B.C.] is a good place for good toppings and good ingredients,” says Dan. The brothers make the ice cream fresh daily, mixing everything together and then pouring it into a machine that churns it out in soft, glorious swirls. Because their recipe uses a high percentage of milk as opposed to cream, as well as a minimal amount of sugar, the resulting flavour is more refreshing, not to mention healthier, than its fast food equivalent.
On the horizon for Soft Peaks are more topping combinations, milkshakes, and a new ice cream flavour. The duo is gearing up for what is sure to be a busy summer, especially considering they had lineups out the door when they launched in the middle of winter; the chill is, after all, no deterrent in rain city.
Photos by Sara Harowitz.