11 | May | 17

Hugh Thomas

I Scream & Sore Bay

Since La Grotta Ices won Best of the Best at the inaugural BSF Awards, we knew ice cream was always going to take off in the street food crucible in a big way. We get it – there’s tons of nostalgia surrounding ice cream (we were all feral kids once, chasing Mr Whippy down the street). Plus, it’s in mid-revival, people.

Remember when we called vanilla ‘vanilla?’ No one does that any more. It’s got to be ‘Madagascan vanilla’, or ‘Tongan vanilla’ – each with their own flavour profile (Madagascan more rich, Tongan more earthy). Still sound a bit pretentious? Maybe no one told you Mr Whippy and his mates use vanilla extract. Where can the romance be found in that?

Meanwhile, salted caramel has for some time been a marketing buzzword, wafer ice cream cones are falling out of favour, and no one besides semi-corporate manufacturers in the West country, with hand-drawn Frisians somewhere on their labels, seem to do honeycomb anymore. Well, unless you’re Richard Makin of Blu Top, who’s whipping up a honeycomb and cardamom for ‘this week’s special’ at the time of writing. ‘Infusions are gonna be big,’ Richard tells me. ‘We’re also looking to the Deep South for inspiration: blueberry cornbread, buttermilk pie, Bananas Foster.’

Another bone to pick with Mr Whippy – let’s not pretend they’re the prettiest things on British roads. Too often are those pink and white Bedford vans missing at least one hubcap, sporting long-faded transfers, and sputtering their exhausts. It’s something ice cream traders Split Screen highlighted in 2012, when they won Best Looking Trader with their immaculate mint-green camper.

Then there’s sorbet. More of a thing in other street food circles (see that of Bangladesh), dare we say the choice is somewhat…lacking in the UK? No disservice to the likes of Sorbitium of course, whose cherry negroni granita (bit like a sorbet, but more granular) cools off many a Londoner in the summer. Or to the various concoctions knocked out by Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, including a dish involving orange blossom sorbet for breakfast – the imaginativeness of which has wowed Gizzi Erskine and Fay Ripley in the past.

This year, we’re wondering if the world of cold desserts has a new champion. At the Scottish Street Food Awards this weekend you’ll undoubtedly see MOO PIE’s ice cream cookie sandwiches smothered on the face of many a small child. And their parents’. Founder Emma finished her training at Bologna’s Gelato University (you heard right – a GELATO university) last year. Then she set up a proper ice cream business in Edinburgh, which must feel a bit brave considering the general climate. But get this – provided Emma does well at the awards, and impresses the rest of the UK, then it’s on to Europe, where she’ll have the chance to beat the Italians at their own gelato game. How would that be for a story?