Our local cold war
The Village Chill and Dutch Dreams are two of the oldest and most popular destinations for ice cream in the Forest Hill area. To satisfy our sweet tooth, the Town Crier set out to discover what sets these destinations apart from the competition.
Opened in 1985 by Theodoor Aben, Dutch Dreams has been a neighbourhood fixture at Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue West with its bounty of sweet treats and eclectic décor, which has even been the setting of a Spice Girls video.
Second generation owners Theo and Dina Aben (who met at the shop when Dina came in as a customer) now run the business, which boasts between 32 and 50 kinds of kosher ice cream. There is also red velvet cheesecake and a variety of homemade desserts.
Chatting in the back seating area inside the shop, Theo Aben recalls how his grandmother used to serve him ice cream in the same fashion.
“Our ice cream is all served with whip cream and fresh fruit, which is a Dutch signature in Holland,” says enthusiastically, with a smile. “My Dutch pancakes are extremely popular: people drive from all over to have them, and it’s my grandmother’s recipe.”
Having been part of the business since he was 12, Aben says he’s been able to serve three or four generations of customers.
Many couples, whose first date was at Dutch Dreams, have also taken engagement photos at the shop. He’s also witnessed several proposals.
Much like fashion, ice cream is trendy, with flavours frequently going in and out of style, Aben contends.
“Pina Colada was one of our best sellers and then, about 10 years ago, I don’t know what happened, but we couldn’t give it away to anybody — like, nobody wanted it,” he says, his eyes widening. “And then, all of a sudden, there was this surge of Pina Colada lovers that just showed up, like three years ago, and now I’m going through it like crazy.”
Although The Village Chill has been part of the neighbourhood since 1988, manager John Kin’s parents have been running the Lonsdale Road and Spadina Road shop for the last year.
The family business is home to 25 flavours of ice cream, although the shop also stocks extra varieties, such as lime sorbet and bubble gum for those customers seeking the “less popular” dessert flavours.
While ice cream is a big draw for customers, Kin notes many people also come in for the fat-free, low-calorie frozen yogurt.
“You can choose any two flavours, then we blend real fruit, Oreos, Smarties — even coffee,” he says from behind the counter, stating that being friendly is also key to their success. “If people request it, we also do multiple flavours for the ice cream.
“A kid once asked for five flavours in a small, and we said, ‘Sure thing.’”
The ice cream parlour also features ice cream cakes, and sells Dippin’ Dots: small ice cream balls flash frozen with liquid nitrogen in flavours such as banana split, cookie dough and cotton candy.
Working alongside his brother James, Kin says having customers remember their names is a frequent highlight of the job, but he also recalls receiving a letter in the mail after a customer came in without any cash.
“We actually had somebody send us a cheque from the United States because they didn’t have any money,” he says, noting the shop doesn’t accept debit or credit cards. “It’s an amazing place; people are really nice.
“We just really like the neighbourhood.”
|Dutch Dreams||The Village Chill|
|Nearest intersection:||Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue W.||Lonsdale Road and Spadina Road|
|Kinds of ice cream:||32 to 50 kosher
|25 to 28|
|Owner’s favourite ice cream||Moose Droppings||Bordeaux Cherry|
|Most popular flavour:||French Vanilla||Chocolate but Moose Droppings is a close second|
|The scoop:||In true Dutch tradition, ice cream is served with fresh fruit and whipping cream. They make their own desserts including the waffle cones and Dutch pancakes made from a secret family formula. Also sell tubs of ice cream.||Also serve smoothies, shakes, fat free low calorie probiotic frozen yogourt and Dippin’ Dots, an ice cream snack of little balls that have been flash frozen with liquid nitrogen.|
|Open year round?||Yes, but with shorter hours in the winter||No, open from April until it gets cold, usually around November|
This article was originally published in the September 2013 edition of the Forest Hill Town Crier.