I've known Albert Tan for years. We worked (sort of) together many moons ago and became friends. His wife Carey Sookochef is super cool and talented. She's an illustrator with work seen in national magazines and newspapers. Together, they've got to be the most creative couple I know. But what's so awesome about them is that they are passionate about what they do.
So, Albert has a day job but in the past few years he's been creating some of the best "underground" ice cream flavours that this city has ever experienced. He does them in micro batches and then they are gone. My first taste was about a year ago at Nuit Blanche - you know, that all night art crawl that happens in Toronto and other cities. He and his friends set up a great art installation that hit on all five senses. It was a true awakening. He created the "taste" component of the installation by offering buttered popcorn flavoured ice cream evoking childhood memories of good times.
He's known as Bleezer Ice Cream. He's been involved with the Underground Food Market and catering to those closest to him and those who know. He's got a bit of cult following. But trying to track him down is not so easy. You need to stay on top of his Twitter to discover where he and his ice cream concoctions will be.
Recently he invited us to the ICE CREAM SOCIAL a pop-up ice cream shop / art gallery at the NOOK located in Kensington Market. He and Carey set up only for a few hours with their daughters, Harper, and Edie, in tow.
What inspired you to get into ice cream?
ALBERT: We were buying poor-quality store-bought ice cream, while an old hand-crank Donvier ice cream maker (that I might have bought for Carey for a birthday gift, many years ago) was sitting idly in the cupboard. One day I got it out, dusted it off, and made a batch of vanilla ice cream that turned out to get way better than anything we could get at the store. Then a lightbulb went off, and I realized that I could make whatever flavour I wanted to. Eventually Carey bought me an electric ice cream maker, as I was wearing out the old one.
What are some flavours creations that you've experimented with?
ALBERT:The first flavour I made in the electric ice cream maker was olive oil. My inspirations tend to come from re-imagining existing dishes and/or flavour combinations - savoury or sweet - and seeing how it might work as an ice cream.
What were some hits and misses?
ALBERT: Hits: Olive Oil (served with macerated strawberries, crumbled meringue, and a balsamic reduction, Black Forest (essentially a Black Forest cake converted into ice cream), green pea and mint, banana and curry, smoked salmon and cream cheese, Bananas Foster, buttered popcorn, beet and goat cheese (two separate ice creams served together).
Misses: smoked cheddar (I under estimated the strength of the smokiness of the cheese), tobacco (technically not a miss - I thought it was good - but a recipe in serious need of tweaking).
There were so many people at this event who waited in line to scoop up some of your latest flavours, what was going through your mind at the time?
ALBERT: My main concern before and during the show was a) by-law enforcement and b) keeping the ice cream at a constant temperature. Afterwards, I wanted to eat (I missed dinner), but Harper was too tired for me to swing by Gold Stone for congee.
What do your kids think? Do they have any favourites?
ALBERT: Harper's favourite flavour is the green pea and mint. Edie's is strawberry. The kids have been quite receptive to all the flavours, although the two comments that i hear from them are "When are you going to make kids flavours" and "This one is less good. Critics.
My kids LOVED the unusual flavours offered at this event from the green pea and mint to the banana curry and red plum - reminiscent of childhood asian candies that I'm now fixated on once again.
So, what's next? You'll have to follow them on Twitter to find out.
Check out Carey's artwork at www.careysookocheff.com. If you're in the Kensington Market area, stop by NOOK as a few of Carey's pieces are exhibiting on their wall space and available for purchase. We've been fortunate enough to own two original pieces of her whimsical works of art.
Cool right? I get the sense that he does this for the enjoyment and challenge. He definitely doesn't do it for the money and you can just sense how humble he is with the accolades and followers.
So, have you tried any "different" flavoured ice cream? Do tell!