Think back to some of your favourite celebrations. Odds are, ice cream was present for at least one of them.
“Any type of childhood or celebration with family and friends — the commonality is always ice cream,” Mark Tagulao, the founder and culinary director of La Glace in Vancouver says. “Celebrations, or even quiet moments with loved ones, that’s when you eat it. And I think that’s the underlying element of why we love it.
“It’s nostalgic. And it tastes good.”
The fact that it’s cool and creamy — and quite possibly the perfect summer treat — doesn’t hurt its almost-universal appeal, either. But, if you’re to ask Tagulao, you don’t need to be celebrating anything special to enjoy a good scoop.
“I could honestly polish off a litre in one sitting. That sounds really bad to admit,” he says with a laugh. “But, at least you know that I like it.”
Those who have stopped by Tagulao’s much-loved Vancouver ice cream shop, which set up shop at 2785 W 16th Ave. two years ago, are likely as well versed on the topic of quality ice cream as he is. In fact, the cold, creamy treats at La Glace are so delicious, they were voted by our readers as the best in the city.
“Oh, wow! That’s crazy,” Tagulao humbly exclaimed after being notified of the win. “It’s always great when you make something and people respond really well to it.”
Though, he admits to having a head’s up that his ice cream was truly memorable during a recent TED Talks event where he was sharing samples of his ice cream.
“There was this one woman who came up and was insisting on getting more ice cream,” Tagulao says with a laugh. “And I looked up, and it was Cher.”
Needless to say, he gave her a full-sized scoop rather than the tiny sample spoonful.
“That was a pretty cool moment,” Tagulao says.
Celebrities aside, taking the top spot on our reader-chosen list means that the efforts that Tagulao and his team have been making to get customers into the shop are more than working. Situated outside of the downtown core, La Glace is more of a destination for ice cream fans than a place that people simply stumble upon while exploring the city.
The location is an element that’s played a part in the growth story of La Glace, for better or for worse, prompting Tagulao to make sure that every lick or spoonful enjoyed at his store leaves a lasting impression on his customers to ensure that they come back for another scoop. And tell others to do so, too.
“We have a lot of regulars, and there have been a lot of new people coming in this summer,” he says proudly of his growing business. “It is more about getting the word out there because it is one of those places that is a destination. But, the fact is that people do make a point to come and check it out, and for newcomers who say that they heard about it and they heard great things — they’re making the effort to come out, too.”
One taste of the shop’s creamy creations is all that’s required to understand that these blends aren’t your average scoops of store-bought sweet stuff. The small-batch ice cream, which is made from scratch using a base of creme anglaise — a thick custard-like concoction containing heavy cream and egg yolks — is classified by Tagulao as French ice cream, a distinction he says helps to set it apart from the rest of the shops in the city.
“I think we’re still teaching Vancouverites that there are different types of ice cream,” Tagulao says of the dairy distinction. “The fact that we use Avalon Dairy Heavy Cream and egg yolks, for sure make it a much more rich, decadent product.”
The depth of flavour, and overall richness of the product, contributes to the scoop size that La Glace dishes out. In comparison to other shops, the servings may seem small. It’s a portion talking-point Tagulao says he often finds himself explaining to customers.
“When we started introducing our scoop service when we first opened up, people would look at the scoop and be like, ‘Oh, that’s a modest-sized scoop.’,” he recalls. “I think people are more used to American-style ice cream where you get a huge scoop and it starts to melt really fast and you have to eat it right away. The reason it melts really fast is that there’s more aeration in it and that’s why you get larger scoops.”
Typically though, about halfway through a serving, Tagulao says those naysaying newcomers realize just why the portions are the restricted size that they are.
“When they started eating it, they were like ‘Whoa, this is really rich’,” he says with a laugh. “The fact is, you only need a little bit to satiate your appetite for it.”
The less-is-more approach is something that fans of Italian gelato are familiar with, where portion sizes are smaller and flavours more vivid. But, Tagulao is the first to inform customers that La Glace’s artisan iced treats are not gelato.
“We’re not gelato, we’re French ice cream,” he emphasizes. “There are a lot of great ice cream places in Vancouver, but we’ve kind of differentiated ourselves in the way that we are French ice cream and we make everything from scratch.
“We’re trying to create and maintain that level of high-end, luxury ice cream that’s accessible to everybody.”
That accessibility ambition has seen Tagulao introduce a curated selection of La Glace flavours into local grocery stores this season.
“It’s exciting,” he says of the wholesale branch of the business. “It’s definitely a new challenge each year. We’re in the beginning of year three now, and I see ‘expansion’ being the big word for us this year.”
But, he assures fans of his hand-crafted ice creams that the increased production won’t change the richness of his flavours.
“Because we are small batch, that’s where we can really maintain the quality of our product. You can scale up, if you scale up properly. For us, our plan is to do it slow and steady,” he says. “There’s certain compromises that I will not take that would sacrifice the quality. That’s what I really want to adhere to, is to not to dilute the product or the brand at all.”
At La Glace, the menu consists of a few steady favourites including Vanilla Bean, Vegan Coco Pandan Ice Cream with Pandan-infused coconut cream and Ganache Ice Cream.
“We have people who are angry if we ever run out of ganache,” Tagulao says with a laugh of the dark-chocolate mixture of heavy cream and chocolate that is a go-to for many of the shop’s regulars. “We use Valrhona chocolate, which is a really high-end chocolate supplier from France.
“People cant’ get enough of it.”
In addition to the regular flavours, there’s a revolving selection of specials that change each month.
“There’s about 20 or so flavours that rotate through each month. And then we always incorporate some seasonal flavours, as well,” Tagulao says. “We are always trying to do some new recipes. I like to play in the kitchen, so I always add in another flavour as a surprise.”
Tagulao admits that it’s the recipe testing — and tasting — that continues to be his favourite part of the job.
“Being able to be creative is what motivates me,” he says. “I always want to have something new to offer, but I also want to respect the fact that customers have their favourites.”
So, which flavour is his personal favourite?
“I know it’s going to sound really boring, but it’s the vanilla bean,” Tagulao says of his favourite flavour. “There’s just something about being able to add things to your ice cream. I’ll get the vanilla — but I’ll always throw in a spoonful of peanut butter or Maldon salt.
“I like playing with my ice cream that way.”
Best ice cream shops, as recommended by our readers:
Metro residents know their hot spots when it comes to scoring the perfect ice cream (Note: we didn’t break down the voting into categories such as ice cream, gelato or soft serve. We’ll let you do that).
When we asked our readers to submit their recommendations for the best ice cream in Metro — and beyond — via social media and email, there were a few that immediately came out on top.
Hungry for the details? Here are the top 23 destination in and around the city to get a sweet ice cream treat.
As always, if you didn’t take part in our vote, well then, you’re not allowed to complain about the results. But you’re welcome to add your recommendations in the comments below.
TOP 23 ICE CREAM SHOPS
Alice & Brohm — 1861 Mamquam Rd #9, Squamish, aliceandbrohm.com
Bella Gelateria — 1001 W Cordova St, Vancouver, bellagelateria.com
Beta 5 — 413 Industrial Ave, Vancouver, shop.beta5chocolates.com
Birchwood Dairy — 1154 Fadden Rd, Abbotsford, birchwooddairy.com
Dolce Gelato — 15045 Marine Dr, White Rock, 604-535-1070
Earnest Ice Cream (various locations) — 1829 Quebec St, Vancouver, earnesticecream.com
Elephant Garden Creamery — 2080 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, elephantgarden.ca
Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionary — 4090 Hastings St, Burnaby, glenburnsoda.com
Hottiesfoods Emporio — 31170 Dewdney Trunk Rd, Mission, hottiesfoods.com
Kent’s Ice Cream Co — 47582 Yale Rd, Chilliwack, kentsicecreamco.ca
La Casa Gelato — 1033 Venables St, Vancouver, lacasagelato.com
La Glace — 2785 W 16th Ave, Vancouver, laglace.ca
Mario’s Gelati Ltd. — 88 E 1st Ave, Vancouver, mariosgelati.com
Mighty Moose Ice Cream — 42333 Yarrow Central Rd, Chilliwack, mighty-moose-ice-cream.business.site
Mike’s Place — 268 Gower Point Rd, Gibsons, mikesgelato.ca
Mister Artisan Ice Cream — 1141 Mainland St, Vancouver, madebymister.com
Nuvola Gelato & Dolci — 4712 Hastings St, Burnaby, nuvolagelato.com
Rain or Shine Ice Cream (various locations) — 3382 Cambie St, Vancouver, rainorshineicecream.com
Rocky Point Ice Cream (various locations) — 500 6th Ave #100, New Westminster, rockypointicecream.com
Rooster’s Ice Cream Bar — 1039 E Broadway, Vancouver, 778-379-6889
Screamers Soft Serve & Treats — 12211 Third Ave, Richmond, screamerssoftserve.cat
Soft Peaks Ice Cream — 25 Alexander St, Vancouver, softpeaks.ca
Umaluma Dairy-Free Gelato — 235 E Pender St, Vancouver, umaluma.com