Artisanal ice cream seems like it would be a sure-fire hit in Seoul, especially during the hot and humid summer days when temperatures can easily reach into the 90s. I recently found myself in the young and hip Hongdae district, full of indie spirit and whimsical shops, clubs, and restaurants. Wandering in the heat amidst the cat cafes and street vendors, I was focused on finding some frozen refreshment.
My first stop was Molly's Pops. There are plenty of savories on sticks in Asia, so I was naturally attracted to a "skewered" sweet—especially one that evokes childhood memories. While there are a few flavors you'd recognize from your childhood, here you'll find adult pops like Erdinger Beer and Wine & Strawberry, as well as some with Asian influences, like Black Sesame, Green Tea, and Milk Tea.
As there's no sampling possible, I succumbed to the allure of bright colors in choosing Mint Chocochip and Mango. Mint chocochip was cool and refreshing, with comforting bites of chocolate chips, while the mango felt tropical to this northerner unused to Seoul's warm temperatures. A friend chose Wasabi, which boasted a surprising amount of nasal sting, and Kahlua Makgeolli, which made good use of the Korean rice wine and made sense in terms of flavor combinations. None of the flavors was overly sweet. Far from ice pops, these bars were soft and creamy and easily melted in the mouth.
I had heard that the ice cream shop Fell + Cole was also in Hongdae, but after learning that they were closed and looking for a new location, I determinedly took the subway and found them in an upscale food floor at the Galleria in Apgujeong. Here I could taste as many samples as I pleased, and with whimsically fun flavors like Hokey Porky, Cream Cheese Lemon Zest, and Nut Job, I was anxious to try them all. As at Molly's Pops, the flavor Makgeolli made an appearance.
I like the use of herbs in ice cream, so Parsley Lemonade tempted me, but perhaps thinking back to Molly's strawberry & wine (and perhaps partly due to the seasonality), one of my choices was Strawberry Red Wine + Szechuan Pepper. The strawberry flavor pleased me, though I would have enjoyed just a little more of the numbing effect I adore about Szechuan peppercorn. Perilla Leaves was my other choice. Also known as sesame leaves, perilla leaves impart a slightly minty flavor with a hint of anise, making this a subtly satisfying ice cream.
If Fell + Cole sounds familiar, it's because the store name pays homage to the owner's love of San Francisco. Some say the homage goes too far, claiming that Fell + Cole rips off the ideas of ice cream shops like Humphrey Slocumbe. Controversy aside, I can tell you the ice cream brought me great pleasure. And as Fell + Cole is now returning to its original neighborhood of Hongdae, you can enjoy both Molly's Pops and Fell + Cole's scoops in one fell swoop.
Fell + Cole
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.