Cream of the crop
Down an unassuming side street, in an unassuming area of Hongdae, there is an unassuming storefront. Straight lines and navy blue may not usually capture your attention, but in this case you’ll make an exception because directly above a glass facade and a frequently swinging door there is a bold statement, big in size and reputation: Fell + Cole.
For those who are new to our metropolis, or for those who have been so unlucky as to have never heard, Fell + Cole is where you go to have your ice cream dreams become reality. Magical bowls and cones of whimsical flavors such as Green Tea and Whiskey, Blueberry Cream Cheese, Fresh Basil and a drool-worthy concoction called Cookie Monster await you in these swank premises.
Don’t fancy today’s flavors? How about tomorrow? An endless variety is parading through their freezers, including old favorites like Gangnam (read: normal) Strawberry and Just Boring Vanilla alongside flavors like Makgeolli, Rum Drunken Raisin and Black Tea.
If these flavors seem like they’re shaded with ice cream desperation, you wouldn’t be far off. Frustrated by Seoul’s lack of ice cream imagination, Tristan Choi felt something had to be done if this city was going to have any sort of frozen dessert culture. So, he began tinkering around in the most humble of circumstances: his own teeny kitchen.
“I was making at least two flavors a day, just for practice,” he said, as we lazed in front of the air conditioner one hot afternoon. “I was never a chef, but I wanted to learn how to make ice cream like I had back in San Francisco.”
And that’s where it all began, at the corner of Fell and Cole streets, where Tristan was living, barely tolerating the tanked American economy. He left his job as a project manager in the economics department at Stanford University, packed up his MBA and flew home to Korea. A few busy months in the kitchen with his ice cream maker inspired a quick realization that, geez, were he to educate himself properly on this whole ice cream thing, he could open a business. Oh man!
Armed with a few basic flavors and more than a few ideas for not-so-basic ones, he opened the first Fell + Cole location in July 2011 to rave reviews. Since then, he’s launched another store in Apgujeong, moved into this brand new space on Dongmak-ro and invented more than 170 flavors of ice cream for his adoring fans.
“We aim to work with as many local and organic ingredients as possible,” he said, lamenting slightly that life in Korea sometimes disappoints on this front. But what he lacks in organic cream he makes up for in other groceries, snatching as many organic fruits, herbs and nuts as he can find to produce a quality ice cream for those with a discerning palette – or those with the urge to taste a bangin’ Mint Chocolate Chip.
These steamy summer months are the perfect opportunity to come on down for one of Choi’s cool treats. He swears by Burned Caramel with Sea Salt for anyone who’s feeling a little ho-hum, roundly promotes Hoky Porky (a butterscotch blend spiked with candied bacon) and suggests coyly that you try his coconut chocolate concoction called Coco Bitch. “I don’t even like coconut,” he said, “but this is one of my favorites.”
No matter what, the hip-yet-chill atmosphere will keep you coming back and make you the coolest kid on the block when it comes to restaurant suggestions. Tuck in tight with your cone and coffee, have a laugh and absorb a summer o’ love.
Apgujeong Galleria: Apgujeong Station, line 3, exit 2. Head towards the KDB bank and turn right. Walk straight for 250 meters until you reach the bus stop. Get on the 4318. Get off at Apgujeong Hanyang apt. The Galleria is across the street.
Hongdae: Sangsu Station, line 6, exit 1. Come out the exit stairs and turn around. Turn left at the first side street. Walk for about three minutes. Fell + Cole will be on your left.