December 2013, Jenna & Graeme Wedding
Thanks for making our wedding day the best ever!!
We just wanted to send you a little card to say thanks so much for making our wedding day the best ever!
We're so glad you were part of it. It was absolutely ace!!
Lots of love and Kermit cupcakes.
Jenna and Graeme xx"
WEDDING 'THANK YOU' CARD
October 2013, Jonathan & Laura Wedding
Your vintage ice cream van went down a storm.
"Dear Dan and Aimee,
Thank you so much for being part of our wedding. The van went down a storm! Guests are still mentioning it! Not many brides can say they had icecream down their dress but i can! it was such a long journey for you both but it really made our day! All the success for the future!
Love Jonathan + Laura xx
WEDDING 'THANK YOU' CARD
August 2012, Stuart & Jens Wedding
Thank you so much for bringing 'Mimi' the vintage ice cream van to our wedding.
"Dear Aimee and Dan,
Thank you so much for bringing Mimi the ice cream van to our wedding, it was such a special part of the day and we really do appreciate the effort to bring her all the way here. thank you also for letting us scoop!! We are so glad you were able to be there and share the day with us and thay barney timed his arrival perfectly! Lots of love,
Jen and Stu xxxxx"
WEDDING 'THANK YOU' CARD
14th May 2011, The Independent
Super scoops: Ice cream vans turn deluxe.
The new model is more likely to serve sea-salt and smoked olive oil flavour cones than a soft-serve 99 Flake. Holly Williams climbs aboard.
In Bath's Victoria Park, picnic blankets and wicker baskets pepper the rolling green, children run around excitedly while grannies get out the deck chairs. And across our pleasant land this summer you can expect to see plenty more scenes like this, as we collectively indulge in a national fondness for community-centred, often nostalgia-themed, outdoor gatherings.
There will be village fêtes, foodie fairs, music festivals (now just as likely to be family affairs as lost weekends), country shows and vintage fairs. And all one needs on a nice sunny day (or even a damply grey one, as Bath's patriotic residents discover) is a good old-fashioned 99 Flake.
Which shouldn't be a problem. Perched in a corner of this field is a pastel-hued VW vintage ice cream van serving scoops to eager children - and their parents, once they've tried a lick. This is the Split Screen Ice Cream Company, and they're just one of many street-food vendors combining nostalgia for the tinkling tune-playing vans of our youth with high-quality, delicious ice cream.
Britain's mobile food units have undergone something of a revolution in recent years. Where festivals and fêtes used to feature a few greasy burger vans and hotdog stalls, punters can now expect organic rare-breed burgers, washed down not with tepid Carling, but a homemade scrumpy or micro-brewery beer. Ice cream vans have perhaps been a bit slow to follow - I've had many frustrating waits at festivals for what turn out to be slightly disappointing, vaguely-vanilla flavoured swirls with a sub-Cadbury's flake, all doled out from identikit vehicles that rumble away un-enticingly at the back of a field. But a new breed of entrepreneurial dessert-lovers has recently realised ice cream vans are ripe for reinvention.
In Victoria Park, I join Dan Dimbleby and Aimee Dickinson inside their van, the hatch open as they scoop merrily away. This is one of very few split-screen VW vans left in the world - they were made in the Sixties for commercial uses including the selling of ice cream. It was a big job to restore it, but the couple now have a mint-choc-chip-green vehicle that proves as much of a draw as the West Country Ice cream they serve.
Compared to the garishly-coloured Walls or Whippy monster trucks, it's a rather dinky affair. As I duck my head to get inside the low-ceilinged interior, Dimbleby acknowledges that it's a good job they're both petite of frame, and with three of us inside its tiny interior, serving ice cream becomes quite a cosy activity.
My scooping of a Toffee Fudge Fiasco (a rich affair combining swirling toffee ice cream with lumps of fudge) isn't too disastrous - although Dimbleby informs me I'd need "less air" in the middle when serving the public. It's not as speedy as the pull-and-twirl of a soft ice cream machine, but the pair have had to learn to go at quite a pace when there's a queue on; three days after scooping his first-ever cone, Dimbleby was serving over 150 people in half an hour at a wedding. "Scooping ice cream is really hard work, I'm going to end up with Popeye arms!" he jokes.
Up in Edinburgh, the Luca family can hardly be said to be riding on a wave of street food fashion - ice cream has been the family business since 1908 - but their van has also been known to draw a crowd. A vintage 1923 Rolls-Royce, it must be one of the smallest ice cream vans in the country, and certainly one of the classiest.
In Manchester, Claire Kelsey's Ginger's Comfort Emporium takes a less traditional approach, selling what she calls "grown-up" flavours for people willing to go way beyond tutti-frutti: think white chocolate and pink peppercorn, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, or liquorice Mr Whippy. A member of the Experimental Food Society, Kelsey's homemade confections are out to prove ice cream can cut it in the culinary stakes. London also has the gourmet La Grotta Ices, run by Kitty Travers, whose career got a boost after she was included in a worldwide top 100 up-and-coming culinary stars list, compiled by superstar chefs (she got her nomination from Fergus Henderson). Her scoops include the unlikely sounding bergamot sherbet, orange juice and crème fraîche, or French kiwi sorbet.
For others, it's less about fancy flavours and more about the experience: the ice cream van can offer a chance to trundle down memory lane.
Hayley Southwood sets up her own little picket fence and potted hydrangeas alongside her pretty van, and admits she's benefiting from the trend for all things vintage - she sells other retro products such as ginger beer and sherbet lemons. During a recession, she suggests, we start harking back to bygone days and "enjoying the simple pleasures in life".
For Matt O'Connor, founder of The Icecreamists, it's certainly not about being traditional (if the name sounds familiar, it's probably because their Baby Gaga breast milk ice cream caused such a fuss when launched in February). Their vehicle - currently on tour in America - is a "subversive take on the ice cream van". "We painted all sorts of political slogans on it and converted the back with black latex seating," he explains. "I wanted to do something that was challenging, provocative, political, sexual, and I thought ice cream was the perfect medium."
From retro takes on Fifties seaside glamour to experimental, gourmet flavours, from vintage vans in the cupcakes'n'Cath Kidston vein to punk-inspired, political scoops, this summer there are plenty of people proving ice cream vans can be anything but vanilla.
The Split-Screen Ice Cream Company, Bath
"We had a normal VW, and were sitting on a beach in Cornwall, looking at a normal ice cream van - it was a lightbulb moment.
We'd just come from the Big Chill festival. The food at festivals has really stepped up, but I wanted ice cream, and they only had that Whippy kind.I thought, 'There's an opportunity here'. We just knew people would love the combo of the VW and really good ice cream.
We were moving from Ladbroke Grove to the West Country, and we'd been looking for months for the right vehicle. On the day we completed on the flat, this van came up, 20 minutes down the road. It was fate. It used to be an ice cream van in Germany in the Sixties and was about to end up in a museum. There are only about five left in the world.
Restoring it became an expensive labour of love. The van is called Mimi, after my grandmother. The last chat I'd had with her before she died, I'd told her about the idea for the van.
Our ice cream is a high-quality product, and it couldn't be more local: they milk the cows and make the ice cream on a farm, and deliver it to us four miles down the road.
There are times when we've thought, 'This is insane'. At festivals it can be 10am till 10pm. But it's nice that our dream on a beach became a reality."
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