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Sem Fentie, portrait photo.
Photo: Patrik Rising
Categories: Cafés

Scooping up ice cream with Sem Fentie

Publish date: 20 January 2021

What’s the secret of great ice cream? And is there a flavor that sums up Stockholm? We asked artisan ice cream-maker Sem Fentie to get the scoop!

Whether to cool off on a hot summer’s day or as a bowl of pure indulgence to cap off a great three-course meal, Swedes sure love their ice cream. And that’s not just hyperbole. The average Swede gobbles up 12 liters (3 gallons) each year, which puts us only behind Finland as the biggest ice cream lovers in Europe. Needless to say, there are lots of options should you need a frozen dessert in Stockholm.

Each summer, Sem Fentie says, he would bring up the idea of starting some kind of ice cream-related project with his brother Henok; “maybe as an icecream-vendor-on-wheels”. Suddenly an opportunity presented itself as the space of a former Sushi bar on Hornsgatan became available.

Having no previous experience of actually making icecream Sem took courses at Carpigiani’s Gelato University to learn the art, while Henok traveled abroad for inspiration. And finally, in 2016, King Scoopa served its first scoops. Since then Sem has been mixing new combinations every week – strawberry saffron, lingonberry ginger habanero, cloudberry cheesecake, sage, cardamom peach crumble to name a few – served in either cups, cones, or as a burger.

At first glance, this might read as typically American ice cream; playful and indulgent. But Sem explains that striking a balance between traditional Americana and classic Italian gelato is the sweet-spot to be in.

"If you can mix both you’ll get something truly yummy! I love the creativity of American ice cream culture, mixing different flavors and textures in one scoop. But it’s not fun when it gets out of hand and turns into a sticky or sweet mush. That’s where the Italian tradition comes in. It’s more focused on quality, letting the ingredients shine, and finding the right balance of flavors."

You often serve fun and unexpected flavor combos. What’s the process like, before a flavor winds up in your fridge?
"Different from time to time. Sometimes I taste a delicious pastry and decide to turn it into an ice-cream flavor. Other times I just think about a specific ingredient and start wondering what would taste good with it. And sometimes It’s just a matter of using what I have on-hand."

How did you get the idea for the icecream-burger?
"Well, I love ice cream and pastries. But even more, I love to mix the two. So I was actually looking into how to make [the ice cream burger] and found a spherical sandwich toaster designed for just that purpose. Bought it immediately."

Setting aside the fact that people have different flavor favorites, what is the secret to making really tasty ice cream?
"
It might sound obvious, but making it, well, tasty. People seem to forget that and want the healthiest, most nutritious ice cream, or some crap like that, that just tastes nasty."

Is there a flavor that sums up Stockholm?
"Either vanilla or wild strawberries ["smultron" in Swedish]. Vanilla, because it might not be very exciting, but everyone can enjoy it. At the same time, there are lots of hidden gems in town [or a “smultronställe” in Swedish] if you know where to look."

What is your favorite spot, perhaps on a nice summers’ day, to enjoy ice cream?
"I eat them wherever I buy them, or while walking. My focus, up until it’s finished, is on the ice cream."

Let’s say that you go on vacation and King Scoopa is closed for a couple of days. Which other good ice cream bars do you recommend?
"
Omnipollos Flora in Humlegården makes its own soft-ice cream from scratch. The place also has great beer and an overall nice vibe. Snö and Scarfó are great as well."