BR ice-cream cakes in the summer with the people you love.

Of all of the family restaurants, coffee chains and downright bad-quality fast food obsessions Korea has adopted from its more westerly peers, there is one that just doesn’t fit in with the rest.

It’s name is Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors. And in Seoul, behold! There is even Cafe Baskin Robbins. (Said cafe usually just has three more floors than necessary.)

I hardly ever go to BR in the states.

But in Seoul, it holds my absolute favor. It’s got something that has become a necessary ingredient for my reunions with my little sister [of a cousin] Tiffany

But first, a review of the landscape. Outback Steakhouse, McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme, TGIFriday’s, Domino’s Pizza… a lot of it is here, in much greater concentration than in the states. I recently learned that most Koreans are unaware they’re not actual Korean brands. Here is a sampling, documented as I walked from the Ewha subway station to my boarding house…

버거킹, Burger King
스타벅스, Starbucks
콜드스톤, Coldstone Creamery
던킨도너츠, Dunkin’ Donuts
스무디킹, Smoothie King
커피빈, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

The weirdest thing about chains in Korea is that somehow their simple chain identity makes them visible on every block. It boggles my mind. Seoul is so tiny. How is this possible? For example, there are three Coffee Beans on my 11.5-minute subway-station-to-boarding-house walk. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are two other great examples of this phenomenon.

So is Baskin Robbins, frankly.

But BR is different, as I said before. Why? Because. Of their ice-cream cakes!

In chick/walrus/sheep (which is my favorite) shapes, with loud and elaborate decorations, offered in lots and lots o’ flavors. Perfect for this heat! Although even in winter Jonathan and I and Tiffany and Justin had this:

it was super pretty, originally.

This is that classic story of how something simple that you enjoyed with loved ones kept happening, and then became a tradition. Technically, this tradition began 6 years ago in Seoul. And taking for granted that the four of us super-close cousins never tire of ice-cream, it’s probably a long-term thing.

That’s my wonderful little sister Tiffany, with whom I am sharing mint-chip and chocolate heart cakes, half of a four-part heart cake. It was a pretty perfect split. We took the second-half blueberry and cherry cakes back to the Ritz Carlton for Justin, my aunt and uncle.

My brother Jonathan and I have grown up with these two. I love them more than most things in the world. The four of us have already figured out where our future vacation homes around the world will be. As I write this, my darling Tiffany is on an 11-hour flight heading to DEBATE CAMP at STANFORD! I’m not sure if she has fully accepted this truth yet, but she’s, like, one of the most legit people ever. As for Justin… his voice is changing. I heard it for the first time yesterday. Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh how is that even possible… (?!) But this is why we have to celebrate every time our Hong Kong-Los Angeles distance collapses during our vacations. We’re all growing up, sort of, but never far apart.

So if you, too, happen to be in Seoul with something to celebrate, I recommend an ice-cream cake from Baskin Robbins. It’s served us perfectly so far. =)

(Also, there’s 3 or 4 Baskin Robbins on every block or something. Really, you just need to walk a bit.)

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