Our 3 Favourite Ice Creams

When we met, That-man was the ice cream aficionado and i was the chocoholic, but as with most couples, likes and dislikes are eventually fused together, and today both of us have a deep appreciation for both ice cream and chocolate.

i was curious about ice cream, its origins and history, so i did some research. Would you believe that ice cream is said to be 5,000 years old? Not the containers sold in our stores these days, of course (which would make it more suitable for scientific research than human consumption), but apparently it was a Chinese invention, which was brought to Italy in the Middle Ages by Marco Polo. Keep that in mind when you read this list.

When we travel, we do not hunt for ice cream parlours or gelaterii the way we sometimes hunt after the perfect cup of coffee, but when the weather is right, we will most likely be caught sampling some creamy, frozen delight.

So here is our list of the three most spectacularly delicious ice creams we have ever eaten:

1 CIOCCOLATO FONDENTE – VALENTINO’S – ROME, ITALY

Cost - RR

After a long day in the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Cathedral, we were on our way to the Trevi Fountains in Rome, and the closest Metro stop was Barberini. With a deep desire to get away from the crowds (did we realise we were going to the Trevi Fountains?!) we decided to skip the main thoroughfare - Via del Tritone - and opted for the quieter alleyways which followed roughly the same direction. We knew we would find the fountains soon enough, and were thankful to have some breathing space. Two lefts and a right, and we were unknowingly approaching the ice cream shop that would leave both of us with a lasting culinary memory. Before we came here, we set out to accomplish a few things: visit the Coliseum and the Vatican City, walk on the Appia Antica, stroll through as many piazzas as possible, and explore the gelato scene. Well, exploring we went – three times at the same shop in less than 48 hours.

The chocolate fondente is a combination of both our sweet favourites. It is creamy, rich in cocoa, just sweet enough not to spoil the dark delight, and of course frozen to cast away any Roman heatwave. We could not comprehend how they could produce ice cream with such a dark colour, and yet there it was. After our first afternoon ice cream, we bought some more on our way home that evening, and two days later we visited them again before we headed to the airport.

Of course i was curious about the recipe, but as i didn’t believe i could extract it from the owner, i have since been on a quest to find a recipe for a similar gelato. That, however, is a story for another day.

2 MANGO SOFT SERVE – THE COCONUT CAN – PONTA DO OURO, MOZAMBIQUE

Cost - R

One day i will overcome the trauma of that day and share the whole story, but for now, let’s focus on The Coconut Can. February in Mozambique is not for the heat averse. Between the soaring temperatures and extreme humidity, the deep sandy roads and glaring sun, ice cream is not welcome; it is basically a necessity.

We were on our way home after a swim and lunch on the beach, and the afternoon weather was a bit more intense than even citizens of the Northern Cape like to deal with. Then, as to a thirsty wanderer lost in a desert, the mirage of The Coconut Can appeared before us: an oasis in the centre of Ponta do Ouro.

From several signs and items displayed at this shack, we could gather that they sell coconuts, chips, cold drinks and soft serve ice creams. The selection included Vanilla, Banana, Mango and Double Cream. Wait, what? Mango soft serve? This we had to see to believe. We immediately ordered one each, then stood in the shade next door and ravaged those cones. The ice cream is sweet and creamy and mango-y all at once. We half expected it to be more sorbet than soft serve, but thankfully that was not what we received. We were both so enamoured that we returned immediately for a second helping each. We realised that this sweet wonder had to be documented, and as i reached for the camera, the thing every little ice cream-loving child dreads, happened: it fell. i'm sure i could hear it sizzle as it hit the hot sand, but before i could break down in tears, That-man said: “Get another one.” Which i did. We savoured these cool delights on our way to the taxi stand, thinking, “What a perfect way to end a day in Ponta.” What happened next will be told another day.

3 NIGHT WOLF – ODDIES FOODIES – WAN CHAI, HONG KONG

Cost - RRR

Probably the most expensive and definitely the most elaborate of the three ice creams featured here, this is more of an experience than an ice cream. While on a long layover from Kathmandu to Johannesburg, we had 24 hours to spend in Hong Kong. We had kept our prize money from our own little Come Dine With Me competition, and our plan was to find some of that crazy Hong Kong cuisine we’d been reading about. In the end we only visited two establishments, as you can only eat so much in a day. The first of these were Oddies Foodies. We had seen photos of their creations on the world wide web and couldn’t wait to sample it for ourselves. Their menu offered a limited number of interesting choices, including the Night Wolf, the Mob and the Loner. Both of us settled very quickly on the night wolf. Here is the description on their menu:

“Italian low fat twist soft gelato served with butter crumbs, caramelized banana ice cream, passionfruit panna cotta, brownie and chocolate chip eggettes, and sprinkles with crunchy flakes.”

Now, to clarify some items on this list: the soft gelato is an excellent quality soft serve, a combination of delicate vanilla and 66% dark chocolate. The butter crumbs seemed to be a kind of crushed bread crumb brittle. The eggettes is best described as a fluffy egg waffle sans the overbearing egg taste.

This cost more than our lunch at the only affordable Michelin star restaurant in the world later that afternoon, but it was worth every cent.

When we decided which place to award to which ice cream in this list, the second and third positions were a close call, and eventually the deciding factor was the desperate heat and consequently the magnified need for refreshment we experienced in Mozambique.

Remember how we discovered at the beginning that ice cream was invented by the Chinese and first brought to Italy in the Middle Ages? Is it coincidence, then, that 2 out of 3 of our favourites are from those countries (if we ignore the slight technical point of Hong Kong’s autonomy)? We think not.

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