Monday, January 18, 2010

Sardines-in-brandy ice-cream???

The BBC has an interesting report on an ice-cream parlor in Merida, Venezuela, that holds the world record for the greatest number of flavors available - including some that sound absolutely cringe-worthy!

The neon sign outside, with the words "Guinness Book of Records" written in pink, is an instant give-away but, once through the doors, it becomes even clearer that this is the place.

At first glance, the counters of brightly coloured ice cream look perfectly ordinary.

Close up, the flavours are anything but.

The selection includes chilli, tomato, gherkin, onion, mushrooms in wine, garlic, and cream of crab.

Coromoto was set up in 1980 by a Portuguese immigrant, Manuel da Silva Oliveira.

The owner does not come in much any more and has left the running of the place to Jose Ramirez.

Jose is exactly what an ice-cream parlour manager should look like.

A friendly man in his 40s, his white and purple shirt is spotlessly clean, and his black moustache is perfectly groomed.

"Mr Oliveira was tired of working for the big ice-cream companies," Jose says, "and decided that he could make more interesting flavours on his own."

The first attempt was avocado.

"It's a tough one to get right because avocados are so rich," says Jose.

"Mr Oliveira wasted around 50kg of ice cream trying to perfect it."

Coromoto sells about 60 flavours on any given day, but changes the flavours according to the seasons.

On one wall, a list of its specialities is made out of engraved wooden slats.

Besides the standard options like chocolate and rum-and-raisin, there are plenty of exotic fruits: guava, papaya, mango and passion fruit.

There are several vile-sounding flavours among the 860 as well: eggs, macaroni cheese and sardines-in-brandy being a few of the more bizarre examples.

And there are a lot of oddly named ones too like British Airways, Andean Kisses and I'm Sorry, Darling.

One of them, Viagra Hope, is bright blue like the pills.

I have to ask what is in it, and am relieved to hear it is all natural: honey and pollen.

. . .

"What is the house special?" I ask Jose.

He chuckles and says "pabellon criollo" - a traditional Venezuelan meal of beef, rice, plantain, cheese and black beans, which Coromoto has replicated in ice cream.

Jose fixes me a small scoop of each flavour - and yes, they do beef-flavoured ice cream in Coromoto - topping it off with a half-scoop of chilli flavour.

"Muy picante," he warns me, but I foolishly nod... I'm sure it's not that hot... and gulp it down in one.

Once my eyes have stopped watering and I have got my breath back, I manage a smile at Jose, who is laughing and saying, "I told you so!"

Clearly Coromoto's flavours live up to their names.

To put out the fire on my tongue, I go for the plantain flavour which is incredibly realistic. As is the cheese, which I would not at all recommend.

Perhaps some things, like cheddar, should not be made into ice cream.

Finally the beef. Despite my misgivings, it is rich, sweet and meaty. I can't quite believe it, but I seem to actually like beef-flavoured ice cream.

Back on the shop floor, the customers are enjoying their choices on what is a stiflingly hot day.

"I chose a scoop of avocado and a scoop of sweetcorn," says Marjorie Castillo, who lives in Caracas.

"It's amazing. The avocado tastes just like avocado and the sweetcorn like sweetcorn."

Her 14-year-old niece, Marvery, concurs. "It's exotic, divine," she says.

"You've only got 858 flavours still to go," I tell her.

"I know," she says, giggling into her ice-cold treat. "But I'm sure I can do it. One flavour at a time!"

There's more at the link.

It certainly sounds like a place I'd like to visit. Let's hope Venezuelan President Chavez doesn't nationalize it, as he's done to so many other successful businesses!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a taste of jalapeno-mango jelly on toast the one time, and I could imagine that working pretty well in ice cream.