Ice cream is often associated with beaches, walks in the park, afternoon dates, an activity to connect with friends. To me, it is my happy place. You can find me there at the end of an intense workday, celebrating a birthday, when I think I'm developing a sore throat or simply when I feel it’s imperative to play with my food. My ice cream experiences are always magical, and this is why an ice cream parlour is one of my favourite places in the world.
First, I spot the familiar stripes of an awning or a hanging plastic cone peeking out from a corner of the street. As I draw nearer, my heart paces expectantly when the neon beams of the brand come into view, and I take a quick peek in, hoping to catch a glimpse of the scoopers in their caps. Then, as if in a trance, I enter the heavenly, white-lit interior and am instantly greeted by the warm smell of freshly baked cones and waffles. I glide across the retro-tiled floors to the counter and hover over the clear case, peering longingly at the vivid hues in their metal tubs, eyes slowly dilating and lips smacking.
There are so many colours, so many flavours. I jab at different spots on the glass and sample the colourful flavours offered on mini ice lolly sticks. Each has its own taste and texture, and I select the flavour that best describes my mood for that day. Like clockwork, a fuzzy thought always pops into my head: today is going to be a beautiful day.
One afternoon, my husband and I decided to make a special trip to TST’s XTC Gelato at the Star Ferry terminal to try out their seasonal flavours. Upon entering the outlet, the sign was the first thing that caught my attention: every day is a good day for gelato.
There was no familiar warm, baked aroma, but as I approached the counter, stacks of gelato cookie sandwiches, rows of ice lollies and gelato sticks and cakes came into view. We walked further down the display and came to the treasure, each flavour glistening under the bright lights of the case. It was pure eye candy, and the anticipation of relishing a scoop of ice-cold, melt-in-your-mouth ice cream almost made me jump in excitement.
I began my sampling ritual with the baked apple crumble. It smelt faintly of cinnamon and specks of oatmeal crumbs could be seen in the ivory scoop. The taste of the caramelised green apple was sweet, with only a very slight hint of tartness.
We sampled the award-winning spicy chocolate next: it was rich and creamy, with just the right amount of spice from the fresh chilli peppers. This was made with pure 70% Valrhona dark chocolate and contained very little dairy. I could almost feel the endorphins kicking in.
Then came red bean. This gelato was surprisingly light, and I loved the sandy texture, complete with the little bits of bean in it. This healthy, traditional Japanese flavour needs plenty of patience – the beans must be simmered in a pot for hours first in order to create a delicious nutty soup that can be eaten on its own or used in sweet buns and other treats.
I happily continued my sampling. The creamy peanut butter would make a great filling for an ice cream sandwich, while the ginger hokey-pokey had a lingering spice kick with crunchy ginger bits. Then there was the rose petal, with velvety flower pieces and a light rose essence, the healthy almond milk sorbetto, which would be perfect for the lactose intolerant, the popular five-flower tea with honey that tasted quintessentially Hong Kong and the refreshing sudachi and mango that gave a whole lot of zing.
And the magnificent winner from this game of cones was...
...rose petal, simply because I felt this was a delicate way to enjoy the flavours of summer and to bid goodbye to it at the same time. It was an elegant cone, and I left my happy place carefree and content.
Ice cream (including seasonal flavours) starts from $39 per scoop and is available in cups, cones or take-home tubs. All flavours can also be customised into cakes, mooncakes, sticks, shakes and cookie sandwiches.
For XTC Gelato shop locations, click here
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.