What is better than to be in Cuzco during this sunny season, when days are warm, and enjoy a delicious handmade ice cream. The rains have ended and the radiant sun initiates the high season of tourism. Cuzco offers tourists and locals old and brand new places where they can enjoy a cooling and creamy artisanal ice cream when the sun bakes.
With the increase in tourism, small establishments which offer hand-crafted ice creams have opened in Cuzco’s streets. These businesses dedicate careful attention to their product and personalized attention to their clients.
One of the new places is the Nevada Pasteleria that is on the Plaza de Armas, under the Portal de Comercio. The flavor from real, natural fruit and the suave richness of fresh cream make this a special place in which to enjoy an excellent hand made ice cream.
The ice cream that we tried was very good. The coffee ice cream with the taste of a rich, fresh brewed cup of Joe, only cold and creamy, won over Hebert’s palate. The strawberry ice cream that tasted like fresh picked fruit captured Erick. It was natural and had the heady aroma and flavor of natural strawberries. Erick said he had never tasted such good strawberry ice cream.
I chose to try ice cream flavored with Cuzco’s symbolic coca leaf. It captured delightfully the flavor of that leaf while mixing it with the tongue clinging richness of cream. David chose the mint which had the flavor of fresh mint in an equally creamy and rich ball. Hours later on could still taste the flavor of the fruits and herbs in our mouths. This surprised all of us.
Another place drawing much attention is The Hada, whose name in English means the Fairy, which with its magical potions offers intriguing and delightful combinations of natural and fresh flavors. Since it opened last year, It makes its ice cream with seasonal fruit, fresh milk, farm-fresh eggs, fresh cream, and the best of all the other ingredients, all of which are necessary for those for whom this fairy will bring happiness. Our experience at Hada is described here.
The flavors of Hada’s ice cream are wonderful but the last time we went was disappointing. The ice cream was fresh-made, but un-cured, so it was too soft, more like soft-serve than dipped. And, the service was bad. It has become a cafe now, offering coffee and pastries, in a tiny space. It was chaotic and slow. Furthermore, the server completely forgot a part of our order because they ran out of cones and hand to make more–by the way the cones are delicious and beautifully designed, if a bit thin. Though disappointing that day, Hada’s flavors make the place worth a visit.
An older place is the Dolce Vita, gelatería italiana, which has been on Santa Catalina Ancha Street for many years. One can enter in and try a whole range of ice cream dishes or stop at its window while walking to the Machu Picchu Museum for a quick and refreshing cone. Its flavors are tasty and also natural, but the ice cream is neither as creative nor as rich as the other two places. Nevertheless, stopping for a cone or taking time to go inside and look through their ample menu of ice cream offerings is worth it.
Artisanal ice cream is also sold in the many fairs that are carried out in the city of Cuzco. One of these is the Túpac Amaru fair that draws a large crowd every Saturday and Sunday to the district of Wanchaq and the Plaza of Túpac Amaru. It is located about ten minutes by taxi from Cuzco’s main square. This fair offers one of the largest gastronomic festivals in Cuzco of typical food, as well as an immense handicraft fair.
While walking around, enjoying all the hand made items, we ran into a pickup from whose bed pre-packaged, artisanal ice creams were sold. A woman, with a great sense of humor and laugh, recommended we try the bowl composed of both mango and passion fruit in different sections. Her ice creams are made in the ancient, now suburban, town of Santiago, with natural fruit and also had lots of flavor, although they were not as rich as the earlier ones mentioned. Nevertheless I, in particular, liked them.
The main idea of the fairs is for people to become acquainted with and try natural foods. In this way, artisanal ice cream teaches young people that natural and hand made products are better.
The difference between industrial ice cream and artisanal ice creams is that the first are carried out on a large scale in order to get economies of scale and reduce the overall cost of the product. They generally only make ice cream to the standards of the minimum quality people will accept. Many times their products have only a limited amount of cream or sometimes even milk and are made from artificial flavorings and colorings.
On the other hand, the second–artisanal ice creams–are made in small batches with natural flavors and lots of milk and cream. Furthermore they often cost more than their industrial cousins. Despite the price, the care in production and quality of ingredients can make a product far superior to the best industrial ice cream. As a result, they almost seem magical when you taste them.
When in Cuzco, do not miss the opportunity to try an artisanal cone or cup of fresh ice cream. Hada and Nevada produce outstanding ice creams, equivalent to good ice cream any where. They will please and surprise you.