Ever since the founder of China’s T’ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) ordered underlings to lug large blocks of ice to the imperial palace for his favourite dessert made with fermented milk, flour and camphor, people with a sweet tooth have beat the summer heat by indulging in ice cream, a delicacy Marco Polo is said to have introduced to Italy.
While ice cream fell off the main menu in China, Italian gelato boasts a rich pedigree. This helps explain why locals feel so passionately about the humble concoction of mostly milk, cream, and sugar. In the heel of Italy’s boot-shaped map known as Puglia, traditionalists in the cobblestoned old quarter of Lecce settle for nothing less than the 44 ultra-rich flavours biscuits at Natale like strafico (fig and chocolate chip) and vanilla with lemon essence and green almond. Meanwhile upstart Fior di Gelato attracts those seeking lighter licks and unexpected flavours like pine nut and the surprisingly appetizing pistachio pesto.
Heading north, Florence claims credit as the birthplace of gelato so locals understandably take their licks seriously. Some swear by the creamy scoops at La Carraia, in the neighbourhood of Santa Trinita on the Oltrarno side of the Ponte alla Carraia, which is best known for its decadent dark chocolate, biscottino and stracciatella as well as its generous portions and budget prices. Others gush about Carapina where the natural ingredients draw raves. The translates on the taste buds as fruit flavours as fresh as biting into the apple, strawberry or mango itself, while the cocoa and coffee get imported from Central America.
In the last few years, ice cream wars have heated up on the other side of the world too. In Buenos Aires, helado leans less rich than Italian gelato but passions still flare between those who won’t settle for any lick less artisanal than the 80% Cacao or FraNui with white chocolate, chocolate ribbons and raspberry coulis at cult-fave Rapa Nui while others make due with the dulce de leche infused with brownie chunks at mega-chain Freddo. For the full rundown on the Argentine capital’s cool treat scene, we at Hotels G rely on local food blogger Ali Lazar.
Back on the continent where ice cream began, Hong Kong is home to one of this confections healthier incarnations. Happy Cow is a locally produced plant based ice dessert which allows our lactose intolerant and vegan friends alike to indulge with us, though we’re loathe to share the chocolate chilli made with cayenne pepper, banana caramel swirl or hibiscus goji. We’re keep tabs on where this nascent local brand pops up but we also heart their speedy delivery service which comes straight to our room at Residence G Hong Kong.