Editor’s note: Payson Ruhl is a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College, majoring in International Relations. She spent her summer working at a technology company in Mendoza, Argentina, while eating her way around the city in her spare time. Read what she has to write about gelato in Argentina!
Flash back to early April when I found out I had secured an internship in Mendoza, Argentina. One of the first things that came to my mind was the food I would be eating during my stay. I pictured myself gorging on the biggest, crispiest, empanadas, drinking some of that famous Mendoza Malbec, and demolishing grills full of Argentina’s famous beef, but after exploring the streets of Mendoza one day with my mother, another culinary delight caught my eye.
Not ice cream, not frozen yogurt, but Gelato.
I live in the center of the city and it seems that everywhere I turn I find a store that sells gelato! I’m not kidding.
One street by my apartment boasts three separate gelato shops, including the famous Heladeria Famiglia Perin – all within a 3-minute walk.
The reason behind the ubiquity of gelato, I learned, is the large Italian influence in Argentina stemming from waves of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, much of the food in Mendoza is a fusion of South American flavors and Italian favorites, like sweet potato gnocchi, beef Milanese, and dulce de leche* flavored gelato. What a delicious illustration of the country’s history!
Anyway, more on food.
The first stop on my self-guided gelato tour was a pink and white storefront on a main street.
Upon entering the store, I was immediately overwhelmed by both the quantity and novelty of the flavors! Noteworthy flavors included kiwi, orange and whiskey, passionfruit, white chocolate, maraschino cherry, apricot cream, chocolate rum raisin, mascarpone with fruit, lemon mousse, and of course, six different varieties of dulce de leche.
Not feeling particularly adventurous, I settled on the chocolate con avellana (chocolate with hazelnut) and frambuesa (raspberry). Having not eaten a single scoop of gelato in four years, I could barely contain myself as I watched the man behind the counter fill the cone (a crispy, homemade waffle cone) with two smooth swirls of my chosen flavors.
The frambuesa and chocolate con avellanas combination was delightful. It was much milkier and more delicate than the ice cream and frozen yogurt I am used to ordering back home (in New Jersey). I began with the frambuesa, which quite literally tasted like biting into a frozen raspberry dipped in cream. There were even little bits of raspberry mixed in! Next up was the chocolate con avellana. The sweet nuttiness of the hazelnut played perfectly off the rich cocoa base of the chocolate and complemented the frambuesa well. Lastly was the cone, a satisfyingly crunchy way to end my first Argentinian gelato experience. The only downside? I later found out that the store is closed for the off-season, which just happened to start the following day and lasts until after I leave.
Oh well. That just meant I had to find another place.
I enjoyed another gelato sampling a few days later at none other than the gelato shop across the street from the first! This place had another impressive array of flavors, including fruit, chocolate, dulce de leche, and even a Malbec and vanilla flavor! I’ve heard of turning water into wine, but wine into gelato? Never. Feeling sweet toothy, I ordered the chocolate almendrado (chocolate almond) and cookies and cream. This shop’s gelato was slightly less decadent than the gelato at the first place, but the cookies and cream flavor was out-of-this-world! One scoop of cookies and cream gelato contained about 70% crushed chocolate cookie and 30% vanilla cream gelato base. It was almost like love at first sight taste. The chocolate with almonds was equally delicious; it reminded me of a more refined rocky road, and the almonds were delightfully crunchy.
All in all, it was a great experience.
Thank you, Mendoza, for dazzling my taste-buds.
*Note: Dulce de Leche is called “manjar” in Argentina