David Jenison discovers Sardines & Brandy, Ham & Cheese, and Tuna are just a few of the flavors that people are lining up around the block for at this wacky ice cream shop in Mérida.
Baskin-Robbins first made headlines with a record-setting 31 flavors, enough to enjoy a different ice cream every day of the month. Several decades later, a Venezuelan ice cream shop puts that number to shame with enough flavors for two and a half years!
Located in the university town of Mérida, Heladeria Coromoto made the Guinness Book of World Records for having nearly 900 kinds of ice cream. There are old standbys like chocolate and Oreo and flashier flavors like Pepsi and Pernod Fils (a notorious 19th-century absinthe banned in 1915), but it is the shock-value flavors that have everyone snapping pictures. Manuel Da Silva Oliveira, the Portuguese transplant who founded the shop, created every imaginable flavor, from squid and shrimp to penguin and polar bear, as well as flavors like samba, Smurf and forbidden love that give no hint to their actual taste. One might guess that Titanic tastes like iceberg, but does Miss Venezuela dare taste like silicon?
To keep the ice cream fresh, the shop only carries about 80 flavors at a time, so from this selection we chose the eight strangest for a firsthand evaluation.
Here is the list from worst to best:
• Sardines & Brandy – At first taste, the brandy dominates, so you think it might not be so bad, but then the sardine flavor kicks in… and doesn’t leave. Like peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth, the taste of sugary sardines is the houseguest that never leaves.
• Smoked Trout – You don’t have to be Long John Silver to know trout isn’t the mildest fish, and the smoky additive only makes it more pungent. While likely better than the Trout Eggs flavor, it will still create facial expressions typically reserved for your mother-in-law’s advice.
• Tuna – The final fish flavor won’t make the Ben & Jerry hot-list, but its milder taste certainly ranks above the sardines and trout. Even with a softer finish, though, the different tastes don’t match. Sweet and sour works, but sweet and oily not so much.
• Meat – Like tuna, the carne flavor is almost tolerable. The ice cream tastes closer to hamburger than steak, and since many people eat meat with sugary condiments (ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.), the pairing doesn’t seem as a radical as with the fish. It’s a reasonable choice for the steak tartare lovers out there.
• Chicken & Rice – Complete with bits of rice in the ice cream, this flavor is the first to border on tasty. There is a slight hint of poultry, but chicken is famous for its neutral taste and doesn’t control the flavor. The rice can make it a bit chewy, though.
• Ham & Cheese – This is the first flavor eaten completely! Cheese actually makes for a delicious ice cream flavor, and while it’s mentally hard to get past the cold bits of ham, they provide more texture than taste.
• Mushrooms & Wine – Anyone else love Cream of Mushroom soup? If so, there should be no surprise that mushroom and cream make a nice pair. Furthermore, the wine flavor provides much of the sweetness, which helps to avoid a sugary spike that might throw off the taste.
• Vodka & Lime – Would have preferred the Caipirinha or Guinness, but with those ice creams out of stock, vodka and lime it is. Easily the best of the bunch, this fab flavor tastes just like the famed spirit but without the cheap-alcohol kick. In fact, it’s good enough to order a double!
The flavor list is bound to crack a 1000 in the coming years, and one can only imagine what will come next. Personally, I’m betting on a new nutty flavor called Hugo Chavez.3 Independencia Merida, Venezuela