My idea of the perfect dessert is two fingers of Glenfiddich Gran Reserva, a colossal, smoky, sweet single-malt that, ridiculously, is banned from the U.S. because it is aged in old Cuban rum casks (how this helps bring the Castro boys to their knees is beyond me). To me, shoveling up crème brûlée or digging into a big wedge of chocolate truffle cake after a good meal is just overkill. Like watching a porno movie after you’ve had great sex.
Which isn’t to say I don’t like sweets, like chocolate or ice cream, I do. Just not as a dessert. To me, the best time to lap up a little luscious glace is in the middle of the afternoon when your blood sugar is low and you feel like you need a nap. Sort of like the way I felt yesterday while walking around Cavendish, a rather frumpy little town on the northern shore of Prince Edward Island that is known for three things: a godawful amusement park (aren’t they all?); the setting for those horrendous Anne of Green Gables books; and the birthplace of COWS ice cream.
Feeling rather cranky from dodging the busloads of twenty-something Japanese women searching desperately for the cheesy Avonlea Village (“Travel back in time 100 years as the characters from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables leap out of the pages and take you on an adventure that will be the highlight of your vacation”–who writes this crap?), I was contemplating throwing myself into the frigid Atlantic when I stumbled upon a black and white cow with pink nose and udder along the boardwalk.
Not a real cow, of course, but a fiberglass cow (to go along with the fiberglass potato I spotted at the potato museum the day before). The faux bovine was standing in front of a little ice cream shop appropriately named COWS. Even though it was only in the mid-60s and everyone had a jacket on, there was a line going out the door. I got a scoop of Moo York Cheesecake in a freshly-made waffle cone and no longer thought about how much fun it would be to collect every single copy of Anne of Green Gables on the island and burn them in a bonfire. This was damn good ice cream. Good enough that even though I was sated, I begged the young girl wearing a Hannah MOOntana t-shirt behind the counter to give me a taste of both the Wowie Cowie and Moo Crunch flavors. And they were…yummy!
“This is damn fine stuff,” I said.
Without looking up she said, “Best in the world.”
“They say it’s the best in the world,” she said.
She shrugged and pointed to a sign on the wall that said “COWS SELECTED AS BEST ICE CREAM IN THE WORLD.”
Evidently this PEI treat had been known as “Canada’s Best Ice Cream” (according to Reader’s Digest, of all people) until last summer when Tauck World Discovery, in celebration of National Ice Cream Month, ranked it number one on their “World’s Top Ten Places for Ice Cream.”
Now, this begs two questions: First of all, who or what is Tauck World Discovery? Secondly, is it really the best? In the whole world?
The answer to the first question is simple enough. Tauck is a luxury travel business, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, that puts together things like cruises down the Danube and cultural tours of Rome (including private visits to the Vatican). And supposedly they determined that COWS makes the best ice cream in the world by compiling a list “based on input from its global network of nearly 250 Tauck Directors….”
After compiling the ice cream preferences of these 250 ice cream gadflies, they came up with “The World’s Top 10 Places for Ice Cream” and evidently COWS topped the list.
Now I have seen the Tauck’s list. And I have been to all but three of their picks (missing out on Freddo’s in Buenos Aires, just down the street from where Eva Paron is buried; Las Iguanas , near an active volcano in Costa Rica; and some place in Alaska—why would anyone open an ice cream shop in Alaska?). And while I think that COWS is good—even better than good—it’s definitely not my number one pick even if we go by Tauck’s Top Ten list (although one has to question how they could leave out Vivoli, in Florence, known for their Zuppa Inglese, a gelato flavor based on the British desert, triffle, with a custardy richness and the sweetness of Madeira?).
So who does make the best ice cream in the world?
We’ll discuss that tomorrow.
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