Its winter in Hokkaido, Japan and what's the best snack to have? Ice cream of course! Lest you think I'm jesting, chilly climes make the best weather for ensuring that your cone doesn't melt off on you before you can finish it up.
But of course, the above rhetoric is merely an excuse to sample the smooth, velvety ice cream that Hokkaido has to offer. Some of the memorable finds:
1. Milk cones.
Hokkaido is famed for its milk and dairy products, so if you are ever within the vicinity of the Trappistine Convent while visiting Hakodate City in Hokkaido, do drop by this nondescript, teeny shop at the foot of the convent. Sample the fresh milk and of course, the milk-flavored ice-cream cones. This shop is actually rather famous for its creamy milk cones and people do make a special pilgrimage to the store just for it. And it's only one flavor on tap - milk. Yes, the milk taste is so divine, you don't need to mask it with the wishy-washy chocolate or strawberry flavorings. So if you're the sort who'll track to Île Saint-Louis while you're in Paris for the famed Berthillion ice-cream, this little outpost could be a stop on your Hakodate itinerary. Disclaimer: Having said that, I'm not saying that these milk cones are comparable to Berthillion ices. I wouldn't know, I have yet to try Berthillion. Damn!
2. Flavors you'll never expect - Cheese and Potato
Yes, that's not the flavor on some packet of crisps or biscuits, but two novel flavors of ice cream. And the flavors go really well, chilled. Reminds me a bit of molecular gastronomy - the familiar tastes presented in unexpected forms. Hokkaido is famous for its dairy produce (thus, cheese) and potatoes. And once you eaten enough of the food in Hokkaido, you'll find that most of its stuff have a "sweet" quality to it. So yes, the cheese tastes sweet, the potato tastes sweet, even the scallop and salmon taste sweet! And this is not for a lack of vocabulary or range of taste buds on my end. So you'll discover that the "sweet" cheese and sweet-tasting potato can become credible flavor options for ice cream, as natural as you would have vanilla or chocolate.
Bought these at some random convenience store at a Tomamu ski resort. I really digged the potato flavored one!
3. And it just keeps getting weirder - Squid Ink ice cream
Yeah, you heard it right. Squid. Ink. And as you can see, the ice cream retains the representative inky black colour of, what else, squid ink. The ice cream tasted rather nice actually, no weird tastes shocks here. To be honest, it tasted just like a nice, creamy confection. I couldn't really detect the squid ink, save for a slight savoury tinge. But then again, I don't know exactly how squid ink tastes like. I've tried squid ink pasta and arroz negro before, but you can't really isolate the squid ink taste in these dishes either, it's usually mixed in with all the other flavors. So, the squid ink ice cream is actually rather gimmicky. Perhaps good for a dare on an unsuspecting visiting friend or tourist? But that aside, the squid ink crepe I had, did make for an enjoyable mid-day snack.
Game to try them at the famed Hakodate Morning Market (Hakodate Asaichi)