The Great Toronto Ice Cream Sundae Challenge: Sweet sophistication
When writing about sundaes, things naturally tend to turn nostalgic, to a time when a sundae or an ice cream cone was a treat. Not that they aren't anymore, but as a child your access to ice cream is limited to what your parents allow. As a six year old, I would have liked to have eaten ice cream everyday, but I was incapable of making that happen. As an adult, I can totally facilitate that, but I know better.
That's what makes the sundaes at Xococava (pronounced "Choco-Cava) unique. They aren't meant for children; in fact kids probably wouldn't even like them. Instead of Smarties and gummie worms, Xococava tops their sundaes with things like salted caramel, toasted coconut or espresso granita; and bases them with super rich dark chocolate sorbet and dense pistachio ice cream. This is a candy shop strictly for adults: sophisticated, creative and super-rich.
ICE CREAM: 5/5
As much as I love options like crĂ¨me brule, cinnamon and coconut ice cream, for my money there are few favours better than a really good pistachio. The subtle green colour, the sweet nuttiness and velvety texture combine to create something greater than the sum of its parts, and as the first part of a truly sophisticated sundae it can't be beat.
It also helps that Xococava's pistachio is particularly delightful, I was tempted to pick up a pint of the stuff to take home with me, but I'm in no position to be purchasing extra ice cream at this juncture.
Added to the base is a layer of espresso granita--basically frozen espresso that is flaked part during the freezing process creating a loose consistency not unlike a snow cone. It's an inspired match to the rich pistachio. The ice cream here is dense and packed with flavour, and something like a granita is the perfect companion to keep the dish fresh and the palate hydrated.
In addition to the granita is some hot Xocolata - a rich dark chocolate sauce - whipped cream, some salted, toasted coconut and a candied chocolate-dipped orange peel.
Sundaes are not elegant things, they're super-sticky and try as I might to avoid it, I always end up with ice cream in my beard. But somehow, Xococava have managed to elevate this messy afternoon treat to something that borders on chic. They've managed to break away from tradition and create a style of sundae unique to them.
One thing I've noticed while covering the ice cream sundae beat is that prices don't fluctuate all that much. Everything has been pretty much in between the $5-$7 range. That being said, Xococava fits somewhere nicely in the middle at $6.50 which actually kind of feels like a bargain. For something so rich, unique and packed with flavour I would have expected to get gouged a little--pleasant surprise indeed.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: 5/5
Sampling sundaes isn't a particularly tough job, surprisingly though it can get a bit tedious. As much as I've loved the places I've visited (as I've said before, it's all delicious) I've been hoping to find a place like Xococava, somewhere that goes beyond the norms of sundae creation. One unconventional ingredient that I'm immediately insisting becomes part of the norm is salt, a little bit of flaked sea salt sprinkled on top of an ice cream sundae adds such a lovely contrast to the sweetness in the dish that it should be standard operating procedure. In fact, I'm surprised it surprised me. The same rules as the rest of the culinary world apply here--always make sure your dish is properly seasoned.
I feel like Xococava warrants an extra point here for originality, it's something that hasn't much been included in this challenge and to be honest, it hasn't much been necessary, but that's part of what makes this sundae so special--it's so different.
TOTAL SCORE: 25+1/25 (104%)
Previously in the series:
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