Cooling off in a warm winter

Metro gets the scoop on Tel Aviv's best ice cream shops.

bad weather (photo credit: Jack Tonhaben)
bad weather
(photo credit: Jack Tonhaben)
While Europe has been freezing, we've been basking in a heat wave here in Tel Aviv, except of course on the day our intrepid correspondent set out to check the best of the White City's ice cream shops.  After countless cups, cones and tiny-sample-spoonfuls - and after sacrificing my waistline - I give you my six favorite Tel Aviv  glideriot  to cool off in the midst of our unusually hot winter. All offer a wide variety of sorbet and ice cream - fresh and made-in-store on a daily basis.
In English, the sign boasts "100% low-tech ice cream;" in Hebrew, the statement is simpler, "Fine, natural ice cream." No matter what language you're licking in, Iceberg delights.
I'm not a big fan of sorbet - I say if you're going to get something cold and creamy, go all the way - but Iceberg has some exotic choices that I couldn't resist. Grapefruit and Campari offers just the right balance of bitter, sour and sweet. Tangerine and Basil is light, with the garden herb providing a little bit of zip.
Iceberg also offers interesting ice creams like Halva Pistachio, Banana Honey and Orange Chocolate, alongside some more traditional flavors like Toffee, and Peanut Butter. My companion opted for the Halva Pistachio, which I found tasted very similar to halva as you might find it at the shuk - nutty and savory, with sugary notes.
I opted for the Toffee, which was appropriately buttery. My companion remarked that it tasted like a Werthers. I thought it was even better.
And the Orange Chocolate was perfectly executed - the chocolate wasn't too rich, so it didn't overpower the citrus.
I visited the shop at 24 Rehov Ibn Gvirol. There are additional locations in the city on Rehov Allenby and Rehov Ben Yehuda.
Tucked on the corner of Rehov Frishman and Rehov Reines, this small spot has an old-school, neighborhood vibe. Visible from the counter, the tiny kitchen where the ice creams are homemade has a hand in that atmosphere, as does the name - owner Ra'anan Ben Avraham explains that Zisale means 'sweetie' in Yiddish.
But don't be deceived by Zisale's humble appearance. Also known as the Ice Cream Workshop, Zisale boasts serious, artisan desserts, including gourmet krembos.
The selection changes frequently, so I felt lucky to get a scoop of Chinese Pecan. It tasted just like the real thing - roasted and nutty. The Hazelnut flavor, sweet and just a tad earthy, is also true to life.
On the day I was there, Zisale seemed to have quite a few cake-themed ice creams like Cheese Cake, Strawberry with Crumbles, and Ricotta Pistachio.
Paper cups boast that Arlekino's offerings are "For ice cream lovers, by ice cream lovers." This phrase runs below a curious string of numbers that reads: 3:15:65, which the polite young man behind the counter told me is the average time it takes for someone to polish off a small cup.
While I definitely ate mine slower than the rest, I don't think I enjoyed it any less.
Arlekino offers hand-crafted "chef gelato" in an array of tempting flavors, including Apple Pie, topped with thick apple filling; Peanut Butter with Caramel and Chocolate Ganache; and Birthday Cake, creamy chocolate topped with crunchy sprinkles.
I took the Lemon Meringue and found it to be absolutely extraordinary - there were bits of light, flaky crust and fluffy chunks of powdered sugar folded into the mouth-puckering, tart ice cream. My companion opted for the Drunken Brownie flavor, which was chocolatey but punched up with liquor. The texture was a little off - perhaps the brownie drank a little too much - but the flavor was fantastic.
Arlekino has two locations: One at Rehov Dizengoff and Rehov Yermiahu; the other at 39 Rehov Ben-Gurion. The Ben-Gurion branch offers a flavor in honor of Israel's first Prime Minister - vanilla brimming with fresh fruit, as Ben-Gurion's wife supposedly made his yogurt every morning.
Tita strikes me as a good place to take the kids. Offering "Italian Ice Cream from the Fairytales," this theme is apparent throughout. The edge of the patio is studded with larger-than-life ceramic mushrooms, ala Alice in Wonderland. At night, a glowing tree with eyes and smiles greets customers as they enter the doorway.
The ice creams have whimsical names like Frog Kiss - mint and chocolate; Hansel and Gretel - caramel and brownies, the perfect pairing for those searching for something sweet; and the wafer flavored Gepetto. The drawing accompanying the latter includes a little boy with a long, cookie nose - which makes me think that maybe this one ought to be named Pinocchio instead.
Although Gepetto's name misses the mark, the flavor doesn't - it's light and delicate. But the plainly-named Date Vanilla offers, in my opinion, the best bites. Rich with the honeyed flavor of the fruit, it's as close to dates as you can get.
At 33 Rehov Bograshov, just a stone's throw from the beach, Tita also offers some refreshing sorbets when you need a break from your winter sunbathing. Orange Carrot, though frighteningly bright, is delicious. Passion Fruit is excellent - a bit tart, as it ought to be.
As the address indicates - 8 Rehov Rothschild - is the place to go for a chic scoop. Doro offers grown-up, well-heeled flavors like Cherries and Vodka, Tiramisu, and Pears and Merlot.
Doro also includes some minimalist options like Cinnamon, Halva, French Vanilla, and Banana, Apples and Cream.
But minimalist doesn't mean plain or flavorless - free of dyes and additives, the focus at Doro seems to be on allowing quality ingredients to express themselves. As such, all of the ice creams here are bursting with flavor. Pears and Merlot, my favorite, is crisp and tinged with mellow hints of wine. Cinnamon offers a subtle spicy flavor - warm and full.
Doro changes its menu on a daily basis. So every once in a while, you'll catch Sesame - which is savory and reminiscent of tehina.
With all of Tel Aviv's glideriot, it's tough to choose a favorite. But if I had to, I'd say Vaniglia is the end of the road, which is why I've saved it for last.
Apparently, I'm not alone in this sentiment. Vaniglia has four branches - the oldest is in the Rehov Basel area; there are others on Rehov Mazeh, Rehov Ibn Gvirol, and Rehov Bograshov.
When I enter the store at 33 Rehov Bograshov, I note that the door advertises free Wi-Fi. But I can't figure out why anyone would want to surf the net at Vaniglia when there are so many flavors to surf instead.
Vaniglia offers straightforward, plain-named, but exquisitely-crafted, ice cream. There's a refreshing Green Tea; Vanilla Ginger - which is at once sharp and sweet; a thick, rich Mascarpone; and a strong Espresso. Vaniglia also handles classics like Cookies and Cream - which tastes remarkably similar to an Oreo - and Dark Chocolate.