A postcard from Rapanui chocolatier, Bariloche

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Apart from Ben & Jerry’s Half-baked Brownie and Cookie Dough, all the best ice cream flavours are green. But I don’t see pistachio or green tea in the vast array of ice cream types before my eyes. I’ll have to settle for mint choc-chip.

I can choose two flavours to pile on top of my waffle cone. Forest fruits, lemon pie, kiwi & passionfruit….they look tempting but in reality I know I’m going for something chocolate-based. Compared to these nutty, caramel-dripping, chocolate-chunky, brownie-filled, cream-topped, coffee-laden mounds of deliciousness, the fruit flavours don’t really cut it.

I choose the ‘Rapanui’ special – chocolate with brownie chunks and walnuts, and watch as the ice cream maestro piles and moulds huge scoops onto the cone. He’s as dubious as I am about the ice cream’s ability to stay in place. Turning the cone upside-down momentarily, he seems satisfied. “It’s soft”, he warns as he hands over the finished masterpiece.

I sit down at a polished wooden table and begin eating. The mint is good, but the chocolate is better. It might even break my green flavour rule. Although I’m worried about it melting, I’m still surprised at how fast I manage to eat it. I look to the cafe at the back of the shop where I had planned to get a hot chocolate. It seems a bit excessive after the ice cream so instead I browse the shelves.

The fake art nuveau curves and retro pink-flowered wallpaper had led me into this shop and not one of the many competitors along Mitre road. They all sell beatifully packaged chocolate and some have ice cream too, but the carved wooden tables of the heladeria in Rapanui, had sucked me in deeper. The patisserie at the back ensured I was going to browse every shelf on my way there.

In the 1930s, Bariloche was developed for domestic tourists as ‘Little Switzerland’, hence the profusion of chocolate shops. But after finishing the ice cream, it isn’t the cocoa products that are making me drool. In a refrigerated section lie ‘artesanal products of Patagonia’: wild boar salami, deer pâté, smoked trout. How I’d love to eat these tasty woodland delights! I try to calculate how long they’ll last once out of the refrigerator and waiting in the heat while speeding cars engulf the bus stop in clouds of grey volcanic dust from the roadside.

The equations don’t quite add up, especially not at the high price these delectable foodstuffs are being sold for. I sigh and move away. Now I just have to make it past the coffee shop without gravitating towards the checkout.

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