It was intriguing. Who would dare sell it in the Philippines? I am talking about kisses because kisses were what zipped through my mind when I saw the banners fluttering along the drop-off point at Greenbelt 3. I didn’t see the phrase after XOXO until I saw a poster at one of the entrances to the shopping complex. The ads were not referring to smooches, but XOXO handcrafted ice cream, which had been serving cups of ice cream rolls since November 23 on the third floor of Greenbelt 3. Standing right in front of the cinemas, its black and white colours wave at you, beckoning you to try a cup of ice cream which is hand rolled on the spot. The concept, I learnt from one of the amiable trio on duty, came from Bali; the business enterprise is owned by a New Zealander and an Australian, partnering up with a Filipino for their venture in Makati. Discovery 2: the Filipino owner – a part owner, she says – is one of the crew I met that January, who learnt the craft in Bali, “chopping” and “rolling” for four days while squeezing in strolls around Kuta and its famed beach. Discovery 3: the crew is trained to be a little more bonhomous than usual, and advised to replicate what is done in Bali. Picture the crew calling out to passers-by urging them to have a cup of XOXO, asking for their names, and engaging them in chit-chat. The Greenbelt crew, the part owner shared, were a little shy, prevailed upon by Filipino culture never to really engage strangers in a conversation much more call them by their first names. Filipinos are generally trained to address people – strangers and whatnot – as Sir or Ma’am punctuated by “po“, which is short for opo, a Filipino word uttered at the end to signify respect.
XOXO’s ingredients are the same as the ones used in Bali – no cost cutting by finding a cheaper substitute. For now, XOXO ice cream can only be eaten from cups, but they are working on getting their waffles cones out soon. Also in the pipeline is the third outlet at BGC; a second one is already serving the delectable ice cream at NAIA Terminal 3.
There are 12 flavours to choose from, each one creatively titled and presented. All the flavours are the same as in Bali except for three which are Filipino-centric. The first is Mabuhay, an homage to the Philippines’ halo-halo, a snack or dessert of shaved ice and a hodgepodge of sweet local ingredients that include fruits and sweet preserves topped with a dollop of yam paste and a cube of flan, and swirled with evaporated milk. Next is “I am what I yam’, a tribute to the halayang ube, or boiled purple yam that’s mashed and mixed with condensed milk, sugar, and butter, that can be eaten on its own or paired with something like halo-halo. The last is “Manny’s Fruit Punch”, an ice cream concoction named after boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao. For the curious, the concoction “The Godfather”, a chocolate concoction smothered in crushed Maltesers, milk chocolate chips, and chocolate biscuit Tim Tam, is the most popular choice among their customers.
Stoked to try the ice cream, I went for “La Land”, a gluten-free cup of white chocolate ice cream with white chocolate chips, and drizzled with salted caramel on my first visit with a friend. It was smooth and packed tremendous flavours, but sans that saccharine sweetness and heaviness on the tummy. My friend, Joy, chose “Matcha Lychee”, a cup of gluten-free green tea ice cream topped with mochi and drizzled with chocolate sauce. She was in seventh heaven. One visit was not enough. My second visit was with my Uncle Ric right after our lunch. We decided to share a cup of “I am what I yam”, yam ice cream topped with yam mochi and ube wafer sticks, and sprinkled with ube bits. It is a Filipino thing – your life wouldn’t be complete without ube in any of its reincarnation.
For P195 a cup, believe me when I say XOXO hand crafted ice cream is better than any kiss from a former lover.