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Aug 19, 2009 09:16 PM

Disappointing, strangely-textured and generally weak-flavoured ice cream tubs from Xococava

Having read a good many positive comments on this Board about the ice cream at Xococava (W side of Yonge N of St Clair in Delisle Court just down from Bruno's) I picked up three tubs today from their freezer for dinner with guests tonight. Boy were we disappointed.

Peanut Butter & Jelly - the best of an unimpressive lot - a lot of jam and chocolate flavour, light on the peanut butter (they could learn from Baskin Robbins in this respect). And like all the flavours sampled tonight, there was a peculiar texture - it struck us as a little grainy, no silky smooth finish on the mouth, somehow a lack of solidity - quite at variance from other super-premium ice creams we had tasted, and inferior in this respect even to H-D and other supermarket brands. The top layer (the container did not have any sealant or wrap between the cap and ice cream) had definitely melted and been re-frozen as it contained ice crystals. This did not occur in the 4 mins between purchase and entering my freezer.

Creme Brulée was a joke and worst of the lot - the same slight grittiness and falling apart, un-dense quality of the previous, with a flavourless sort of "sweet cream" base (not half as creamy or sweet or pleasant to the tongue as Greg's or for that matter as Sealtest French Vanilla) peppered with quite substantial chunks - and I mean tooth-challenging chunks - of what appeared to be no more than a slightly caramelized frozen sugar - which had no real taste component other than sweet. The amateur hour personified.

Espresso had a not unpleasant flavour of coffee with something else, perhaps chocolate - here the falling apart and slightly gritty, unsmooth texture was again pronounced, verging on weirdly off-putting. And since there was no textural variety included in this flavour (eg, coffee bean or chocolate shards or or or...) the whole soon lost any interest for us and became quite monotonous and a little too sweet.

I should add that I tempered all three tubs by standing them at room temperature for 10-15 mins prior to serving.

Service was very sweet from the young lady behind the counter. In response to my question, she told me that the "scoopable" flavours next to her were usually different from those stocked in the freezer where I made today's purchase. From what I could see the ice cream she was scooping another customer appeared to have a creamier and more traditional texture. But this was no more than a passing glance. Certainly I would try the scoop flavours on another visit and consider having tubs hand-packed from the counter. But at the moment I am feeling a little ripped off and distinctly unimpressed, though whether my negative experience stems from a freezing issue, the particular flavours I chose or some systemic problem I am unsure.

Has anyone else had similar experiences here ?

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  1. Ugh, sounds like the first and only tub of Greg's ice cream I ever bought. It had so much air beat into it that the container felt half empty. There were ice crystals on top and the texture with so gritty it was like eating a spoonful of sugar with each bite. Simply awful. If I were you, I'd take the tubs back to Xococava and politely explain your experience.

    1. I walked by there about a month or two ago and stopped in to see what they had, and since it was the middle of a weekday, they were empty, so the boy behind the counter gave me samples. I really liked the chocolate (Earl Grey) but the ice cream we tried, which he said was their "best", was some sort of strawberry flavour. Tasted like flavour-less ice to me. Didn't enjoy.

      1. Whew, I've been curious about this place for a while... thanks for saving me the effort!

        1. I've also noticed consistency (in texture) issues from Xococava - but (so far) haven't had any issues with flavours. This suggests (to me) that they are using 'genuine' ingredients and sweeteners - ice cream can be very tricky when you have to store it at a specific temperature.
          When a 'producer' gets it right consistently, they are either excellent craftswomen, or are using prepared mixes. You can be almost certain that wide-selection places are using fruit-concentrates/purees rather than fresh fruit and may well be using powdered cream mixes also (regrettably the origin of the 'cream' portion of ice-cream does NOT have to say where it originated - it's illegal (in Ontario) to import cream - but perfectly legal to import 'powdered milk products'.
          That's why I tolerate some texture (and colour) variation in smaller outlets. It tends to indicate that 'genuine' source materials are being used. Of course, badly made ice-cream/gelato also turns up in small outlets!
          I've never (yet) found the 'graininess' in Xococava products (in other threads I have commented that I've found it elsewhere in Toronto). But indeed Xococava does seem to produce some items that are 'soft' from the freezer and some that are 'hard'. In particular (a general comment) ice-creams/gelato/sorbets with alcohol are the most treacherous area (even though the content is tiny).
          I would have expected better consistency from Xococava - but they don't seem to have improved over the past year - but I still endorse their flavours.

          5 Replies
          1. re: estufarian

            I wasn’t impressed at all either. When I stopped by, they only had one fruit sorbet on offer, mango, which clearly lacked distinctive flavour. I also tried a rhubarb-plum sorbet about 2 months ago. It not only had an unusual “homemade” texture but was also annoyingly undersweetened. The strawberry icecream was heavy on the cream and light on the fresh fruit. And finally, the dairy-free chocolate tasted watery, which makes it a very insipid understudy to proper chocolate gelato found elsewhere.

            1. re: ghostdogg

              Fair enough that you didn't like them. Can't argue with taste. Except it sort of supports my deduction that they are using fresh fruit, rather than some commercial fruit pulp - mangos are certainly in season right now.
              As for dairy-free chocolate - of course it's different to gelato elsewhere - that contains cream. If they could make it the same taste as chocolate with cream, they'd make a fortune! If you want 'low-fat' - the best product I've found is Devil's Chocolate (so low in fat they can't call it ice-cream) from Gelato Fresco. They also make a 0% butterfat chocolate from time-to-time, but I haven't seen that around recently.

              1. re: estufarian

                Gelatiere's dairy-free chocolate though is its most intensely flavoured one, and my favourite.

                Back to the topic, I recall a comment indicating that Xoco's quality diminishes quickly once it hits the freezer, and that you need to ask them for whatever's the freshest in the scoops.

            2. re: estufarian

              Well I don't doubt that they are using good ingredients, nor that flavours are a matter of taste; but it seems to me that anyone offering a product to the public needs to be consistent. Reasonable people might well disagree about, for instance, the peanut butter and jam flavour's appeal or balance, but I can't imagine anyone thinking Xo's Creme Brulee was appealing, on several different counts; nor that the sort of uncreamy. empty, frankly weird- almost "dry" - texture of the underlying product constitutes good ice cream - i could make better textured i.c. in a freezer tray at home (I don't own an i.c. freezer) though of course whether you liked my flavour pallet would be a different question.

              Trying to be fair in my OP I did mention my intention to see if the hand--scooped ice cream is more appealing and show less evidence of the problems mentioned.

              1. re: Bigtigger

                Sure, it's a matter of taste. But if Xoco wasn't hailed in some quarters as one of the city's very best ice-cream joints, I wouldn't even have bothered making a comment, let alone tried the place. The question is, does it live up to the hype? Certainly not, especially considering the prices ($8 for a tub, and $4 for a cone).

                Despite the paucity of decent alternatives in this city, I still can't understand why Xoco has been so hyped up. It offers nothing special..

            3. I had the same experience. Got a frozen tub of the chocolate to serve at dinner with guests. And it was as you perfectly described -- that kind of slight grittiness, falling apart, un-dense quality. I thought, okay, well if it tastes great, can it be so bad? Well it just didn't taste chocolatey enough to make up for the texture. I was disappointed and won't go back, which is a shame, because I was rooting for them to succeed.