May 31, 2011

The Ice Cream Crawl: The Report

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the ice cream crawl, but you know what guys, WE DID IT! Eight ice cream places in seven hours, from Seeb to Ruwi, across four malls, one business center, and a ghetto. In total we were 18 crawlers, 3 children, and 2 babies! We lost count of the number of scoops consumed in total, but you know it was A LOT.

Read the rest of the report after the jump.

The crawl started off at 3pm at Pinkberry, I had a pomegranate frozen yogurt with some fruit toppings. The staff of Pinkberry were super cheerful and friendly as usual, all the crawlers liked the ambiance, their pebble floors, and the pop music played. We had some complaints about the lack  of the toppings they had when we were there, and somehow they don’t seem to ever have some of the local options (such as dates) which they used to have when they first started, we were also irritated by the fact that the labels on their sprinkles were not in order and did not make sense. That didn’t stop the crawlers from thoroughly enjoyed the froyo they got!

Once done with Pinkberry we moved to Baskin Robbins which was just across the hall from where we were sitting. It was a bit disappointing from the get go that Baskin Robbin did not have the nice seating that Pinkberry has, it was kind of noisy, but fortunately one of the tables in the center of the hall was available when we were there. The nice thing about Baskin Robins is that they have loads and loads of variety of flavors including sugar free options and they change all the time. I had a strawberry cheese cake (one of favorites as BR) and it was delicious!

Our third step was Tropical in Bank Muscat new HQ, their new building is gorgeous and it is easily accessible. A few of the crawlers couldn’t continue with us to the next leg of the crawl, but we were joined by a few other crawlers at BM. Despite Tropical being Judge Stephanie’s favorite ice cream place in Muscat, she had to admit that their ice cream had a bizarre texture due to it being made of what seemed to be powdered milk!! [Update, according to the comment below Tropical uses fresh unpasteurized cow milk] I had some saffron ice cream which tasted like something my mom would make at home, but still I really didn’t like it much! :/ Tropical has to be recognized for its effort to use local products, but they should seriously work on their branding to make it a bit more appealing.

I was not exactly thrilled to go to Dream Cones due previous experiences I had with them, and a few people commented on the original Crawl post saying that their ice cream wasn’t very nice, however the majority of the crawlers were pleasantly surprised by the great variety Dream Cones had, especially when it came to sugar free options. We tried a sugar free dark chocolate fondue which was super rich and quite nice.

Il Gelato was the spot for which most crawlers came to, we were there around sunset, and it is quite possibly the best location you can enjoy your ice cream around that time due to the breathtaking sea view you get from their place. Il Gelato had some good variety of ice cream, the seating was nice, and it was was very kid-friendly. We were a bit disappointed by the service as we were not informed about the available syraps and the parking at Oasis by the Sea is always a nightmare so you have to plan ahead for it if you want to come here. I had a mango flavored gelato which was the most refreshing thing I had on the whole crawl!

For the sixth and seventh stops we went to QCC, we started off with Marble Slab (which predates Cold Stone according to Wikipedia the ultimate authority). The crawlers were impressed by Marble Slab’s great selection of ice cream cones which you can get in different varieties such as chocolate, sprinkles, or candybar coated, Marble Slab was also the only place we’ve gone to which had a loyalty card program and gave discounts to members of the Women’s Guild of Oman (not that I’m a member or anything like that! :P). I was pleasantly surprised by their strawberry ice cream.

We had the greatest amount of fun ordering ice cream at Cold Stone, the two employees made a show as they juggled our ice cream orders, and at one point they tossed the small ice cream scoop across the corridor where the other one caught it in a cup. Cold Stone has a great variety of ice creams which you can customize by adding different kind of mix-ins. I had a cake batter ice cream with a brownie which was seriously delicious!

Our very last stop was of the Ice Cream Crawl was Softy – the one and only ice cream place in Oman since 1975. You get exactly what you pay for: soft served goodness at a low price (RO 0.200). It sort of felt like a museum/exhibition and ignited everyone’s nostalgia. Softy now actually serves a variety of ice creams, but we chose to go for the original softy which you can have in vanilla/strawberry or vanilla/chocolate flavors. (But not in strawberry/chocolate together!!!)

So the original purpose of the Ice Cream Crawl is to select the best ice cream place in town, and for this we evaluated each of the ice cream places on the basis on the following six categories:

  1. Flavor, texture, and customization options.
  2. Variety – bonus points for local ingredients.
  3. Ambiance, seating, and parking.
  4. Cost vs value.
  5. Service.
  6. Branding

You guys should know that this is not a scientific exercise, but we did our best to fair and objective and took in mind all the feedback we got from the crawlers who came to each of the places, and here are the results:

So the winner of the Ice Cream Crawl 2011 is: COLD STONE CREAMERY!! We really liked their service and their ice creams were delicious! It is unfortunate that Cold Stone does not have proper seating, but at least it is very close to the food court so you can have it there.

The crawlers demanded that the special “People’s Choice Award” is given to Softy for the special place in occupies in all of our hearts!

Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come to the ice cream crawl, especially the judge Stephanie Dahle for taking all the photographs and keeping everyone in order and crawler Sami Al Asmi for going through the whole crawl and having the most amount of ice cream on it!!