Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ice Cream in Butare!

I finally got myself down to “Rwanda’s first ice cream parlor” in Butare. First let’s correct a few inaccuracies in the Gothamist article: Rwanda has had excellent (if pricier) ice cream at Bourbon for several years, this “ridiculously warm” country rarely gets hotter than 85 degrees and is usually a pleasant 75, I highly doubt they are locally sourcing processed sugar (and can you make ice cream from branches of local sugar cane?), and diversifying the market for milk-based products is all well and good but a scoop of ice cream costs more than what 60% of Rwandans make in a day and you can’t have an ice cream culture without widespread refrigeration which you can’t have without widespread electricity.

That said, they have decent soft-serve, with two flavors at any given time. Although I’ve heard rumors of mango and chocolate, when I visited there was vanilla and coffee. The vanilla was very milky tasting and the coffee was good but not strong. I’d rather pay a bit more for Bourbon’s richer and creamier offerings. However, you can taste the freshness in the ice cream in a way I’ve never experienced, and for that it’s a must for any itinerary that passes through Butare.

The granola topping is amazing, the banana cake is even better, but the absolute highlight is the real live bagels. I took one home, toasted it, improvised cream cheese from laughing cow cheese mixed with diced veggies and herbs, and enjoyed my first bagel in 6 months.

There were a few groups of affluent Rwandan university students enjoying ice cream when I was there. It was nice to see that the shop is catching on with some of Butare’s inhabitants.

Also, the women are very nice, take pride in their work, and the customer service was far and away the best I’ve encountered in Rwanda. For that alone it is worth the visit.

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