Bad puns never seemed so sweet. From "Cow of Duty" to "Dairy Potter" to "Fifty Shades of Hay" the paraphernalia on display at the debut location of Canada’s famous Cows Creamery on Sanlitun’s Xindong Lu, just across the street from Heaven bar, is enough to make one’s eyes roll.
Yet the cute cartoons that go with the quirky merchandise, and the sugary, spine tingling cold scoops of ice cream that the staff serve up would be enough to melt even the iciest of hearts.
Those goofy titles are also applied to some of the ice cream parlor’s flavours, which sport titles like Wowie Cowie (consisting of chocolate chunks swirled together with vanilla ice cream) and Gooey Mooey (which is similar to the aforementioned flavor, aside from its oodles of sticky caramel).
The scoops are shockingly sweet, on par with treats back in the West that many of us laowai have weaned ourselves off of after growing accustomed to the subtle desserts here that are suited for Chinese tastes.
But Wowie Cowie and Gooey Mooey seem undeniably dull in comparison to Cows’ Birthday Cake scoops. This option features a rougher, fuller texture that is reminiscent of a slice of the dessert from which it takes its namesake. And even more surprising are its sprinkles and what seem to be Pop Rocks candies, which slightly fizz and sizzle in your mouth, reminding you of the sparklers that once adorned your birthday cake. It’s the most unique and delicious flavor of ice cream I’ve ever tasted. But it’s so rich that one small bowl will surely last me until my next birthday.
Cows is a phenomenon on Prince Edward Island, the tiny Canadian province neighboring my home province of New Brunswick and started there in 1983. It’s since grown to nationwide acclaim in Canada, where it now has nine branches (and one in the United States). Tourists from across the Great White North flock to the island creamery as much to buy its accessories as gobble up its ice cream.
Cows’ cartoon mascot and silly pun-riddled logos helped make it a hugely popular clothing brand in Canada. Many such t-shirts, sweaters, fridge magnets and mugs are for sale in the new Beijing creamery’s boutique section.
One of the standout items there is a barbecue apron that features a cow standing at a grill in its logo, along with the caption: “Grill Moooore Chicken,” (say it out loud). The above average prices may keep some customers away (t-shirts cost approx. RMB 170), but the silly animated designs might be an ideal fit for China’s cutesier fashionistas.
According to Canadian news reports, PEI’s factory shipped 12,000 tubs of ice cream to the Beijing creamery for its opening, a practice that it plans to continue for the foreseeable future. Whether or not that’s a sound business model remains to be seen (while the approx. RMB 35 charge per small scoop seems a bit pricey, it doesn’t seem likely offset such hefty importing costs).
But that practice almost seems justified when one gazes at the TV screen hanging on one of the creamery’s walls, as it plays a looped video of the gooey, soft ice cream being churned in that far off factory, like an episode of The Discovery Channel’s Cow It’s Made (sorry everyone, I couldn’t resist).
1-103 Shimao Gongsan, Chaoyang District (across the street from Heaven Supermarket) (8212 6911)
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on November 4, 2014.
Photos: Kyle Mullin via the Beijinger