ACCESS CUENCANew gringo-owned heladería four years in the making
Mixx isn’t merely a new ice cream shop in a city and country full of ice cream shops. It’s a world-class operation, with a great location on Plaza de San Blas, state-of-the-art equipment, and flavors limited only by the raging imagination of the Canadian proprietor, Tom Carbone.
Tom was a successful entrepreneur in Toronto, running his own large-scale aquarium business, when he opted out of the rat race and moved to Cuenca four years ago for an adventure, a calmer lifestyle, and new opportunities. He took a look around, did some soul searching, and determined that helado (ice cream) was in his future.
He spent four years traveling the world, and the more than half-dozen flags above the shop represent the countries where he conducted his ice-cream education: Canada, the U.S., Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil. He adopted the best of the international art of ice cream (though he says Mexican ice cream is his favorite) to create the unique mix that’s now available at Mixx.
A quick glance at the menu reveals the passion that Tom brings to his product, with categories such as fantasia, enamorado (in love), dulce seducción (sweet seduction), paraíso (paradise), even sexy locura (crazy sexy).
Tom makes more than 50 flavors fresh every day. He watches what sells and listens to the preferences of his steady customers, then goes to work. First, he haunts the markets for the best produce, which his workers, standing at the back counter, prepare for him to process.
In the back room, one machine churns the cream, heating it to 80 degrees Celsius (175 Fahrenheit), then dropping the temperature to 4 degrees (40 F). Next, the mixing machine combines the cream and fruit. Finally, the deep freeze takes the temperature down to minus 40 Celsius (very very cold), which shocks the ice cream to lock in the flavors and kill all the bacteria. Tom says he produces 100 liters of ice cream every day, sometimes working till four in the morning to supply his display cases.
And wait till you get a load of the more than 50 flavors. For example, the sangria is made with wine and fruit; the beer, rum, tequila, whiskey, Zhumir Durazno (local peach liqueur), and tiramisu ice creams are all made with alcohol and fruit, no milk. Then there's Red Bull and 220 energy-drink flavors. And how about Chocolate Mexicana, with double chocolate and a chile finish; it tastes like chocolate Red Hots. The Panettone is reminiscent of a Christmas fruit cake. A couple of chicles taste like gum.
There are plenty of chocolates: double, white, cocoa, and mint, among others. Coffees are also well-represented. Fruits include lemon, apple, passion, strawberry, mora, cherimoya, naranjilla, and kiwi. Nuts available are pistachio, almonds, and peanuts. Tom also mixes up a few sorbets: tamarindo, mora, and strawberry on the day we visited.
Then come the toppings, stored in jars that line the length of the counters and cases: candies such as Snickers, Kit Kats, bon bons, M&Ms, Nerds, gumdrops, and local favorites like Gulpe and Manicho. Chocolate-chip cookies, Oreos, vanilla wafers, nuts, granola, and gorp can all be mixed into the ice cream on the marble slab at the front counter. Of course, there are also a couple dozen kinds of syrups.
The cone machine on the back counter makes the cones and bowls fresh. The cones come in three sizes — pequeña, mediana, and the big one, the exclusivo –- and the top edge is dipped in chocolate. Tom says he’s been too busy since opening last month to expand the product line, but he has plans for ice-cream cakes, sandwiches, and cookies, along with popsicles, soft-serve, and diabetic ice cream.
And the prices are right. Single cones range from 50 cents to $1.25, doubles 90 cents to $2.25, and the giant exclusivo is $3. Add a quarter or so per aderezo (topping) and for whipped cream.
Nothing has been overlooked that we could see. When it’s fully up and running, Mixx could be destined to take its place among the best ice-cream shops in the world.
Mixx is located on San Blas Plaza, a half-block north of Mariscal Sucre just off Tomás Ordoñes, and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.