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At Giapo Haute Ice Cream in New Zealand, you could find yourself standing in line for 45 minutes or longer to get your hands on a glossy, gold-painted cone cradling velvety boysenberry creaminess alighted by a cloud of toasted meringue, crowned with glittering berries.
When I visited this celebrated institution in Auckland, the country’s most metropolitan city, the warm, courteous staff floated around the haute ice cream parlor with trays of innovative ice cream samples as I waited to get my cone. Those incredible tastes were more than enough to whet my appetite for the prize at the end.
This designer ice cream house has been featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Forbes, Frommer’s Travel Guides, Eater, Buzzfeed, Lonely Planet, and Huffington Post among others. Founded more than 10 years ago by Giapo Grazioli and his wife, Annarosa, the culinary artistry here takes the Italian gelato tradition and gives it a firm, unconventional twist. That creativity and desire to explore new territory shaped this place into one of the most innovative ice cream kitchens on the globe.
Consider these edible jewels the Tiffany’s of the cold, creamy dessert world, distinguishing itself from other chain ice cream stores like Carvel.
Giapo’s ice creams are structural masterpieces that even entice those who scoff at all the food photos flooding social media to whip out their phone cameras. However, these aren’t simply Instagram-worthy gimmicks with no substance.
Every ingredient — except the Madagascar vanilla — is sourced from within the beautiful country, staff told me. The ice cream is made fresh from scratch daily, using only organic, New Zealand milk. Naturally, several menu items change according to ingredients’ seasonal availability. Options are also tweaked for vegans and the gluten-allergic.
Go for sweet or savory with the evolving menu: My partner ordered an avocado ice cream blanketed by sesame seeds and a soy-balsamic drizzle, available last spring. More recently, visitors with salty-sweet cravings opted for a Hot Chips in a Cone ice cream, which incorporates hand-cut Agria chips (French fries, for some of us) in a special cone along with the ice cream of your choice.
You can go for a “whammie” and select the iconic Auckland Sky Tower as an add-on, or swap a cone for Parāoa Parai, the traditional bread of the indigenous Maori people. Build your own creation with simplicity, or go crazy with milk chocolate-lined or Indian rata bread foundations for your ice cream. Flavors highlight local assets, such as the Central Otago sheep milk banana ice cream with peanut butter rice crunch and the traditional Afghan cookie ice cream, which riffs off the country’s traditional biscuit cookie featuring chocolate and corn flakes. Adventurous vegans and omnivores will both go for the tamarillo (which looks a little like a Roma tomato and tastes a bit like a guava) and pineapple with buckwheat, macadamia nuts and bitters.
Visiting Giapo is a refreshingly immersive and interactive experience once you reach the front of the line, where you can delve into the menu while the staff guides you through the flavors. It’s like a wine tasting. The knowledgeable hosts take their time with you, offering a tray of samples and in-depth discussion on your tastes and preferences. By the time you’ve concocted your dream ice cream, it can run upwards of $40.
It’s worth it. After all, this is simply not just an ice cream parlor. Giapo hosts a design studio on site where three-dimensional models are made and scrapped by the dozens until the “wannabe artists” are happy with the results, Giapo says.
Guests can sign up for master classes or try the Chef’s Table experience. Boundaries are made to be pushed in this dessert lab. In the dedicated research-and-development kitchen, the team is investigating a way to make chocolate glow, using bioluminescent bacteria, as part of a study in partnership with Auckland University.
“I am continuously searching for new emotions. I’m inspired by freedom,” he said. Below are a few creations Giapo has created, that we are all free to eat — and photograph.
- Colossal Squid
Perhaps the most celebrated masterpiece, this seemingly gravity-defying piece of chocolate architecture is modeled after the preserved Antarctic squid on display at Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum in the capital of Wellington. Giapo introduced the piece on the 10th anniversary of the squid’s discovery, a couple years after he saw it in the museum with his children. How did he do it? “The whole body was created using 3D printing technology, and the tentacles and fins are hollow rather than solid – to avoid death by chocolate!” Giapo said on his blog.
- Blackberry & Martini
At Giapo, you can have your cone dipped in gold. Yes, gold. You can do this with any flavor, but we adore the buzz-worthy option for adults filled with luxurious sorbet of fresh New Zealand blackberries blended with Martini & Rossi vermouth, topped with berries. And it’s entirely vegan. This is so beyond Mr. Softee from the ice cream truck, no?
- Wearable Art
Many of Giapo’s creations are admittedly huge. They’re like a meal for one person, and a large one at that. However, this fashion-forward treat scales it down with Nail art, which is an edible set of ice cream cone tips on your fingers. Or guests can get their bling on with a trio of coconut, chocolate hazelnut, and Hokey Pokey flavored rings.
- Easter-Themed Cracked Eggs and Buns
At Easter time, Giapo creates milk, dark, and white chocolate eggs. He cracked them open to reveal ice cream inside, and affixed the cold dessert atop a cone. For each egg, he molds two halves, with a signature zig-zag end creating a fault line at the egg’s breaking point. There’s also a hot cross bun cone. Kiwis, which is what New Zealanders call themselves, love to stock up on these raisin-dotted buns with frosting crossed on top during the holy holiday. According to the New Zealand Herald, about one million New Zealanders ate cross buns in the month leading up to Easter in 2017.
- Two Become One
On a similar note to the cracked eggs are the two chocolate heart halves that can be joined to create one heart, when placed snugly together. Cue: Aww. Conceived for Valentine’s Day originally, they’re powder-coated in bronze. The original special edition used amazing ice cream too: chocolate brûleé with a streusel made from passionfruit and homegrown jalapeno swirled through. It created “a rich depth of flavor alive with tartness, fruitiness, and a delicate lick of heat,” Giapo says. Get this one for your date or on a special anniversary. ■