Hot Days Scream For XOXO Scrolled Ice Cream, Bali’s Number One Dessert, Now In Manila
Ice cream comes in all styles and trends, from Italian gelato to old-fashioned soda fountains, fast food chain sundaes to dirty ice cream carts—and Filipinos are always ready to sample them, especially when the weather turns warm. Recently, rolled (or scrolled) ice cream, first popularized in Thailand, has become the novelty ice cream du jour in all colors and toppings that make them instantly Instagrammable. But what happens when a veteran chef and his pastry expert wife take rolled ice cream to the next level?
Two years ago, New Zealander Paul Town and Australian Simon Smith latched on to the concept of Thai rolled ice cream. But it took the addition of New Zealander Chef Samuel Wilkes and his Macau-born wife Joana de Oliveira-Wilkes to bring the product to fruition. The result is XOXO, a “handcrafted” version of scrolled ice cream, touting the best ingredients and creative flavor combinations. Paul Town describes the brand as, “playful, youthful, colloquial, bold, and energetic.” Why XOXO? He answers, “We also wanted to build a brand for the social media generation with a positive, friendly message. Hence XOXO.”
Samuel Wilkes and Joana de Oliveira-Wilkes
What is scrolled ice cream anyway? Simply check out the plethora of YouTube videos on the topic to find out. The process starts with a chilled plate set at a below-freezing temperature. One pours a milk-sugar mixture onto the surface, mixes in flavorings, then flattens the mixture into a thin layer to freeze. One then scrapes the ice cream into rolls, then tops with any variety of ingredients. As street food, Thai rolled ice cream tends to use condensed and evaporated milk instead of cream, since they don’t require refrigeration. Inspired by this ingenious way of making ice cream, Chef Sam relates, “We thought we could make a much better quality product.”
The group set up their first shop in Bali, Indonesia. Why Bali? Chef Sam simply states, “Because it’s hot.” They clearly were onto something, soon adding three kiosks, and even gaining “number one dessert” status on TripAdvisor. Since then, with the help of a local partner, they’ve expanded to the Philippines, recently opening branches in Greenbelt 3 and NAIA Terminal 3, and with a third branch just opened on Bonifacio High Street (near R.O.X.).
Chef Sam and Joana were recently in the Philippines to check on the Manila branches. During an exclusive interview with Metro.Style, the couple revealed how passionate they are about their ice cream product and how excited they are to further introduce it to the Manila public.
To develop the final XOXO product, credit goes to Chef Sam’s 20-plus years’ experience as a professional chef (including stints at Michelin-starred restaurants in Macau), plus Joana’s love for desserts and pastry expertise. While they brainstormed ideas together, since Chef Sam still has a day job as a chef in Macau, Joana took on the time-consuming task of concocting and testing flavors. Joana shares, “Every ice cream has its own texture and character. What is inside, what is on top, the crunch, the taste, the look, and all that—we put a lot of effort in that.” Chef Sam adds, “We must’ve eaten hundreds of ice creams in the beginning!”
So what do they put in their ice cream? According to Chef Sam and Joana, they make sure to source the very best ingredients they can find—imported milk and cream, vanilla paste from Italy, and no additives or preservatives. All their sauces are made in-house, and the brownies are freshly baked on the premises. Even better, the ice cream contains 50% less sugar than regular ice creams, and without sacrificing on sweetness or texture.
As of now, the XOXO menu sports 11 different concoctions, available in cup or waffle cone, that offer something for everyone. Chocolate is always a bestseller and XOXO delivers with two choco-centric products. The Godfather is a triple chocolate “bomb,” with its combination of crushed Maltesers, milk chocolate chips, and Tim Tam. The Golden Ticket features toasted Nutella brownie.
Just for Manila, XOXO highlights the Philippines’ own ube or purple yam to create I Am What I Yam, ube ice cream topped with soft ube mochi and crunchy ube barquillos. Paying homage to the country’s favorite boxer, Manny’s Fruit Punch takes advantage of the availability of fresh fruit, with ripe mango and pomelo as toppings.
I Am What I Yam
Chef Sam and Joana also like to play with their flavor combinations. OMG features honeycomb and housemade chocolate sauce. LaLa Land offers a sweet tandem of white chocolate and salted caramel. Strawberry Kiss is like a pavlova in ice cream form with meringue and strawberries. Matcha Lychee gives a Japanese vibe, topped with Japanese puffed rice and white chocolate sauce. The Full Minty is refreshing with the addition of mint and other fresh herbs. 50 Shades of Grey is all about cookies and cream, while Nuts About You is basically a Snickers bar in frozen form.
50 Shades of Grey
Nuts About You
The products look great, photo-ready for Instagram if you’re fast enough to snap a pic before the ice cream starts melting. But taste ends up trumping look, with ice cream that’s satisfyingly rich and creamy, and flavors forthright—one indeed tastes the chocolate, ube, honeycomb, and whatever other toppings there are. And the best part is, there’s 50% less sugar (if you don’t count the toppings, sorry!).
With the hot summer months approaching, XOXO is poised to make an even bigger splash in Manila, especially with its newest branch that just opened in Bonifacio High Street, and with possibly more branches to open later in the year.
Follow XOXO Ice Cream Manila on Facebook and @xoxoicecream.manila on Instagram
Photos by Paul del Rosario