Folks, we're in the heat of the presidential primary season, with the race just a handful of months away. But in all the grilling of candidates -- "What's your position on abortion?" "Is global warming real?" "Is gravity real?" "What do you think of Mitt Romney's hair?" -- no one has asked the most critical question of all: Are you pro-dessert?
For his part, President Barack Obama seems to be firmly aligned with the candy caucus on his dessert stance. This year, he asked that more candy be added to White House gift bags for trick-or-treaters. It's something Munch will be weighing when heading to the polls. And then out to ice cream.
Munch is strongly pro-dessert, skewing more toward ice cream and baked goods. So Munch was thrilled when someone with a similar ideology decided to open up shop on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
Cool Ice Taipei serves up a variety of Taiwanese ice-based desserts, along with a menagerie of bubble teas, milkshakes, custards and virgin cocktails. They have a decent-sized menu of regular savory stuff, too (or "pre-dessert" as Munch calls it).
Actual Dining Critic Friend of Munch and Perpetually Studying Friend of Munch, who's working on his M.D./Ph.D./J.D./MPH/CPA/WTF so he can have the longest business card ever, joined Munch on a day that seemed to be summer's last gasp of decent ice cream-eating weather.
Housed in the former Pamela's (pancake lovers, don't panic, it just moved around the corner onto Murray Avenue), its fluorescent brightly painted interior will be sure to cheer you up on a gray winter day. On this day, a large family with a bevy of little kids played dress-up and inadvertently-elbow-Munch-in-the-stomach, a game favored by Adorable Baby Cousin of Munch. With the little girls clad in princess gowns, Munch wondered aloud, "Are we underdressed for this place?"
"My princess gown is at the dry cleaner," replied PSFOM.
For pre-dessert, we started with the fried squid ball (five pieces for $5.95) and the steamed shrimp dumplings ($7.95). Both were scrumptious, the squid balls rendered salty and crunchy by a healthy coating of spices and salt and the shrimp dumplings crammed with whole shrimp. For just an extra dollar, Munch and ADCFOM also got a passion fruit green tea, a refreshing but not too sweet relief to the salty starters.
Next came the beef noodle soup ($8.95), a thick, opaque broth with tender pieces of beef and long, eminently slurpable noodles. The broth was a little lacking in the flavor, commented ADCFOM. Munch's favorite dish was marinated pork over rice ($3.95), chunks of pork belly soaked through with delicious sauce, served with a marinated egg. The pieces of pork were marbled with fat and packed huge flavor.
But then came the climax of the meal, dessert! As Munch perused the dessert menu (which was nearly as large as the savory menu), Handel's "Messiah" played aloud in Munch's head, nearly drowning out the noise of the squealing (but adorable) children who circled the table.
We started off with the Milk Mango Snow ($6.25), a massive pile of light, fluffy (think snow cone) frozen milk made sweet by condensed milk and topped with mango.
It was delightful and "somehow light and rich at the same time," said PSFOM. "I was able to bike home afterward without any untoward gastrointestinal consequences."
Mmmkay, well that's one way to put it.
The Peanut Pudding Snow ($7.95) was equally intriguing, the milk ice tasting ever so slightly of peanut butter with a small circle of peanut butter-flavored custard. ADCFOM went for the rainbow milk tea ($4.95), a melange of milk, black tea and gelatin chunks that you sucked through a big straw. It sounds strange, and it was, but in a really good way. Sort of like that "Black Swan" movie.
Though it's called "Cool Ice Taipei," it's really a restaurant for all seasons. Freezing temperatures have never stopped Munch from copious ice cream consumption (nor have soaring cholesterol levels), but if you're the type of person who only likes ice cream for the dozen days of the year where it gets above 80 in this city, consider warming up with a piping bowl of stew and then digging into the milk ice.
And don't forget your princess gown.
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