Ice cream with a view

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You can find good nieve almost anywhere in Oaxaca, a random street corner in Colonia Reforma even. This melon had a lovely creaminess to it that didn’t keep it from being light and fresh with the flavor of real melons.

But possibly the most beautiful place to eat nieve is at the ice cream “jardin” at the base of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad. The ornate façade of the cathedral faces west an open plaza ringed by walls.

Just beyond that plaza to the east are five or six nieve vendors set up with wrought-iron chairs and café tables, as well as bright striped metal parasols.

A few steps above and to the north is an even larger plaza with giant steps leading down from the street. This plaza is reputed to be a popular place for dance groups to rehearse, though the only thing I’ve ever seen is a pick-up soccer game but that itself was good entertainment. Sitting on the giant steps and facing south, you can see palm trees and then past them, the mountains to the south of the city. It’s not the most majestic view, definitely not the most breathtaking, but sitting there, looking out at the mountains, the church, and even the slightly dingy plastic tarps and parasols of the nieve sellers, it’s easy to feel a sense of peace.

If you have a little cup or cone of nieve, of course, you can feel glee as well as peace. I’ve only tried one, El Niagara, but have been told they’re all more or less the same. My little cup was filled with durazno, or peach, on the bottom and then cajeta, or goat’s milk dulce de leche, on top. They’re more like sorbet than the super-fatty, super-creamy ice cream I love most, and yet I never feel like I’m missing something. The durazno had little chunks of peach! Nothing ever tastes false here.

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