I still remember that feeling of being a child on hot summer days when I heard the faint jingle of the ice cream truck down the street. No matter what I was doing, I'd stop immediately and run to my mother or to my piggy bank (which were often one and the same) and get the few coins needed for my favorite ice cream bar: either a strawberry push-pop or a Mickey Mouse bar with chocolate-covered ears. If I was lucky, the truck would be driving slow that day, or my neighbors will have gotten to it first, and I'd be able to catch the truck before it made the loop out of our street.
The ice cream truck seems to be unique to my memory of America, and in light of it, I still can't decide who loves ice cream more: Americans or Europeans. I suppose it's a comedic difference in that in America the ice cream comes to you, whereas in Europe, you go to the ice cream. Then again, that could also be part of my experience living in a city versus in a spacious suburban neighborhood.
No matter what the explanation, these days I go the ice cream parlor, jingle or not, when the weather is hot and the season demands it. In fact, eating ice cream seems to be as much of a regular pastime here in Europe as I remember it in the States. There are at least half a dozen ice cream parlors and stands downtown, plus another few dozen scattered around the city. On hot days, the lines can stretch up to 20 people deep. And you can bet that no matter what time of day, as soon as the temperature rises about 20-degrees centigrade, you'll pass someone with an ice cream cone. It's like the all-to-familiar jingle of the American ice cream truck.
When that phantasmic jingle hits my ear, the first place I turn to is Eis-Bistro Pinguin. This delicious ice cream parlor is located on a walking circuit near my house on which I like to take Leo, especially on the weekends. We trudge up the semi-steep hill of Alexanderstraße, until we reach the summit at Eugensplatz. On our right is our reward: the Pinguin ice cream parlor decked with cheesy plastic penguins and a filigreed iron gate to protect the parlor patio. However, I've never eaten inside. I've always stood in the winding line (usually always 10-20 people deep) to claim my one or two kugeln (scoops, literally "balls") in a waffle cone.
Their homemade flavors include milk-based mixes like vanilla, stracciatella, yogurt, chocolate, tiramisu, praline, cookies and cream, After Eight, white chocolate cherry, and walnut, as well as fruit-based mixes like raspberry, banana, strawberry, blood orange, Panama, lemon, passionfruit, cassis, and apricot. The Panama is one of my favorites: a creamy, tropical mix studded with flecks of papaya, pineapple, and mango. Matt prefers the banana, and though I generally don't like banana-flavored foods (just bananas -- odd, I know), this ice cream clearly uses real bananas to create its rich banana flavor and smooth texture.
This past Sunday while on our walk with Leo, I stopped in for two new flavors on the menu: cinnamon and Mercedes (almond ice cream with chocolate bits). The cinnamon was excellent. It wasn't as creamy as I expected the milk-based ice cream to be, but rather a bit more icy, which suited my hot trek up the hill. It was flecked with real bits of cinnamon, and paired nicely with the Mercedes underneath.
I don't remember there being a whole lot of nut-based ice creams during my childhood in the States (although my childhood best friend's family dairy farm and ice cream parlor makes a mean Butter Pecan). But since moving to Germany, I've found that pistachio, walnut, chocolate hazelnut, and now almond are among my favorite flavors. The Mercedes was no exception. It was sweet and creamy with a distinct almond flavor and bits of almond and tiny flecks of chocolate to add just a hint of the flavor without overwhelming the nut.
Apart from the delicious ice cream, another reason I go to Pinguin is the view. It's located at the top of a hill with a fantastic lookout over downtown Stuttgart. Most customers get their ice cream and wander over to the lookout, where there are several benches on which you can have a seat and gaze at the busy Königstraße or Altes Schloss (old castle). There's also a ping-pong table there, and if you have your own paddles you can start up a game. Plus, the beautiful fountain of the nymph Galatea built in 1890 crowns the plaza. There are several parts to the fountain, including the lower basin through which water cascades down a series of stairs, mirroring the Eugenstaffel (Eugen stairs) that you can take to get down the hill to Urbanstraße and eventually to the Schlossgarten and Operahaus. It's my favorite fountain in the city.
Tip: If instead of going down the stairs you turn right and head up Haußmannstraße, you'll be rewarded with a nice level walk along a wide sidewalk with a stunning view over the city. Follow the road until it slopes down and meets up with Schützenstraße, then turn left and continue down the hill until you loop back to Olgaeck. The full walk from Pinguin and back down takes about 30 minutes or so if you stroll, so you won't have to feel guilty about getting an extra scoop (or two) of ice cream.
Eis Bistro Pinguin is located conveniently at the Eugenplatz u-bahn stop along the U15 line. It's also about a 5-10 minute walk from the Olgaeck station uphill. The parlor is open every day of the week until 10 pm. Note that they take a Winterpause from October through the beginning of March.