Milk, cream, sugar, and a wide variety of natural flavors; these ingredients should conjure up visions of one of the oldest forms of frozen dessert: gelato. Some might still be under the impression that gelato falls under the same category as your everyday ice cream, but for those with discerning taste buds, gelato is anything but ordinary.
The world’s greatest gelato-makers take great pride in the quality of their raw materials and the daily preparation that results in a rich and creamy frozen treat, with exquisite flavorings from all corners of the earth. Take prime ingredients like Piedmont hazelnuts, Sicilian pistachios, Tahitian vanilla, Belgian chocolate, Argentinian dulce de leche, and fruits at the peak of ripeness, among many others, and you have the kinds of flavorings that will inevitably make their way into the best and most carefully crafted gelatos anywhere in the world.
With so much love and artistry involved, it is no surprise that gelato has become a highly sought after delicacy, and more and more people, or should I say artisans, are venturing into the business of producing this dessert. From its native country of Italy, gelato has become a global favorite, celebrated in events like the Gelato Festival, sponsored by Carpigiani Gelato University, which was held for the third time last year in Florence, Italy. Bella Gelateria (1001 West Cordova Street) in Vancouver, Canada, won first place at this particular iteration of the festival with their old-world handcrafted treats.
This year the festival has gone global. The Gelato World Tour will visit eight cities in five continents over a period of one year to uncover the most exceptional recipes and flavors. Come September 2014, the World’s Best Gelato Artisan will be announced in Rimini. But until then, you could always indulge at local favorites like Carapina in Florence (Piazza Guglielmo Oberdan, 2r), Gelateria I Caruso in Rome (Via Collina 13/15), Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia, or any of the hundreds of gelaterias opening in cities across the globe, from Tokyo to Sydney and Berlin to San Francisco.
With so many to choose from, it is essential to know what we should look for in traditional gelato. The first thing to notice is the natural coloring of the ingredients – avoid suspiciously bright colors that come from artificial additives. Next, do some quick research to find out what fruits are in season – those are the flavors that should be showcased and celebrated in the finest gelato. Finally, strike up a friendly conversation with a staff member and find out if the gelato is made in-house – mass produced gelato can be good but never as good as the small batches that are produced daily on-site.
Gelato has certainly seen a global rise in popularity, and it is not difficult to see why. With the rich creaminess of something so sinfully good but with less fat than ice cream, plus the use of some amazingly fresh quality ingredients, gelato is a treat far and beyond the ordinary. ■