Mid-Week Gelato Quest: Gelato Repeat Repeat

No, that is not a typo. I am outing myself, yet again, for failing to visit a new gelato destination before my weekly quest for gelato perfection post.  It is trickier now that I’m working, and was made even trickier this weekend when I decided to host my own birthday party, which essentially turned one of my free days into a full-on scramble to get food, drink and decor sorted.  I am really seeing a pattern here, and that pattern is that I am a master of excuses.

Instead of broadening my horizons like I am supposed to be doing, I visited Dolce Gelato for the third time (here’s visit 1 and visit 2 if you’re curious). I’ll spare you the lengthy intros and jump right to flavours, because at the very least I did try two brand-new-to-me flavours. Trust me, that’s harder than it sounds.

Where: Dolce Gelato, White Rock

My boyfriend would like to note what a fine hand model he makes.

The Gelato: 

My boyfriend, who always shows more restraint than I, ordered one measly flavour, Bacio. It’s chocolate hazelnut and it tasted like frozen Ferrero Rocher filling, which is pretty much as good as it gets in the chocolate hazelnut world if you ask me. It was velvety, chocolatey, hazelnutty perfection. If you’re in the mood for pure indulgence, get it.

My flavour choices were difficult. I really wanted the Cassata again, but have a tendency to stick with my favourites. Plus, I knew if I was going to pawn this gelato trip off as a new post, I better at least get different flavours.  In the end, I went with the Variegato and the Stracciatella.

The Variegato is a sour cherry gelato and packs some seriously tart kick. I am not always a fan of fruit flavours, but lately anything cherry has been a go-to for me. Aside from the foresta nera (essentially black forest) gelato that I had at Dolce last time, this is the best cherry gelato I’ve had outside of Italy. It was creamy and its sweetness was perfectly offset by sharply sour cherries.  That probably sounds offensive. Who wants sharply sour cherries? I do. They are amazing.

The Stracciatella was a strategic choice. I’m a firm believer that the simpler the gelato flavour, the more challenging it is to do it really, really well. You can’t get much simpler than vanilla with chocolate shavings.  It was very good, maybe not the best I’ve had, but very, very good. The vanilla base was top notch and ultra creamy. For me, it just needed way more chocolate. I’m also a chocoholic so perhaps take that with a grain of salt.

Overall: I don’t regret returning here. It was the only logical choice since we were golfing/Farmer’s Market-ing nearby. Any other destination would have been way too much driving given that it was my birthday and I had no desire to spend the whole day in the car. Plus, for once I actually picked complimentary flavours instead of cramming two things that should never be together into one tiny cup. That’s learning, my friends. After three visits, I still stand by my recommendation for Dolce Gelato. In a word: yum!

 

Mid-Week Gelato Quest: gelato fail

An alternative title for this post could be: the week in which I fail to visit a new gelato destination and instead present you with a gelato post about *gasp* store-bought gelato and my utter lack of motivation. It doesn’t have quite the simplicity nor the ring to it that my actual title has, though, does it?

I had good intentions of going for gelato today, my last day of total freedom before returning to work. It seemed a fitting way to celebrate. But then I got lazy. And it’s hot out. And I didn’t feel like driving. And I couldn’t figure out what to wear to work tomorrow. And I didn’t know if the gelato place would even be any good/worth all the trouble. And, and, and…the excuses could go on forever. At the end of the day, all that really matters is that I didn’t go for gelato.

But we did buy Haagen Dazs Cappuccino Gelato earlier this week because, let’s face it, I always have to have some form of ice cream in the house. I know I promised a quest for gelato perfection and am instead talking to you about commercially produced ice cream masquerading as gelato, but it is all I have. Plus, it still worked for a post-dinner weekday treat.  It tasted like coffee. It was creamy. It was frozen. It was sweet. Those are all winning qualities in a pinch. Perfection? No. Tasty? Sure. Plus you can get a whole pint for less than one small scoop in most gelato shops. Sometimes economies of scale are a good thing.

I know, and I agree, that was a wholly unsatisfying gelato review. You may be pleased to know that, although I failed in my quest for gelato this week, I did manage to locate several promising gelato prospects for future weeks. I also want to be realistic that between starting a new job and some unexpected weekend excursions (which sounds more fun than they really are), I may not get to them as quickly as I hope to. You have my word, however, that I will put more effort into my gelato quest than I did today when, really, I was just too damn lazy.

Too lazy for gelato. What is the world coming to?

 

Mid-Week Gelato Quest: Kelowna Edition

I think it’s time to officially, although temporarily, rebrand Wednesdays as the Mid-Week Gelato Quest.  Of course, now that I’ve done this, I’m sure I’ll somehow not eat a scrap of gelato before next Wednesday and have to somewhat sheepishly retract the new moniker.  Alas, life is rarely perfect.

What is close to perfect, though, is the gelato we tasted in Kelowna this past weekend.  How terribly inconvenient of it to be located almost four hours from my house. Nevertheless, here’s my latest adventure in seeking gelato perfection.

Coffee & Salted Caramel
Peach and Marscarpone & Carrot Cake

Where: QB Gelato , Kelowna BC

What I Had:  I tried the Banana Rama and Orange Blossom in addition to the flavours we ordered. I ended up ordering the peach and marscarpone, and the carrot cake.  My boyfriend ordered the Coffee and the Salted Caramel, which meant I got to partake in a fair amount of both as well.

What stood out:   I was a little hesitant at first because the gelato was hidden from view and you know how I feel about that. I feared I was in for another disappointing non-gelato experience, but as soon as I saw the first sample I knew I had nothing to be worried about.  The girl behind the counter informed us that QB has only been open for a week, and that its owners/gelato makers studied gelato making in Italy at a, wait for it, GELATO UNIVERSITY. Now, to be honest, I thought she was making that up or at least mixing up her facts. Culinary schools, sure, but a whole gelato university? Such a thing of wonder surely cannot exist. Well, I Googled it, and IT EXISTS!!!!! All I can say is sign me up!

Okay, back to the actual gelato, because there’s a lot to say. First and foremost, this was texturally spot on. Finally, silky and creamy gelato! Texture has so far been the biggest obstacle in my search for gelato perfection, and suitably textured gelato finds have been few and far between, but QB Gelato delivers.  It was also ‘scooped’ appropriately, with a gelato spade, and incredibly quick to melt, both excellent signs.

Now for the flavours.

–The Banana Rama was suitably banana-y, and not at all artificial. Would I order it? Probably not. It’s not that it wasn’t good, it’s just that it would be a lot of banana if you were to get a whole order of it. I’m not that into bananas. I was just deathly curious to try it.

–The Orange Blossom was absolutely perfectly balanced. Orange Blossom is tough and can easily be overdone. Once you add to much, there is no going back. If I were in the mood for something light and refreshing, which is almost never the case, I wouldn’t hesitate to order this.

–The Peach and Marscarpone was really good. You could only slightly detect the marscarpone, but I consider that normal for a mild cheese, and it definitely enhanced the richness.  The only drawback of this flavour is that some of the peach chunks were really large and, when frozen, were like tiny bricks. I suppose it’s a good sign because they were definitely fresh peaches, but smaller pieces would have been more palatable.

–The Carrot Cake tasted like raw carrot cake batter, and I mean that in the best possible way.  It had epic smoothness and a perfectly balanced carrot cake spice mix.  My only suggestion would be not to order it alongside peach and marscarpone. It did not work together, but that is my own fault for knowing they wouldn’t but ordering them together anyway.

–The Salted Caramel is a safe choice and winning flavour.  You can’t really go wrong with salted caramel in my books and I have to say that this is some of the best salted caramel gelato that we’ve tasted since Italy. As my boyfriend so aptly put it, “Yum.”

–I have saved Coffee for last. The coffee was a revelation in flavour.  Do you hear me? A revelation. I never thought I’d sing the praises of coffee gelato even though I love coffee, but this was the winning flavour. It quite literally tasted like a cup of the best coffee or espresso you’ve ever had. I have never tasted a coffee dessert with such a prominent and strong coffee flavour and I was in heaven.  We loved this so much that we seriously contemplated whether we could somehow get a 1/2 litre of freshly scooped gelato safely to our weekend rental without it melting. Sadly, we couldn’t, but next time I will be better prepared for transporting gelato safely.

Long story long, if you’re in Kelowna you need to try QB Gelato. It is worth the price and even worth a brief deviation from the highway if you’re just passing through town. Do it. Get the coffee flavour. Then thank me.

Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of Fort Langley Gelato Part II

Oh, do I have a doozy for you today. And not in a good way. If you recall, last week I visited one of two gelato shops in nearby Fort Langley.   This weekend, in my quest to find gelato perfection, I returned to the other gelato shop.  Did I get closer to perfection? No. In fact, I found myself far, far, far from it. Like really far.

You can tell even from this picture that this is not gelato. Also, apologies for the picture taken while walking because I forgot before I started to eat it.

Where: Daily Scoop (no website), Fort Langley 

What I Had:  I had the Espresso Chocolate Almond Crunch (or something to that effect…the exact name escapes me now) and Rum Raisin.  My boyfriend tasted the Nanaimo Bar, after which he promptly switched gears and ordered the Belgium Chocolate (which, I assume, they meant to name Belgian Chocolate, but who knows).

What stood out:  I should have known by the utter lack of web presence that we were bound for disappointment. Last week when we went inside to check it out, but didn’t order anything, I was also thrown off by the lack of standard gelato cases. The gelato was nowhere to be seen, tucked away inside sterile looking stainless steel freezers.  Like I said last week, one of the joys of gelato, or any frozen treat really, is being able to see what you’re going to order before you order it. I should’ve trusted my gut.

We received another early warning sign. My boyfriend asked to taste the nanaimo bar.  I can tell when he loves a food item because his eyes tend to light up like a small child at Christmas. There was no sparkle of joy in his eyes. When I asked how it was he paused and responded “well, it doesn’t taste like nanaimo bar.” He ordered his Belgium[sic] Chocolate. The moment they set it on the counter I looked at him and said, “that’s not gelato.” There, on the counter, looking oh-so-chocolately, was ice cream plain and simple, scooped by an ice cream scoop in a rounded ball rather than the typical gelato spade. Uncool.  His chocolate ice cream–I’ll just call it what is is–tasted quite good but, really, it’s hard to mess up chocolate.

I still ordered because I do my research for this blog, and I couldn’t write a scathing review without having tried it. I wish that I hadn’t. I wish I had just formed a snap judgment on appearances alone and left it at that. Instead, I ordered the two above mentioned flavours.

Had the rum raisin not been called rum raisin, I never would’ve suspected that was its flavour. The supposed rum flavour was undetectable, and there was a nary a raisin the be found. It also had an odd texture, one I’m still struggling to describe, sort of a grainy and…dare I say, gelatinous feel to it. Zero gelato creaminess was present. Textural issues continued in my espresso “gelato”, which barely tasted of coffee and lacked the promised crunch.

I think you can tell that all in all it was a drastically disappointing experience, so much so that I barely ate any, drove all the way home without touching it (by the way, it barely melted on the drive home, yet another sign it isn’t legit gelato), and tossed it in the freezer for later.  The final insult: the gelato sat in the freezer all afternoon without so much as calling to me. I assure you that this never happens when I have frozen treats in my freezer. Most of the time, I can barely stop thinking about them and I rarely would’ve survived the whole afternoon without swan diving into the leftovers.

The final call: I honestly would’ve tossed this gelato in the garbage after two bites had I not just dropped $7 on it.  And so, my quest for gelato perfection continues…

Oh, and in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, and because this is a battle of gelato, if you’re in Fort Langley and jonesing for gelato, definitely go for Maria’s.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of the Fort Langley Gelato Part I

Unbeknownst to me until last weekend, I have not one but two gelato shops right in my own backyard (not literally, of course, although that would be a pretty fantastic backyard).  Now that I’ve kicked off my summer gelato challenge , I think I am hyperaware of gelato shops everywhere I go, sort of like when you buy a new car and then you start to see the same model everywhere you look.  What I was most excited by is that there are duelling gelato shops.  While not quite directly across the street from one another, they’re pretty close and I think that gives this gelato-off a very West Side Story vibe. I’m excited to see which gelato shop reigns supreme.

We checked out the interior of both shops this past weekend before choosing where to taste first.  I admit, I may already be biased against one of the shops. Bucking all gelato trends, they’ve opted not to display their gelato. While I’m usually supportive of bucking trends, part of the delight of gelato is being able to scan the flavours in their glass case. I’m not sure how I feel about sight-unseen gelato. But we’ll get to their products next week. For now, let’s take a look at our first Fort Langley gelato experience.

Reminder: I am not a food blogger. My goal is shoot as fast as possible to commence eating. But kudos to me for actually taking a picture before eating half of it…unlike the last two weeks.

Where: Maria’s Gelato, Fort Langley 

What I Had:  For some reason, though I typically select the most sickeningly sweet and rich dessert options, when selecting gelato I love me some fruit flavours.  It’s inexplicable to me. That’s my Cherry Mania on the left there, and my boyfriend’s (wiser) choice of coffee and salted butter caramel. I also sampled the peach gelato.

As a sidenote, I was disappointed in the lack of really interesting flavours. Aside from the pistachio and rosewater and strachiatella, most flavours were completely standard fair, lacking that Italian flair that I’m ultimately seeking in my quest for gelato perfection.

What stood out:  I had lower expectations for this place. For once, I did my research before checking out a gelato shop. The things I do for this blog! At any rate, I read countless reviews of tiny portion sizes, high prices, and rude service. I didn’t find any to be fair reviews.

As you can see from the photo above, these are fairly standard gelato serving sizes. My own theory is that customers are comparing to ice cream shops where double-scoops are often the size of your head.  It’s not ice cream. This is how gelato works. As for prices, I felt they were comparable to other shops at $5-7ish, depending on how much you ordered. Maybe it’s because when I lived downtown all the ‘artisan’ ice cream shops charged an arm and a leg for ice cream, but I’m not phased by that sort of price tag. Lastly, service was fine. It was pretty empty when we went, though, so perhaps when it’s busy service goes downhill. But I also have pretty low expectations for service. If I were scooping gelato on the daily, you’d better bet I’d have trouble being pleasant when customers want to sample every flavour under the sun and suffer from analysis paralysis when it comes time to place an order.

Okay, enough about the boring stuff, let’s get on to the taste! I’ll start with the worst of the day: the peach gelato. Granted, I had the world’s smallest sample, but the artificial peach flavour was noticeable nonetheless.  Perhaps since peaches are out of season, they are supplementing with artificial flavours…I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but something tells me I’m being overly optimistic on this one.

The cherry mania and coffee were both fine.  Flavour-wise, they were about what I was expecting.  The cherries were delightfully tart but the base was otherwise a fairly typical vanilla.  To me, coffee ice cream is coffee ice cream. I’ve yet to had one that blew my mind, so I’d say this one was perfectly fine. But I’m looking for perfect not perfectly fine with this gelato challenge.

The salted butter caramel, on the other hand, was a flavour explosion, so much so that I immediately regretted ordering only one flavour (seriously, why did I only order one flavour???). If you don’t like the flavour of butter, you will hate this gelato. If you’re like me, though, and have a mild butter addiction, this flavour is the only way to go. It is so rich and so over-the-top bold in its buttery-ness that you will be swooning. I may have eaten more of this flavour than my boyfriend. How he so willingly shares sweets is beyond me.

My biggest letdown at Maria’s wasn’t the flavour profiles, though. I need to talk texture and creaminess.  In the end, I would classify this gelato as more akin to ice cream.  It was still a bit airier than gelato, and lacked the rich creaminess that I was craving. For ice cream, it was good, but it didn’t have that velvety, easily-melting, supremely smooth quality for which I love, love, love gelato.

Overall, I’d say that I had a positive experience at Maria’s, but more as a destination for solid ice cream than gelato. I can’t wait to see whether the other Fort Langley gelato offerings blow my mind. But for that, you’ll have to wait until next week.

Mid-Week Tangent: Gelato Repeat

Okay, so if you read last’s week post you know that my goal is to try as many different gelato places as possible this summer. And then today, just one week later, I went and messed it up already by going right back to Dolce Gelato in White Rock. Can it sort of count as a new place if I at least forced myself to try different flavours? Not really, right? What makes matters worse is that I totally would’ve had the meringa flavour again if it had been there today.  Also in my defence, I was wooed by the beach and my nagging desire to take advantage of what appears to be the last sunshine we’ll see for four or five days.  I’ll stop making excuses now. Let’s just move past this, though, and accept that I’m failing in my gelato mission after just one week.

Professional food photographer I am not. This was not an attempt at an artistic backdrop. This was our beach blanket and my attempt to take a picture as quickly as possible so I could eat.

Where: Dolce Gelato, White Rock

What I Had:  I sampled the black sesame because I have an unabashed love for those little balls you get at dim sum stuffed with black sesame paste, and used to be on a stalker-like mission for black sesame bubble tea. In the end, for my actual order, I went with the Cassata and the Ricotta with Caramelized Pecans.

What stood out:  I was actually disappointed in the black sesame. It wasn’t as strong a flavour as I was expecting, which is precisely why I didn’t order it.  Maybe nothing can be as good as black sesame paste at dim sum, or black sesame bubble tea.  Or maybe, maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me to just try another gelato place already.

The Cassata, on the other hand, was way better than I had expected. Like by leaps and bounds. I mentioned last week that I didn’t order it because the girl behind the counter said it tasted strongly of candied orange which, let’s be honest, isn’t really a flavour any candy-holic craves.  Still, I walked away last week wondering if I’d made a mistake. Indeed, I had. It was the best of my flavours today.  The orange was there, but perfectly subtle and complimented by candied fruit, nuts and chocolate. Would I get this again? Yes.

The Ricotta with Caramelized Pecans, dare I say it, was tasty but underwhelming. The challenge here may be that ricotta is a notoriously mild cheese, so it’s hard for its flavour to stand out.  That said, I had a fig and ricotta gelato in Cinque Terre that was identifiably (and in the best possible way) cheesy. And I must say, more pecans please! To be fair, I’m one of those people who never feel like there’s enough stuff in my ice cream. I get enraged by the final quarter of Blizzards because there is never enough candy mixed in near the bottom. Seriously, how have they not figured this out?!? But enough about Blizzards and back to gelato. I wanted more caramelized pecans, plain and simple.

I suspect that today’s relative lack of enthusiasm for Dolce Gelato really may be the culprit of my strategy to make gelato my lunch. I am not sure that it’s wise to arrive starving and rely solely on gelato to curb one’s hunger. I ate faster than I normally would have (think inhaling), which meant less pausing to notice smoothness, flavour and texture.  Note to self: eat a real lunch before gelato. Also, clearly this means that I have to return again.

Mid-Week Tangent: the quest for gelato perfection begins

I still dream of Italian gelato on the regular. I have zero regrets for eating up to three a day while on vacation last year. In fact, I regret not having eaten more of it. Since then, gelato has been notably absent from my life. Sure, on the odd occasion, I’ll buy a store-bought brand but, let’s be honest, there’s rarely a discernible difference between store-bought gelato and ice cream.  In my heart, I long to find the perfect gelato a little bit closer to home.

This weekend I tasted some damn good gelato, which got me wondering if I am missing out on all sorts of hidden gelato gems in and around this city.  And so, I’ve decided that I will boldly dedicate my summer to finding great gelato here, in and around Vancouver. Okay, I’m not actually going to devote my entire summer. My waistline certainly doesn’t need that, plus I’ll eventually be working again. It’s more like if I see a gelato place, I am going to try it. That’s half-assed dedication at its best!  Along the way, I will document the good, the bad and the ugly.

Today I’ll start with the best find I’ve found so far. Granted, I’ve eaten minimal gelato so far in the city. I used to live by Mario’s Gelati so I went there on occasion. Despite what many others think about it, I don’t like their gelato (gasp!). I find its texture to be quite grainy with ice crystals when what I want is silky creaminess. I blame mass production. I’ve also gone to the locally famed La Casa Gelato, which now boasts 238 flavours. I haven’t been in at least a decade, at which time they had a paltry 120 flavours I think, but I remember not being blown away and thinking their fame had more to do with quantity and gimmicky flavours (wasabi gelato? really?) than quality.  But there are so many more places to taste. And taste I shall.

As I mentioned, this weekend I found some brilliant gelato. It had all the hallmarks I personally look for: intensely creamy, boldly flavoured, interesting flavour selection, and made on the premises.

It looked better before I ate half of it and before it started to melt in the sun. What you can gather from this picture is that I lack the self control to wait even 30 seconds before starting to devour gelato. Truth.

Where: Dolce Gelato, White Rock

What I Had: A firm believer in never having just one flavour, I opted for Foresta Nera (vanilla with chocolate, nuts and booze-soaked cherries) and Meringa (heavenly meringue gelato, with massive meringue shards and chocolate).

What stood out:  Oh my god, I could have eaten those meringue pieces forever. I have no idea how they stay crisp in a sea of dairy, but they do and it is wonderful. The cherries in the foresta nera were heavenly as well, incredibly flavourful. I shouldn’t have to say things like ‘they tasted like real cherries’, but most cherries in ice cream bear little resemblance to real fruit so I will explicitly proclaim that these tasted like legit cherries!!!!  I had a hard time selecting flavours here as there were so many that looked unique and delicious.  In particular, I’m sad that I didn’t get to try the Casatta (candied orange peel, nuts, chocolate and orange liqueur) because it looked amazing and like something I would have seen in Italy.  I opted against it because candied orange usually isn’t my jam, but in hindsight I think I may have missed out on something different and delightful.  In other words, I will return and I will devour more flavours.

Until next time, here’s hoping you find a place to get your gelato on.*

*and if you know of a place in my general ‘hood, please send me recommendations!