Mid-Week Tangent: my sugar addiction known no bounds

Alternatively, this post could be titled: “what you do in New York when you are travelling alone for a conference,  you don’t like to dine out alone and you are over the party scene” or, perhaps more aptly, “the day I walked 17 km for baked goods.”

I’m in New York for a conference the better part of this week. This is my fifth trip to the city, but notably different in that I’m travelling alone and am also, let’s face it, an old lady on the inside. I have no interest in the night life. The only night life I want is a full night’s uninterrupted sleep. I have no interest in shopping. I want no mortgage more than I want new clothes and shoes. I still refuse to dine alone in a legit, sit down restaurant. Call me insecure. You would be right.

And so, yesterday I did the next best thing to living the NYC wild life: I walked 150 city blocks in search of New York’s finest treats and baking. I walked twenty blocks in one direction for a cookie, then walked twenty blocks back to my hotel. Then, as if that weren’t lunacy enough, I walked FIFTY  FIVE city blocks to check out some fancy cupcakes. The sane thing at that point would have been to take the subway back to my hotel, but I’ve never been one to do the sane thing. So of course I walked.

This walking spree doesn’t even take into account the 10 blocks I walked at lunch in search of a bakery I never found and the other 10 blocks I walked to get dinner. That’s a lot of walking, 17 km to be exact. For a cookie. And some cupcakes. I kid you not.*

So yes you got that right. I came to NYC and didn’t buy a single item of clothing, didn’t sip a single cocktail (!!!) and didn’t dine at any of its hottest spots. But I did walk 17km in one day solely for baked goods, and I think that’s a pretty fine accomplishment.

*If you’re wondering and/or a sugar addict like me, yes I will be writing a whole post about the assortment of treats I’ve tracked down and consumed on this trip.

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Mid-Week Tangent: Dangers of a New Neighborhood

I am in love with my new neighborhood and the impact it has on my commute (hello, 15 minutes!), but there is a dark side to my new neighborhood: it’s full of tempting and delicious…and expensive distractions.

We walked 10 blocks in each direction from our house and discovered all manner of ways for us to fritter away our money. There are pizza shops, and fusion restaurants galore, and dear lord there is a Dairy Queen a mere 600 metres from my doorstep. I should not be allowed to live so close to my beloved pecan mudslides. Not only are they dangerous for my health but they also put a serious ding in the pocket book, weighing in (pun intended) at a steep $7 per treat.

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of temptations at my doorstep now.  The one benefit of the suburban life was that very few temptations were within walking distance. Ultimately, I am too lazy to get into my car to drive for treats, but I will walk to them in a heartbeat. This does not bode well for me in my new neighborhood.

Already, in the span of three days, we’ve visited a nearby bakery twice. I am not normally a fan of yeasted donuts (cake donuts for life), but this donut was the best yeasted donut I’ve ever had. And I didn’t have to pay upwards of $4 for it, nor step foot in a hipster donut haven. I wish I could share a picture with you of this dulce de leche stuffed donut coated in thick caramel frosting but I devoured it so quickly that you get only this:

If you look closely, you may be able to see remnants of its deliciousness.

At this point, I am deeply concerned about our bank balances and our waist lines. This could be a very, very dangerous five months for us.

Monday Musings: getting my mom an iPhone was a terrible idea

My mom turned 70 this year, and 70 warrants a really good birthday gift. And so it came to be that we bought her very first iPhone.  I know, you’re probably thinking an iPhone sounds like a horribly impersonal gift, but hear me out: my mom has wanted a smart phone for years and she and my father had been suffering with a crappy flip phone for the longest time. She wanted to take pictures and send texts and look things up without hauling out a heavy-ass laptop and drive in Calgary without relying on outdated paper maps. So while it sounds like a terrible gift, I can tell you she was thrilled by it.

At first, so was I. I talk to my mom quite a bit over the phone, but it was nice having daily text conversations. But then, then she started sending me pictures.  And now, now I’m not so sure that getting her an iPhone was a good idea at all.

First, there was this:

My mom had baked mini chocolate cakes and wanted to show me. Being a lover of all things chocolate, I was jealous. I mean, they weren’t frosted which is a major faux pas in my mind, but they still looked pretty moist and delicious. Furthermore, at the time that I received this photo, I had zero cake options in my own home so I would have gladly accepted even unfrosted cake.

Then, there was this:

Okay, I know that doesn’t look appetizing. But these are amazing wok-fried chicken wings made with soy sauce and ginger and five spice and all sorts of other ingredients I can’t remember because I haven’t had them in years even though they are a total childhood favourite of mine. It was one thing to send me a picture of chocolate cake, which I am fully capable of making myself, and which I have been known to bake and eat entirely on my own (though not all at once, thankfully).  It is another thing to send me a photo of a nostalgic, childhood favourite that I have never once prepared for myself.  Strike two, mom.

But yesterday, yesterday my mom crossed a line with this:

What you are looking at there is a freshly baked peach pie. My mother, in case you aren’t aware, makes the best peach pie you have ever eaten. Her pastry is perfectly fluted, designed to lovingly cradle ice cream. It has been years since I’ve eaten this pie. Years. I look at this picture and start to salivate, and I swear to you I can almost taste it. Almost, because the actual pie is roughly 900 km away. This is the toughest photo pill to swallow, too, because I am actually incapable of making a pie. Pastry is my achilles heel. I have tried many a time and each and every time it has ended up with one of the many possible pastry fatal flaws.

With this last picture, not only am I beyond distraught that I am not jamming fresh peach pie into my face right now, but I’m also realizing what a terrible, terrible thing I’ve done giving my mother an iPhone. It’s true what they say: technology is not always a good thing.

Quest for Gelato Perfection: All Summer and No Perfection

Well, that was an unexpectedly long departure from blogging. I was away for an extended long weekend and planned poorly for this week’s posts. Never fear, though, I am back with my final installment of this Summer’s quest for gelato perfection. And I left the granddaddy of local gelaterias for last. I wish I could say that I planned it that way but this, too, was opportunity gelato.  I also wish I could say I went and saved the best for last (cue sappy Vanessa Williams to accompany), but sadly that was also not the case.

After a summer of trying desperately to find the best gelato, what I’ve come to believe is that nothing will ever taste as good as what I ate in Italy. It’s possible that the gelato there is leaps and bounds better, but it’s equally possible that its deliciousness was heightened by the fact that I was, you know, in Italy, surrounded by vast countrysides of vineyards and historic castles and whatnot. Yeah, that could be it. Still, here we go with this latest experience.

Where: Bella Gelateria (Marinaside location)

What: I ordered the Amarena Cherry and Wickedly Burnt Caramel. My better half ordered the classic salted caramel.

Salted Caramel
Cherry and Wickedly Burnt Caramel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What stood out: First, I have to get this off my chest. I have mentioned several times how I despise gelato shops in which gelato is hidden from view in charmless stainless steel bins. I don’t know why it irks me so, but it does. Only once have I been blown away by the contents of those bins. This was not that time.

Second, and a bit of a sidenote, some advice for those less wise than me: gelato does not make a great pre-concert choice. We stopped for gelato en route to the Guns n’ Roses concert and, though it seems obvious now, I didn’t question whether a giant bowl of gelato would make an ideal pre-show snack. It does not.

In terms of the gelato itself, I can say that the texture was lovely. It was velvety. It commenced melting the second it hit the warm air outside, as one would expect from gelato. It was served properly with a spade and not in scoops.

When it comes to the flavours, I was tremendously disappointed. They were fine. But here’s the thing: this gelateria is widely acclaimed as the best gelato in the city of Vancouver and supposedly the best outside of Italy. The location near my office regularly has a long line (upwards of 45 minutes!) wrapping around the block. If I had waited 45 minutes for this gelato, I’d have been pissed. I do not want to wait 45 minutes for gelato that is “fine”.

The Salted Caramel was nice enough, and was clearly the winner of the three flavours, but I’ve come to believe that salted caramel is one of those flavours that is hard to mess up.

The Amarena Cherry was a grave disappointment. Perhaps this is the one area where Italy legitimately has a leg up because I’m certain their cherries actually taste like cherries, whereas anything cherry-flavoured here seems far too subtle and/or overly sweet. I have decided that, aside from Dolce Gelato in White Rock, I am through ordering cherry flavoured gelato here. It is dead to me.

Now let me unleash my bitterness about the over promising and under delivering Wickedly Burnt Caramel. This flavour is living a lie. It is decidedly not burnt, and presents its consumer with nothing even remotely wicked. My boyfriend described it best when he said it was “caramel lite”, as in it had the most subtle hint of caramel flavour possible for such a boldly named gelato. It was the biggest disappointment of the evening.

My final conclusion on Bella Gelateria is twofold: 1. This place is overhyped to the extreme and 2. Location may matter for this gelateria. We may have chosen a dud, but then again, part of multi-location eateries is meant to be their consistency. Make it good everywhere or don’t make it at all, I say.

I’m sad to end this summer’s quest with such a lacklustre finale. However, I still have hope for finding brilliant gelato next year, or at least visiting my Kelowna discovery many, many times when we make our move to Vernon. Until then, may you find your own gelato perfection and, if and when you do, please loop me in!

 

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.