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: WTF Walking Dead *Contains Spoilers!!!!*

In case you didn’t gather from the post title, this post contains spoilers (note the bold and coloured font to indicate that I’m serious about spoilers). If you’ve yet to watch the season 7 finale, you likely don’t want to read ahead although, quite frankly, I don’t think you’re missing much. With that out of the way, let’s get to the real heart of the matter.

Walking Dead, that season finale was absolute crap.

I feel it’s important to mention that I’m one of the few fans who’s given this season a fair shot, or at least this is how it feels to me.  It’s been widely criticized as a slow-moving and, well, crappy season, but I was like that loyal friend who sticks up for a bad friend long after everyone else has phased her out.  I defended the season premiere, believing it was important that Rick and crew finally be presented as something other than invincible. Sure it was violent, but it was getting pretty old watching Rick and crew outsmart all their enemies so easily.  I even defended the terminally slow plot development throughout the rest of the season. We needed to get familiar with all these other players, to see Rick’s crew in a different mode, trying to come to terms with their new reality while still attempting to forge alliances. I feel like my patience and loyalty should have been rewarded with a damn good season finale. But instead I got a slap in the face.  That friend I’d stuck up for long past everyone else up and phased me out. Uncool.

It didn’t even happen in slow and dramatic fashion. No, Walking Dead crushed my dreams for a good season finale all in one fell swoop. All I need are five words to tell you the straw that broke this camel’s back: the mother f’ing leaping tiger.

It’s exactly as bad as it looks.

Look, there were generally a lot of problems with this season finale, most notably:

–Supposedly dramatic Sasha suicide-in-a-coffin complete with ominous foreshadowing flashbacks: Yawn.

–Ridiculous and annoying way the trash people speak: Seriously, what about the zombie apocalypse made them abandon normal speech patterns!?!

–‘Bad guys’ who seem incapable of hitting a human target while every member of Rick’s crew is a dead eye: Even the most useless of Alexandria residents were transformed into killing machines, it seems.

–Rick gets shot but it doesn’t slow him down in the slightest: I suppose he’s used to it by now?

–Holy shit, amidst a literal sea of gunfire how does Negan not even get grazed by a bullet: I am left to assume he must be surrounded by an invisible force field.

And those are just a few of the things I struggled to comprehend. Yet I was willing to let go of all these things as a loyal fan. As I’ve written about before, I’m generally good with suspension of disbelief.

But that perfectly timed tiger leap was the final straw.  If you’re going to have a ridiculous plot device swoop in to save the day, can we not do better than a CGI tiger? Now I haven’t read the comics, so perhaps this is something they have to do to follow the storyline…but I really don’t care. After investing in seven seasons,  I expect more than a CGI tiger as a superhero.  And don’t even get me started on the improbability of this tiger’s impeccable timing nor his ability to discern good guys from bad. Carl was but seconds away from a deadly date with Lucille when this tiger seized hold of a dramatic pause. Now that is some serious animal instinct for opportune timing. And not once did he attack one of the good guys, not once. Ezekiel, though I can’t stand him, deserves to be recognized for his apparent phenom status as an animal trainer. Credit where credit is due.

In that ‘moment of the leaping tiger’, as I now call it, I felt as though the show stepped all over my loyal heart. My only response was to proclaim, out loud and largely to myself,  “Oh, come ON!!” That was the moment I feared me and Walking Dead might be done for good.  By the end of the episode, I no longer cared who lived or died, not even when it was unclear whether Michonne had survived her battle with the cryptic blonde trash lady.  By the time we got to Maggie’s melodramatic and protracted monologue homage to Glenn, all I wanted was for her to STFU. I’m sure that comment will anger Glenn lovers so let me emphasize that I loved Glenn and barely survived Glenn’s death fake-out  mid-season 6.  But I no longer care, not about Glenn and not about anyone (well, other than Daryl and Carol, who are now the only two characters for whom I have any emotional attachment). What I’m trying to say here is that this episode, especially as a cap to this crap-heap of a season, has left me immune even to Glenn’s emotional draw.

The only, and I mean only, redeeming quality of this entire season, as far as I’m concerned, is that the season finale brought Carol back to being a total badass hell-bent on slaying bad guys. I think we can all agree that the post-zombie-apocalypse world is far better with a bad-ass Carol in it. In my mind, a season 8 with Carol taking out the entire Saviour army is pretty much the only thing that can bring me back to true fan status.

Seriously, Walking Dead, that was terrible.

TWIR #41: Last of 2016

Well, 2016 has almost come to an end. It’s been…different than I expected. Let’s leave it at that for now, and hope that 2017 brings about real healing.

Saturday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 1 large family holiday event
Observations: Well, I visited emergency on Friday night at the lovely hour of midnight thanks to a terrifying rattling/wheezing/crackling noise that started to happen every time I exhaled.  After waiting a couple hours, a doctor spent roughly two minutes with me, basically telling me my lungs sounded clear and to do all the normal things I already know to do when sick: rest, drink fluids, no alcohol, etc. Helpful.  Thanks to a late bedtime, Christmas Eve consisted of a lot of laying around exhausted before heading to my boyfriend’s parents’ place for festivities. Thankfully, my coughing stayed relatively at bay, so I wasn’t that person, you know the one who comes to a large family gathering hacking up a lung and thereby infecting everyone else.

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 1 large family event, 2 waffle makers
Observations: I had originally planned to celebrate Christmas with a run in between family events. You know what they say about best laid plans. Instead, I had a sneezing/coughing attack and completely threw my SI out of whack. Like badly. By mid-afternoon walking was uncomfortable and sitting was even worse.  It was like a flashback to four months ago and I was livid. On the plus side, Santa brought us two waffle makers, which either means we can have some serious waffle parties or that we need to choose between the fancy new vertical maker or the ability to make four waffles at once. Tough decisions in this household.

Monday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 2 magical snow walks
Observations: My SI continued to be quite stiff and painful. The blow was softened considerably by opening Christmas presents (my boyfriend and I did our own gift exchange on Boxing Day…anything to prolong the Christmas experience!).  We continued our celebration with not one but two incredibly slow and careful walks in beautiful, heavy, falling snow. I was in heaven. There are few things I love more than snow walks.

Tuesday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 2 less magical slush walks
Observations: Between the lingering cold and lingering SI pain, about all I could manage was another day of walking.  This time, the walks were less magical as rain had taken the place of snow and turned everything into an ugly, dirty, slushy mess.  Still, I was pleased to feel less pain and to be able to walk at a fairly normal pace (when I wasn’t avoiding ice).

Wednesday
Activity: stairs + treadmill + strength
Relevant Stats: a mixed bag adding up to an hour
Observations: After what seems like an eternity without a workout, I was determined to do something. Something ended up being 20 minutes of moderate work on the stair machine, 10 minutes walking on 15 incline on the treadmill (about as long as I can walk on a treadmill because walking on a treadmill is beyond awful), and a half hour of strength focusing on my arms since my SI is still a disaster.

Thursday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 minutes, remedial
Observations: Alright! I’m back to basics yet again! There is nothing like doing single-leg “deadlifts” unweighted, sliding one leg back on a slider instead of having it in the air.  It’s the ultimate way to remind yourself you’re essentially back to square one.  Is this year over yet?

Friday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 2 dozen cookies baked, 0 cookies consumed (major victory)
Observations: Well, I thought my SI was on the mend but yesterday’s training session did a serious number on it and today it feels ten times worse.  And that meant no workout for me. It seems 2016 is going to end without one last kick at the workout can.

I am so ready to say goodbye to 2016 from a health and fitness perspective, and my greatest wish for 2017 is that I find a more sustainable way to keep my injury at bay.  This week gets a big:

end-of-2016

Happy new year y’all! Wishing you all a smooth transition to 2017.

Mid Week Gear Review: My Sudden & Very New Love Affair

I am madly in love with my new trail runners. And I fell hard and fast.

Can you blame me? These are damn sexy.
Can you blame me? These are damn sexy.

I have only worn them once. I didn’t even run in them (I’m still not trail running).  But from the moment I put them on my feet, I just knew these were the perfect shoe for my foot. You know how people always tell you when you meet that perfect person you’ll “just know” and you’re all like “what the hell is that supposed to mean?” until it actually happens to you? My experience with these shoes was exactly like that. I didn’t think a shoe could be so perfect. And I like a lot of my shoes right off the bat.  But I only like them. This, this was love at first sight…and then first wear.

Let’s keep the whole relationship metaphor going. I don’t really believe in people ‘growing on you’.  It sounds ruthless, I’m sure, but if I don’t have a good feeling after a first date, I’m immediately out.  With running and hiking shoes, I’ve never bought into the whole “breaking shoes in” nonsense.  Either a shoe fits and feels fantastic the first time I wear it, or I’m going to kick it to the curb.

This perfectly explains how I don’t need to run in these to know that they will be magical. I don’t need to hike more than the 8 km I hiked in them to know they will replace all my light hikers. My feet were happy. They had room to move and spread. They felt cushioned and supported. The grip pattern kept me from sliding even on the loosest of rocks and the steepest of slopes (and Chilliwack trails offer some seriously steep sections).

As an added, but completely unnecessary bonus, they have just enough gaudy, over-the-top, flashy colour to suit my need for finding the most obnoxious looking shoes I can find. You can’t really tell from that picture, but I promise you the colours pop way more in real life. And just wait until my second pair arrives in the mail (because yes, I’ve already ordered another pair). Their colour palette is even bolder.

But what I love most about these shoes by far is that I took a total chance on them.  I ordered them after trying on a few other brands that felt anywhere from awful to ‘meh’ on my foot. I was discouraged. I felt like I’d never find the right shoe. And then I saw these and it’s like I just knew.   Sure, it was based on looks and a hunch at first but, really, isn’t that how most good things seem to come about in life?

To my Brooks Cascadia 11’s: here’s to the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Oh, the trails we will see together!