Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An ice-cream Rorschach test

I was just out at the local ice cream store where I confronted a few annoyances, much bliss, and some random musings. So taking these in order...

A few annoyances: It's one of the gelaterias that is a heavy-weight foreign import, and makes much of this. A few years ago when they opened there were lines down the block. This I accepted with resignation (by just not going -- no ice cream is worth queuing that much for). But it must be said that they achieve something which seems so simple (because so many gelaterias in Italy manage to do it - and in other European countries as well, all to varying degrees of skill of course), but remains elusive at almost all the places I've been to in the US or Canada: the ice cream actually tastes like the substance for which it is named. So the dark chocolate has more intense chocolate flavor than biting into a bar (along with the icy creminess of course). The pistachio tastes like the nut, even more so than it looks like it (no need for pistachio ice cream to look especially green...)

(While I'm on this point, do you mind if I digress? No? Many thanks... There are two other things that seem so, so, so (!) simple yet are almost impossible to find outside Italy: a well drawn espresso and properly cooked pasta. Now I'm not going to get into the North-South debate in Italy -- whether you like your coffee in Naples or prefer it Turin is up to you, but there are at most a few places in NYC where you can get that kind of coffee. And no, I don't mean one of those obsessive Berkeley/SF style coffees, where the coffee roster mutters a dozen prayers over the roasting machine, and where the barista is hunched over the machine with the concentration of a scientist attempting cold fusion... Of this type there are now perhaps a dozen in New York. They'll make you a cappuccino with a 12-leafed frond on it, and even the macchiato has has at least a four-leafed frond on it. No, I want to pull up to the bar, order my coffee, get it a minute later, drink it in peace for a minute or two, pay, and then leave... And preferably in that order...

The other mystery is why it is so hard to get properly cooked pasta outside Italy. Not saying you can't get it, but it is sufficiently elusive that this alone can be the acid test of an Italian restaurant's quality. But I won't rave any longer....)


So getting back to that annoyance, they won't let you combine more than two flavors in the the smallest size take-away container. For that you must order the large. Why? There's room enough. And if you ask for two flavors on a cone, they put one scoop on top of the other (horror!) rather than the two flavors side by side, in harmony, where they belong...

Much bliss: As you've gathered, the stuff is good. Really good. Great, I'm not sure (bear in mind, great for me is truly the ultimate standard -- great food stays in my mind for days if not weeks, not unlike a great work of art or unfortunately the latest pop-tart tune I heard on the soundtrack at the gym), but good certainly...

And the musings: Let it be in the form of a question: Suppose you had two flavors, side by side, in a cup. Assume also you know exactly how each tastes (if necessary, then with a quick pre-taste). Then how would you go about eating the ice cream? I can think of 3 distinct ways, but I'm sure there are more... And I believe each one reveals something essential about your personality. Leave your reply in the comments, where I'll post my answer in a few days...

From all of this digressional ranting, you have gathered that I'm in need of a holiday. But succor is at hand in the form of an airplane ticket to Italy... South here I come! And North, you won't have to wait long either...

Have a great tail end of the summer everyone... More soon!

xoxo

BB

7 comments:

If Jane said...

oh!!! great post!! ;)) even if the end result is you needing a vacation...

i have asked that question for years re: why does espresso taste better in italy (well and in several places in europe) vs here (ok in montréal we do have i say two places, others would say three, were the espresso is amazing...)...long story short: i have been told countless times that it is a question of the water and the machine.

and why is pasta not cooked properly?? i just think a lot of people just don't know how to cook pasta. it's that simple. i only eat the pasta prepared by my very close friend who is italian (she arrived here a mere 8 years ago)..so maybe i am spoiled.?

and i think they are just being silly about the gelato...

please continue searching food and drink that satisfies both your taste buds as well as your soul...;))

xx

Bombay Beauty said...

Many thanks Jane, many thanks... Will update you soon! BB

Lola Is Beauty said...

1: the GYM???

2: a bit from the left, a bit from the right, then a bit from the left with a bit from the right...and so on.

3: give my love to the north!

Sneaky Magpie said...

it's an interesting point you made about the scoops being on top of each other as opposed to next to each other. never paid it any attention really. On top of each other seem easier with a cone, and I only ever go for cones, ordering the nicer flavor fist so I get it at the end....

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, a few days ago I had a really nice espresso (well, almost, we'd call it a "caffè lungo")in a patissérie-boulangerie in a small town called Rivière du Loup, Québec. They also had an excellent pain au chocolat and mascarpone. Lovely...
xxx
Mia

redhaired said...

i fully agree with your analysis and much more so in chicago: in new york at least they are getting there; in chicago they are a generation behind..
i recently read that the best way to enjoy a "gelato" is on a cone (rather than in a cup) which allows the cream to reach the right temperature for the best taste.
have a great time in italy!

Bombay Beauty said...

Thanks everyone for your comments -- just getting back and will post soon! xoxo BB

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