By: Lynn Ogryzlo
Photos: Jon Ogryzlo

You say ice cream, I say gelato. Is there a difference? It’s true, most people can’t tell the difference between gelato and ice cream or even acknowledge there is a difference. Yes, it all starts off with rich cream and a sweetener of some kind. Sometimes eggs are added, but not always. Sure it’s all frozen but when it comes to gelato or ice cream, they are two products that are miles apart.

Gelato

Carlotta Cattani and Zuhair Kashmeri, better known as Kash, opened Gelato di Carlotta on the main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake last June. Hailing from the gelato capital of the world Florence, Carlotta brings her authentic Florentine gelato recipes to Niagara along with a sexy gelato maker, Lorenzo Stangarone.

Carlotta’s uses all organic and top quality ingredients. They start with Harmony 100% organic cream in their base, use only pure reverse osmosis water and sweeten it with their secret ingredient, liquefied sugar derived from Italian organic grapes. “We refuse to use white sugar, besides it just won’t work with our base,” explains Kash.

A machine called a Pastorizzatore turns the mixture gently for 14 hours. Then it’s transferred to a batch freezer called an Abbattitore that drops the temperatures to minus 40 Celsius to purposely freeze the water particles solid. The gelato is finally transferred into tall stainless steel cylinders that fit into the white marble Pozzetti (gelato bar). The Pozzetti keeps the gelato at a constant minus 14 Celsius, that suspends the frozen ice particles at a semi-soft, dreamy stage.

To create the many different flavours, Lorenzo takes a page from his bartending days when he says, “we learned to know where our ingredients were grown, by whom and what production methods were used. If you know everything about your ingredients, you can choose the best for the product you want to make.” Gelato flavours are mostly seasonal as Carlotta and Kash source the finest fruit ingredient from Niagara farmers. “Don’t expect strawberry gelato in September because we don’t grow strawberries in September,” says Kash. The rest of the ingredients are organic, exotic or ripened to perfection.

“Gelato is a happy product and should make people smile,” says Kash. What makes me happy is moseying on up to the Pozzetti and choosing from more than 20 fresh gelato flavours made daily. Carlotta’s gelato offers the biggest mouthful of flavour you’ll find in Niagara. Partly because of their production methods, partly because the warmer temperatures allow more flavour to blossom and pleasure the very far reaches of your psyche. The viscid texture is akin to a piece of velvet creaming slowly across your tongue – wow!

Ice Cream

“I love the chemistry of ice cream,” says Rob D’Orante, Peller Estate Winery’s Pastry Chef who strives for a balance in ice cream like a winemaker balances a wine. It fascinates him. He paces the floor of his culinary lab surrounded by the finest equipment Peller can throw at him and talks about cream separation by sugar, crystal formations, coagulation through heat and degrees of temperature. “Basically I try to get as much fat as I can into it, balance the water and sugar ratios and keep it stabilized,” says a man striving for purity in luxury.

He puts on special gloves and pours liquid nitrogen from a giant steel canister into a beaker. It begins to fog up as he turns his attention to the Kitchenaide with the puddle of vanilla crème anglaise inside.

He continues to talk chemistry lingo, pushes his glasses further up his nose and slowly pours the liquid nitrogen into the bowl. Immediately the smog begins to billow up and out the bowl, dance along the counter before evaporating into thin air. Rob D’Orante is the Walter White of ice cream.

The paddle in the Kitchenaide begins to clang and bang. Within one minute, the ice cream is done. He pulls the bowl from the machine, picks up a handful of spoons and walks towards me.

Not all of Rob’s ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen but when it is, it is definitely a super refined, ultra refreshing, magical texture akin to frozen champagne with unfrozen active bubbles. It’s heavenly ice cream.

At any given time you can probably find anywhere from 12 to 18 different ice cream flavours in Rob’s tiny chest freezer. Some are for the restaurant but others are “because I feel like playing” say Rob who has been known to make everything from carrot sorbet to cinnamon toast ice cream, sweet potato sorbet to Vietnamese coffee ice cream. “Sometimes I throw them all together like an ambrosia but mostly I give them away,” sighs a man who has come to terms with the fact that he just can’t eat it all.

Rob considers the perfect vanilla ice cream to be the Holy Grail. “You need a good balance between vanilla and cream, but not too eggy, with a really velvety texture. A good vanilla ice cream is a true work of art.”

Ice cream is colder than gelato so Rob’s ice cream scoops into perfectly round spheres in the little ice cream tasting ramekins. Place a spoonful on your tongue, it’s eye-poppingly refreshing as it momentarily chills the taste buds before the warmth of your mouth has it luxuriating into a liquid that releases it’s flavours to the fullest. Ice cream is just that, the shock of the chill and the reward of pleasure.

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Gelato tasting notes:

True gelato is kept at a warmer temperature than ice cream, which means the flavours are strong on the front and mid section of the palate and linger long. The texture is dreamier, like a warm hug from a loving Italian.

Stratchatella: Rich, charming and concentrated with clearly defined flavours of white cream and dark chocolate that turn silky on the palate.

Mango: Big, plush and expressive with a powerful punch of perfectly ripened mango. Supple texture and essence of clarity that lingers long.

Coconut: Fleshy and exotic with concentrated cream and luxuriously thick soft, Sri Lankan coconut meat sooths the soul with comfort and pure satisfaction. Only available at Carlottas.

Pistacho: Natural earthy green colour belies the excitement of elegant pistachio richness that swirls with reverberating hits of sea salt. Dreamy finish.

Hazelnut: Pure elegance across the palate with this full bodied, sweet hazelnut rich, creamy gelato that turns sinfully silky over a warm palate.

Buontalenti: Satisfyingly mouth coating international style of gelato with a punch of thick custard, panna cotta cream and a lingering hint of sweetness on the long finish. Nothing like it outside Florence.

Crema di Carlotta: A delicious “hunt-it-down” gelato. A mouthful of love making between cooked cream and soft citrus curd that puts it almost in the lineage of a custard pie. Supple, luxurious velvety texture.

Chocolate + Orange: A powerful hit of strong chocolate showing silky threads of exotic tangerine-like orange flavour. Oozing chocolate on the delicious, lingering finish.

Banana: Enticingly aromatic showing good ripe banana concentration on the nose while banana flavours layer between sheets of rich cream for a rounded and balanced mouthful of flavour.

Dark chocolate sorbeto: Exotic concentration of cocoa and ganache packed into a sleek frame with a sensuous finish that will leave you begging for more. Lactose free, vegan, 70% black chocolate.

Ice Cream Tasting Notes:

Ice cream is kept at a colder temperature than gelato, which means the first impact is pure refreshment. A perfect summer treat, ice cream hits the palate with a chill that reveals its flavour mid palate and on the finish when it starts to luxuriate.

Crème Anglaise: Made with liquid nitrogen the texture is a mixture of super fine ice crystals floating through thick custardy cream that puts it in the pedigree of fine champagne. Flavours of white flowers, cream and vanilla linger enticingly long on the finish.

Marzipan: An opulent mixture of almond meal, honey and plush cream rides the mid palate in this complex and concentrated frozen dessert that lingers long.

White chocolate: An ever so elegant, feminine style ice cream with a hefty layer of sweet white chocolate to dominate the palate pleasure zone. Dreamy texture.

Chocolate sorbet: Complex mouthful of vanilla and floral notes over an uncompromisingly thick layer of dark chocolate ganache. Nostalgic chocolate popsicle finish that layers the tongue like velvet.

Crème Cheese ice cream: Intense, racy, nippy, crème cheese in-your-face ice cream with tangy cheesy notes. A delicious base for a cheesecake ice cream.

Praline: a medium weight, focused ice cream with dreamy flavours of toffee, pecans and vanilla that cream together in one melting piece of velvet on the palate. Like a melting Ferrero Rocher.


For more excitement in ice cream and gelato, check out the 200 pins on my Ice Cream Pinterest Board http://www.pinterest.com/ontariotable/ice-cream/

Lynn Ogryzlo is a food, wine and travel writer, international award winning author and regular contributor to REV Publications. She can be reached for questions or comments at www.lynnogryzlo.com.