Book Club: Last Wednesday night was book club. Because it was my birthday, we had cupcakes, too. The book was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I had read about a year ago and did not bother to reread. Most of the discussion focused on loneliness and whether there really is an epidemic of loneliness amongst millennials. I think it’s a bit arrogant for a bunch of boomers to talk about what millennials are like. And I’m not sure that it’s really a generational problem, since the issue of lack of social capital goes back more than 20 years. Anyway, it was a good discussion, even when it got away from the book.
Story Swap: Saturday night was the monthly Voices in the Glen story swap. This time, it was out at Gary’s house, which is in the Western Hinterlands aka Loudon County. It was a fun time with a good mix of stories and conversation.
Gelato Festival: I often send out suggestions of things to do to a group of my technie women friends. In this case, I had an offer for three tickets for the price of two for the gelato festival. It ended up with 4 of us, but the fourth person is retired Air Force, so I just bought her ticket at the veteran’s price, which was only about a dollar more, so it worked out fine.
One of my friends and I had lunch at The Commodore beforehand, largely because it was a convenient location. It was a good idea to eat something with actual nutritional value before overdosing on sugar. I got an ahi tuna sandwich with mango salsa and home fries, which I thought was pretty good.
Then we went over to City Market and started in on gelato. There were 12 competitors and you could have as much as you wanted of those flavors. There were also special flavors and you got just one go at those. The first of the special flavors was from Air Italy and was a combination of fior di latte, honey, and corn flakes. It was just a spoonful, which was, frankly, enough for me as I thought it was so-so.
The longest lines for the special flavors were two booths from Pre-Gel, each of which had about a dozen flavors to choose from. (You got 2 or 3 in a cup.) I got blueberry mascarpone and cinnamon crisp at the first booth. The cinnamon crisp was exactly the sort of flavor I like. The blueberry mascarpone was also quite good, with whole blueberries in it. The second booth was less successful for me, with lemon cookie (which I thought a bit too sweet) and gianduiotto (dark chocolate and hazelnut). The gianduiotto was very nice, but the two flavors didn’t really go together well.
We watched a few competitors in the gelato scooping contest, which had two parts. One part involved how many scoops the competitor could scoop in a tall pile in 30 seconds. The other involved how many cups they could fill. They distributed the cups afterwards, but they turned out to be bland, overly sweet vanilla.
The last of the special flavors was from Dolci Gelato and, sad to say, I’ve entirely forgotten which one I got there. I know it wasn’t the birthday cake one, which one of my friends got, nor the pumpkin spice one, which another friend got. Maybe pistachio?
There were also lemonade samples (plain or strawberry) from a company called Pacoiugo. I thought the strawberry lemonade was very refreshing. We somehow skipped the espresso samples from Caffe Vergnano.
But the real point of this was the gelato competition. In most cases, each of us got a cup that was half and half of two flavors. So here is my take on what we had.
Avocado Two Mike: This was from Dolce Riviera of Dallas, TX. It contained avocado, Nutella, salted caramel, and some sort of cookie bit. I don’t care much for avocado to begin with and this was way too weird for me. I tasted a few spoonfuls of it but, no, not my thing.
Piazza Navona: This was from Zerogradi Gelateria in Ambler, PA. This was a coffee and chocolate flavor and was one of my favorites. I was possibly biased by the name, since Piazza Navona is one of my favorite squares in Rome with a grand Bernini fountain. More to the point, Piazza Navona is the site of Tre Scalini whose tartuffo gelato is one of the seven wonders of the gelato world. Ambler, PA appears to be a bit north of Philadelphia and this place is worth keeping in mind should I be meandering up that way.
Salted Caramel Butter Toffee: This was from Pastaria of Nashville, TN and had crunchy cocoa nib toffee layered into salted caramel gelato. I liked the crunch and the flavor but, overall, it wasn’t anything special.
Pistachio Baklava: This was from Bluenoon in Washington, DC and is self-explanatory. This was another one that I liked quite a lot. I think it would make an excellent dessert after a dinner of Middle Eastern food.
Coconut Love: This was from Gelato Gourmet of Weston, FL. It was a mix of coconut, white chocolate and hazelnuts. It had a strong coconut flavor, which I thought was a bit overwhelming. (But I have mixed feelings about coconut and, more often, prefer it in savory foods like curry, so your mileage may vary. It finished third in the competition, so I suspect mine was a minority opinion.)
Mango Raspberry Cashew: This was from Iorio’s Gelato of Kentwood, Michigan. It was a nice, refreshing flavor, with lots of fruit flavor. I’m apparently not the only person who likes fruity gelati as this came in second place in the competition.
Blueberry Pie: This was from Amore Congelato of Fairfax, VA and is supposedly a blend of classic American blueberry pie and fior di latte gelato. The gimmick is that this place sweetens all of their gelati with agave nectar, instead of sugar. I found this disappointing, with not enough blueberry flavor and, as far as I could tell, no whole blueberries.
Sweet Potato Casserole: This is from Particle Food Lab / Café Vine of Philadelphia, PA. It had sweet potatoes, walnut, and marshmallows, which were toasted with a miniature torch just before serving. The marshmallows were tasty, but made it too sweet. I thought the concept had promise but it could have used more subtlety.
Milk & Cookies: This was from Georgia’s House of Gelato’Oh of Philadelphia, PA. The cookies in question were chocolate chip. There was nothing wrong with this, but it wasn’t a particularly creative or exciting flavor.
The All-American: This was from Savannah’s Gelato Kitchen of San Francisco, CA. It was, essentially, apple pie a la mode, translated to gelato form, with salted caramel, white chocolate, graham crackers, cinnamon, and (of course) apples. I thought it was delicious, as did my friends. A lot of other people also thought so, since it won the competition. By the way, I was entirely unsuccessful in finding out just where in San Francisco this gelateria is, which is a shame, because they have other flavors that sound good and won prizes in other cities.
Strawberry Chocolate Chip: They didn’t list this on the website, so I am not sure who made it. It is pretty self-explanatory. Alas, it was bland, with little strawberry flavor. So it doesn’t much matter whose it was.
Bourbon Bacon Cannoli: This was made by Mike Mullinix and the web site didn’t list a shop. I don’t eat bacon, so I can’t tell you what it was like.
All in all, it was a nice couple of hours. I think I ate enough gelato to keep me satisfied for a good six months. And, of course, it is always good to spend time with friends.
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