Until July 24th, at the Gelato nel piatto festival, one hundred restaurants around the world – throughout Europe, the U.S., South America, and Asia – will feature an ice-cream based dish created by Italian chefs who have earned their fame abroad.
Curious? Would you like an example of a recipe? How about “Creamed rice with Parmigiano Reggiano with foie-gras, crispy Parma prosciutto, golden apples and traditional balsamic vinegar ice cream” prepared by chef Claudio Di Bernardo from the La Dolce Vita restaurant in the Grand Hotel Rimini.
Rosanna Marziale (2 Michelin stars) of the Le Colonne Restaurant in Caserta, created the “Parmigiano Reggiano gelato with Sorrento lemons”. Filippo La Mantia, in his eponymous restaurant in Rome, will use ingredients from his native Sicily: carrots from Ispica, capers from Pantelleria, almonds from Avola, Ribera oranges, extra-virgin olive oil from Valle del Belice. From Singapore, Lino Sauro, the executive Chef at Gattopardo propsed "Parfait of Green Apple with Parmigiano Reggiano chips, apple sorbet, caramelized Prosciutto di Parma and milk and clover honey bonbons".
The Abruzzo-born Massimo Pasquarelli was the first Italian chef to acquire a Michelin star in Asia, and today he works at The Aberdeen Marina Club of Hong Kong. For this year’s gelato celebration, he’s included pasta from the artisan Vincenzo Spinosi, adding the sour cherries from Fabbri to gelato made from grilled potatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano, specks of Prosciutto di Parma atop a cream made from pistachio and thyme. In Phuket, Thailand, chef Francesco Greco of the Westin Siray Bay Resort, has created the "Parfait of Prosciutto di Parma, mustard gelato and light Parmigiano Reggiano sauce".
Angelo Saracini has opened three Italian restaurants in Athens: Amici miei, Portes and La Dolce vita a S.Barbara. For this year’s Gelato nel piatto event, he’s prepared “Vanilla gelato with homemade fettuccine, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano". Some examples? There’s Ferran Adrià, who’s created "Parmigiano ice cream" and "sardine sorbet"; Heston Blumenthal who’s invented "Egg and Bacon Ice Cream"; there’s the "beer and tabacco air gelato" by Massimo Bottura; there’s Inaki Aizpitarte with his "yogurt-flavoured ice cream with herbs and peanut butter". Clearly, chefs have a great time experimenting with new flavours and pairings and ice cream allows their imaginations to run wild.
Even beyond the kitchens of the world’s great chefs, the list of ice cream flavours is truly infinite, and Asia takes first place for providing some of the most unusual declinations. In Japanese supermarkets, for example, next to the “classic” chocolate, you can find ice cream flavours like squid, octopus, chicken wings (in the region of Nagoya, famous for its fowl); but there’s also tulip, which is a bit more poetic than whale or beef tongue, for sure. And we can’t leave out the supposed aphrodisiac powers of "Pit Viper Ice Cream", or the London experiment of a "Natural Viagra Ice Cream". As the Latin proverb goes, “De gustibus non disputandum est”: tastes aren’t up for discussion.
Our search for unusual tastes takes us to New York, to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory – where you’ll find flavours like green tea, red bean, ginger and lychee. At Humphry Slocombe’s in San Francisco, ask for the "Elvis" – banana ice cream with bacon and peanuts, or else they’ve also got prosciutto and foie gras ice cream as well. In Vermont, at Late Night, there’s the "Ben & Jerry" flavour: chocolate and caramel-covered French fries. They’re not kidding around.
The list could go on and on because in every corner of the world there’s an ice cream shop that’s eager to experiment with your taste buds. Like…yes, camel’s milk ice cream, straight from the Muslim world.
And the Italians? Which flavour can they boast to have invented? Well, compared to those listed above, their flavours seem almost banal: classic, with a just the right amount of creative flair. In Sorrento, near Naples, the Primavera gelateria has taken inspiration from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, by creating a corner called "Michelle’s vegetable garden". The flavours follow the seasons: carrot, beans and peas, zucchini, carrots and orange. The more courageous customers will try out the eggplant parmesan. At Rome’s Fatamorgana, there’s the "Venere Rosa" (the Pink Venus), made from black rice and rose buds, or else the "Panacea" made from almond milk, mint and ginseng. There’s also almond and cardamom gelato.
So how many ice cream flavours exist in the world? A true estimate is impossibile to make, although for the last 15 years, the Guinness Book of World Records has given the prize to an ice cream shop, Merida, in Venezuela, which offers 892 flavours by today’s count. Fine dining lovers should consider themselves obliged to explore these new ice cream horizons, and challenge their taste buds with the most unexpected flavours and combinations. But don’t ever forget the nostalgic perfection of good, old-fashioned vanilla!