Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Firenze Gelato Festival

I stumbled bleary eyed from my plane, arriving in Pisa at 2:45am. Affordable travel options to my hostel did not exist, so I made the perfectly rational decision to stay awake until my morning Florence train. Rational? Ha! The sun began to rise, so I meandered outside the airport to find this sight:
That is how you deal with 7am. You drink enough red wine so it fits into your .5 Liter water bottle. I was emboldened to stay awake. Finally, I made it to Florence  around 9:45am. I charged into Florence and found tents, gelato signs and smiling people.Welcome to the Firenze Gelato Festival.
They weren't open yet, but also looked too generic for my taste, so I traipsed more. My morning was a tease of tempting gelatarias (not open or too touristy looking) and restaurants (again, not open). Finally, I landed here, the Piazza de' Pitti.
As I read the gelato signs and saw some product, I knew I found my Firenze gelato home. Still, they wouldn't open until noon. What to do? I was determined to be first in line, so I started waiting at 10:45am. Fortunately, they had shaded seating and I had Beyond the Pale by Mark Anthony, a Colorado fantasy author. Finally, it was showtime. €7 got you a rechargeable card and 5 samples. Each additional €5 gets you 5 more samples.
Arriving early also allowed me to plan my first visit. Unusual flavors, dark green soy cones, a temaki ice special, sushi ice (did not try)... the eclecticism appealed.
To the left, we have rice and wasabi gelatos flavored with freshly cut strawberry, black  sesame, red beans, spicy asian trail mix in the back. To the right, we have sesamo croccante (toasted? sesame) and pineapple ginger with the same accompaniments. The wasabi heat was subtle (thank goodness), nice rice texture (grew up on rice ice cream), some chewiness to it almost like sticky rice. You could smell the ginger. It was slightly sweet and the heat lingered a bit. The sesame was slightly gritty, such a nice dark taste. Oh, and that soy cone was so tasty.
Next was the Ricotta di Bufala from L'Ancora. I love water buffalo cheese and can't get enough in Colorado. The gelato was dense, but the taste light. It was there and gone. Ephemeral.
I want to capture this woman's voice just so I could hear her lilting Italian again. This is the Mandorla from Il Procopio. It features almond's nuttiness with what tastes like caramelized orange.
Next up we had Greek Feta and Cetriola (cucumber) from Il Re Gelato. The cream was inconsistent and chunky. The cucumber was a peculiar taste and didn't seem to fit. I wanted more feta taste and consistent texture.
Meet La Pera Al Pepe Rosa from De Coltelli. Everyone was ordering it, so I bowed to peer pressure. It was sorbet-like with a slight peppery smell. The taste was initially sweet then moved to a peppery finish. It's lightness was appropriate as I was onto my 8th sampling.
My notes only say "Grom - gritty with orange peel? Dried fruit". Delicious, though.
Day 2, Sunday, brought Ice Bau, the dog friendly gelato. With my limited Italian, I think it is rice based. It looks delectable, I've eaten gourmet dog food before, why not? The vanilla flavor came out true. Dogs, don't worry, you'll taste the vanilla. It had a granular look, good texture. Something was slightly off of the flavor. I only wish I could read Italian.
Darn attractive gelato carts, friendly proprietors and tempting flavors.
I was back to double fisting. From Cassia Vetus, we have Le Picce on the left (dried figs with walnuts and almonds with orange and lemon zest - flavor profile from tasting: fig then orange then nuts), and La Castagna Perella del Pratomagno (natural chestnut ice cream, so no air. Dense, grainy with chestnuts, so good). We need more chestnuts in Colorado.
Cavini, home of Funghi Porcini. Mushroom ice cream with a cracker. You could smell the mushroom up close. It was slightly sweet with a mushroom finish. It was nice, certainly edible by one that isn't a mushroom fanatic, but it was almost too much. I ate 3/4 of my container.
Le Dame finished my Firenze Gelato Festival two day expedition. This is the Persiano. From what I overheard, it features rose water, saffron, almonds (certainly persian, but unsure) and some other spices. Amazing spice and rose finish.
After €17, 14 large gelato samples, I was finished at the Firenze Gelato Festival. Cheers to Florence and it's delightful gelato culture. Hats off to their wonderful organization and card system. Each booth swiped your card and gave a receipt of how many samples you used there along with your remainder (genius!). If you visit Florence, look up these establishments and others and experiment with their offerings. Be aware of mass-produced, generic offerings, though. Look for the artisanal products. Your stomach and taste buds will thank you.

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