Dueling gelatos

Gorgeous and Fiasco each have their strengths
By BRIAN DUFF  |  July 3, 2012

food_gelato1_main
INDULGE YOURSELF Revel in the glory of summer with local gelato.

Despite all the talk about division in this country, we are living in an era where the most traditional of divisions, the one between adults and children, is disappearing. Preteens cultivate resumes, train like professional athletes, and casually discuss their sexual preferences. Meanwhile adults negotiate teenagerish careers of temporary work, play video games, go to Batman movies, and use sexuality to negotiate unresolved infantile anxieties. Gelato is the perfect dessert for times like these. Tasting it gives us a visceral experience of this convergence. The childish pleasures of ice cream seem more adult when translated through gelato's denser textures. And gelato allows grown-up subtleties of flavor to emerge even as we appreciate the nostalgic pleasures of a creamy, cool dessert.

The last year or so has brought Portland two gelato shops — Gorgeous Gelato and Gelato Fiasco, right across from each other on Fore Street in the Old Port. Both make their gelato fresh every day, on site, using traditional methods and fresh ingredients. Nonetheless, their approaches to gelato are different enough to offer two perspectives on the convergence of adulthood and childhood. With summer weather finally arriving in Maine, it's the perfect time to appreciate gelato's generational significance.

Gorgeous, currently in its second summer, seems at first glance like the more adult shop. It is run by recent immigrants from Italy — middle-aged parents from Milan (much like the folks who run Paciarino down the block). They are not veterans of the Italian gelato culture, but rather took college classes on gelato-making to facilitate a mid-career transformation. Fiasco in its first Portland summer (which has already won the Portland Phoenix readers' poll for Best Ice Cream Shop and Best Dessert Place), is run by guys in their 20s. But the Fiasco guys are the relative veterans, having opened their first shop in Brunswick when they were barely out of their teens.

These life-cycle complexities emerge in the taste and texture of the gelato itself. The essence comes down to this: Gorgeous Gelato offers a creamier, more mouth-coating gelato, while Fiasco offers something slightly denser and more flavor-intense. The reason is simple: Gorgeous uses some cream in its mix, and Fiasco relies on whole milk alone.

Each version has its distinctive pleasures. The creamier Gorgeous version is a step closer to the comforting textures of ice cream, and is a perfect base to feature the crisp sweetness of real cane sugar. So its dark chocolate gelato flavor, for example, is plenty rich, but is also sweet, with the hint of bitter cocoa flavor only emerging as the second note as it melts on your tongue. The cantaloupe gelato also lets the flavor remain subtle and trusts the sugar to do its pleasing work. The lemon is sweet-sharp and perfectly traditional — transporting my buddy back to his New Jersey childhood.

Fiasco gets a little bolder with its flavors, including sharp spices and liquors, and its particular mix leaves them relatively undiluted by creaminess and sugars. The results are striking. The ginger-cardomom sends the tangible sharpness of fresh ginger right into your sinuses, followed by a sort of chai-tea milkiness. The strawberry in several flavors was so fresh and dense you could almost taste the dirt from the field; the mango seemed a pure distillation of the fruit. Pomegranate lime offered dark grapey flavor, with a sour kick behind. In the dark-chocolate based flavors the richness threatened to overwhelm the gelato experience — but when mixed with hazelnut it mellowed nicely. The cherry-chocolate seemed truly confectionery.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Food Features , dessert, gelato, ice cream,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY BRIAN DUFF
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   A LITTLE WHINE  |  September 05, 2014
    The lessons of Lolita are that something simpler and less challenging can be lovely, and that some cheap wine could really loosen things up.
  •   TACOS ON THE TOWN  |  August 31, 2014
    While there’s no class mobility in this town, we do have taco mobility—even taco-class mobility.
  •   COPING WITH ADULTHOOD  |  August 07, 2014
    The neighborhood’s newish Central Provisions is grown up. But it also embodies our ambivalence about adulthood, and our persistent hope that a few more drinks will help us cope with it.
  •   PATHS TO GREATNESS  |  July 31, 2014
    India, like the American university, is mostly in the news these days for its bloated and ineffective administration and an epidemic of underprosecuted sexual assault. But let’s not give up on either—India or college—as a source of wisdom and repository of culture.
  •   THE QUAY TO GOOD LIVING  |  July 11, 2014
    Though they offer an appealing moral clarity, in practice zero tolerance policies have ruined any number of urban schools, fragile marriages, and card-marred soccer games. Zero tolerance almost ruined Portland a few years back, too.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF