America's Got Talenti

More evidence of gelato's superiority.

The Dish: Raise your hand if you think gelato is far superior to ice cream. Why is it? First, gelato contains less butterfat, which means it is less solidly frozen, which also means it melts faster in the mouth, creating an immediate taste explosion. Second, gelato is much denser than ice cream, since no air is added. The result is richer and creamier. Lastly, gelato is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream, making it easier and more enjoyable to eat (i.e., no instant brain freeze). We put two gelato brands to the test, choosing Tahitian vanilla as the flavor du jour because vanilla can't hide a whole lot of flaws. Or can it? The Rivals: Ciao Bella, a longtime staple of freezer sections everywhere, has a lot of body and substance. It's what you expect gelato to taste like: smooth and rich, with just the right amount of melt. While it has a higher serving temperature, Ciao Bella doesn't succumb like a snowman under a heat lamp when you dig your spoon into the carton; it holds its own. Looking at the list of ingredients that include both Tahitian vanilla and vanilla-bean specks, we fully expected this gelato to be the equivalent of taking a hit off of a bottle of vanilla extract, but that wasn't the case. The flavor was delightful. Talenti's flavor is sweeter, and the consistency much lighter, than Ciao Bella's. It actually tastes a little like frozen milk. The ingredients are almost as simple: milk, sugar, cream, powdered milk, vanilla, lemon, and guar gum. Talenti's slick packaging is dotted with icons to let you know that not only is it recyclable, but that its contents are hormone-free, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup)-free, kosher, gluten-free, and vegetarian. The flavor of Talenti's Tahitian gelato was wonderful, but we were put off by how easily it melted. Not two minutes in, our bowl was already a glistening puddle. An all-natural puddle, but a puddle nonetheless. The Champ: Both brands of gelato have a prominent, natural vanilla flavor. And while both are very similar in taste, only one is superior in texture: Ciao Bella. jperry@seattleweekly.com

 
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