Extreme Gelato

Photos: Kathy Chan c/- New York Serious Eats

Extreme is the new norm. These days if its not extreme, its passé. Old Fashioned. Out of the running.

It seems that even the humble ice cream is subject to this more. Recently when venturing into the city of Sydney I happened to walk past a Shop called N2 Extreme Gelato on Dixon St.

Intrigued, I went inside, half expecting the ice cream makers to be doing double backflips or somesuch while they assembled the ice cream, all the while dodging razor sharp knives whizzing through the air.

But no. Instead I was confronted with a couple of gentlemen in chemistry-lab white coats (or should that be Loony Bin white coats??) and a lot of smoke or mist. The set was complete with a display window filled with large chemistry-lab mixing or measuring beakers filled with a whitish liquid – presumably milk.

It turns out that that the ice-creams are not simply “assembled” as per normal ice cream cones. The ice cream is quite literally made on the spot – to order. And the flavour choices are very exotic too, although there is not a large selection.

How does Strawberry, Rhubarb and Orange Blossom sound. Or perhaps Black Salted Caramel. Maybe Coconut, Lime & Lychee is closer to your tastes.

It turns out that the smoke or mist is from the Liquid Nitrogen (−196 °C; 77 K; −321 °F) used in the making of your “instant” ice-cream. I can’t speak for them all, but my Black Salted Caramel was very smooth and delicious, but perhaps not as dense as traditional gelato. This is a great eat – even if only for the novelty factor.

It turns out the method using liquid nitrogen has resulted in a World Record for the fastest manufacture of a litre of ice cream – a stunning 18.78 seconds!!!

Photo: Viola Zuppa (aka Kimari)


Crossing Over

[modified from the original, published Sep 24th, 2012]

Well we are now on the train from Chambery (France) to Torino (Turin – Italy). A good point is that we have brought on board a bottle of wine and consumed it along with a packet of chips and a crushed chocolate croissant that Julie found in the bottom of her pack. This was apparently the same chocolate croissant that Julie bought yesterday and which mysteriously went missing. Of course I suspected Julie of gaming as that was the second chocolate croissant she had bought and “lost” in a few days.

Another good point is that our seats have a power outlet in them, which we could have used to charge our i-devices if we had known it was there. Our neighbour across the aisle is using his for exactly that.

The bad points are that we got on the train about the last stop before people start getting off, meaning that the luggage accommodation was an issue. Not to mention the mayhem due to so many people apparently being in the wrong seats. Our seat was originally populated by the remains of someone’s lunch. But it is alright now, as about an hour into the trip, the owner has just appeared to reclaim them while I am typing this!

I seem to have forgotten all my Italian. Yesterday I tried to think of how to conjugate regular verbs and it took me about 15 minutes to recall how to do it (no kidding!). Julie’s French has picked up considerably but I think that she is noticing the lack of exposure for such a long time. We have resolved to return to France sometime to give her a further boost along so that she doesn’t loose it after all the effort studying it at uni etc. Since I have been turned to the dark side and now feel a trip to the French countryside might not only be survivable, but actually enjoyable, Julie is more positive about keeping up with her French.

Whatever else one feels in respect of the French, I have to hand it to them for their bread. It is so devourable, even without anything on it. The baguette is a national icon in my books! If you ever wondered why it is made in that silly shape, it is because the French figured out that it gives a near perfect ratio of crust to bread so that the flavour and texture experiences are maximised. It is also easy to hold when walking around!

Judging by the number of cyclists we saw with baguettes sticking out of the top of their packs, it is an icon/institution for everyone else as well. Its a shame about the “jams”. They don’t actually call them that, they call them confitures. The problem is they are all very runny. Sure they taste nice, but that is lost when one is flat out trying to catch the drips and squirts as they emerge from the baguette that is crushed in your mouth as you attack its divine being. It fairly ruins the whole French bread transcendence, as one is so busy trying to keep the confiture reasonably within the confines of one’s own baguette, mouth, hands and table, that the whole experience is diminished to somewhat of a sleazy transaction, best carried out in the privacy of one’s own home with the lights out.

Crossing into Italy brings a whole new experience when it comes to coffee and especially hot chocolate. Picture a bubbling mud pool from Rotorua and make it darker (and of course chocolate flavoured). That becomes your hot chocolate experience in Italy. What a delight. What the French have done for bread, Italy has done for hot chocolate drinks, in spades.

Wonderfully dense Italian Hot Chocolate

Che denso!

Our first attempt at interaction in Italian is a little off. Having just arrived, we are in a taxi going to the airport (don’t ask) and Julie comments “abbastanza umido” (= quite humid) to which the taxi driver replies “about 20 minutes”. His English wasn’t too flash, but that may have been the humidity getting to him! We certainly got to the airport pronto with no further mashups, linguistic or otherwise.

We have now met our tour guide, so all is well with the world again. Our group comprises about 21 walkers including us so there should be a lot of cameraderie. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately after our first experience) there will probably not be too much Italian interaction this week. C’est la vie, or rather, “cosi va la vita”.


France is no picnic!

[modified from the original, published on Sep 16th, 2012]

Well here I am in the land of frogs, drawn here by my wife’s inexplicable love for things French. Especially the food.

This is actually my second “tête-a-tête” with France, but my first time outside of Paris. We are in Dijon, the capital of the Bourgogne. Otherwise known as Burgundy to the English.
I’ve learnt quite a few things already this trip, including that Burgundy is an English word for this region and not a French word at all.

Another thing I have learnt is how the wine appellation system works in Bourgogne. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily help me understand how it works elsewhere in France, as each of the wine regions (I think there are 5) has their own system.
To an old kiwi who remembers the Rainbow Warrior incident, the French have always been associated with an air of (over) self importance, arrogance and general snootiness. My previous trip, to Paris, did nothing to dispel this mindset.

However this trip, admittedly just begun, has given me pause for thought. The people in Dijon have been rather friendly and about as engaging as a non speaker of French could expect.

Even the French grab at naming rights on basic foodstuffs, such as wine, now seems, well, if not actually acceptable, at least understandable. From what we have learnt here, the french wine naming system or appellation control is so fundamentally evolved from their history that it would seem wrong to try to disallow it. Having said that, using the appropriate French name on wines of similar style and which are clearly not made in France and not sold there would seem to be not just suitable, but also paying respect to France’s contribution to our collective wine heritage.

However, that is a battle lost, and I have solace in the knowledge that even the French can’t usurp another regions names. For example the Bourgogne cannot label a wine as Champagne. Their equivalent is called Cremante.

Anyway, while the French and most things French might be no picnic, the food certainly is …

One of our wonderful French picnic lunches. Unfortunately, no “pain” without gain!