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Best chocolate ice cream: a new champion
May 22, 2010
11:00 pm
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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Forum Posts: 283
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October 13, 2009
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Trawling through previous posts you'll come across some posts of mine on the best chocolate ice cream to date. Chocolate ice cream is particularly difficult because the high fat content requires very precise recipe balancing to avoid over-denseness and greasiness while retaining a high chocolate impact.

My previous best was L'Arcobaleno in Alghero, Sardinia. A recent revisit confirms their superiority: a first-rate chocolate ice cream with definitive chocolate flavour and superb smooth texture.

BUT, now they move to number 2, although it must be said still a quantum leap above other chocolate ice creams, even in Italy.

The new winner is Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna. The level to which they beat all others I've ever tried is simply obliterative. Nothing comes even remotely close. The chocolate intensity is of another order compared to any other chocolate ice cream and the texture is the very definition of perfection. It's not quite possible to put into words how unimaginably good this is because it is something that has to be experienced to really be believed.

There is only one thing they could possibly do to improve upon this: use a truly top-of-the-line chocolate like Amedei Ecuador or Domori Carenero Superior. In fact, on this I can't help mentioning again: where's the patriotic spirit? A lot of Italian ice cream makers (not Sorbetteria Castiglione, though) proudly advertise their chocolate ice cream as using Valrhona. Why not use one of the home-grown Italian brands?

So this is the best...for now: we'll see if someone can improve upon this!

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
May 23, 2010
3:15 pm
RedStar
Grimsby, United Kingdom
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January 4, 2009
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Damn, been trying to finally admit that with starting a new business I can't afford to go to Italy this year....and now this.

RedStar

RedStar
May 26, 2010
12:06 am
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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October 13, 2009
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quote:


Originally posted by RedStar

Damn, been trying to finally admit that with starting a new business I can't afford to go to Italy this year....and now this.

RedStar


Justify it as a business expense. [;)] You need to see how other chocolatiers are doing things; what better place to start than Italy? Bologna's close enough to chocolatiers in Tuscany to make it a useful point; you could make it a grand tour by starting in Piemonte, moving through to Emilia Romagna, then into Tuscany.

Also take a look as I mention elsewhere at SAID in Rome; another top-notch chocolatier who (superficially at least) appear to be doing bean-to-bar.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
May 27, 2010
7:57 am
Gracie
Chippenham, United Kingdom
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June 23, 2007
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I know...not fair! Maybe we can get a regional development grant for research into the possibilities of exporting our wares to Italy! We got a random call from the British consulate in Italy at Easter and they featured us in an Italian manufacturing publication ~(don't ask me why?!). I think a follow up call is in order :D

June 5, 2010
5:41 am
Scott--DFW
Dallas, USA
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October 26, 2006
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Turin-based Grom (with locations throughout Italy and a few internationally) uses Domori for their cioccolato fondente and cioccolato extranoir (the former a gelato, the latter sorbetto). Also in Turin, VasaVasa uses Domori and ICAM for their chocolate gelati.

June 8, 2010
2:33 am
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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October 13, 2009
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quote:


Originally posted by Scott--DFW

Turin-based Grom (with locations throughout Italy and a few internationally) uses Domori for their cioccolato fondente and cioccolato extranoir (the former a gelato, the latter sorbetto).


Ah, this is a change from the last time I went to Grom. They were using Valrhona then. Although, it must be said, I didn't find their ice cream in general to be as good as the others already mentioned, and it wasn't the choice of chocolate, it was the formula.

While we're at it, another trend one sees a lot is ice cream shops that have both a "regular" chocolate and a "fine-brand" chocolate, whose name you see prominently listed on the name label. But more often than not (in fact, in every case where I've seen this done), the "fine-brand" chocolate clearly contains a (much) lower percentage of chocolate in the formulation. This in my opinion rather defeats the whole point of the exercise. Why go to the trouble of using a better chocolate, only to include less so that its flavour is less pronounced, while permitting a poorer chocolate to display its inferiority graphically via greater intensity of (less-good) flavour?

Of course, it doesn't take a genius to deduce the obvious reason: price. If one were to include a fine chocolate at the levels of the "regular" one, the resulting ice cream would be MUCH more expensive. To which I say, EXACTLY. I'd certainly be willing to pay more for the better-quality chocolate, in fact, as a customer I'd expect to pay more, and furthermore the simple fact that you've put the brand name of the chocolate on the label raises expectations and would make people more inclined to try it even at higher price because of the belief that it was genuinely better. Ironically, selling it at the same price as the regular one might backfire because people could conclude - if it's not any more expensive, how likely is it that it's any better?

Some places also have a plain "cioccolato" and a much stronger "cioccolato fondente" without any special branding on either; this I can understand - some people don't really *want* a strong chocolate flavour, while others definitely do. But it does seem reasonable to deduce that those more likely to be interested in the fine-quality chocolate are also those more likely to be interested in the stronger flavour in the ice cream.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
May 20, 2011
1:15 am
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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Forum Posts: 283
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October 13, 2009
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New update, from this year's trip.

I did a comprehensive retrial of the situation in Rome, thanks to the emergence of a pair of new contenders, Il Gelato di Claudio Torce and Gelato del Teatro.

Gelato del Teatro has a nice cioccolato fondente in terms of intensity; it's too bad they use a low-grade chocolate, or to be exact a poor origin. It had the coconutty, very dark flavour one associates with bulk beans from the Ivory Coast. A better chocolate would have made all the difference. Texture is a problem; the ice cream is a bit grainy.

 

Il Gelato obviously is trying to position themselves as the chocolate ice cream specialist. I've never seen even close to this many nuances on chocolate ice cream. Fortunately, the highest-quality chocolate they appear to use (Valrhona Manjari) also appears to have the strongest formulation, in a gratifying reversal of the typical state of affairs. However, while good, it still wasn't as good as the previous champions. Texture isn't quite silken, and the flavour was a bit too ashy to be classic Manjari. They should I think use an even more potent chocolate, too: a 70%-80% is more appropriate.

 

Various other places tried don't even merit mention.

 

But the big winner, and clearly improved overall, is Giolitti, who regain their title with a stunning performance. They appear to have tweaked the formula for their Cioccolato Fondente. Now it is the equal of Sorbetteria Castiglione, and perhaps even slightly better. The texture reaches the same sublime height, and the chocolate intensity dwarfs other competitors in Rome. They are using a more distinctive chocolate, too, than Castiglione, although still not as good, IMHO, as they might use. If this is the result of them reading this site and taking action, then they are particularly to be commended for the commitment to improvement! I state again that in Rome, Giolitti is BY FAR the best ice-cream maker overall, and has been for many years. Don't listen to the hype or the guidebooks that imply otherwise; compare the queues in each gelateria and decide for yourself which one obviously has the public nod of approval, who in this case are exactly right. Don't be deterred by the (almost traditional) brusque service, just enjoy the best ice cream to be had.

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

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