There’s a little trade secret amongst gelato connoisseurs to gauge the caliber of gelato shops and that’s by the quality of the shop’s pistachio flavor. The reason is that pistachio is one of the most expensive flavoring and hardest flavor to get right, making it the perfect benchmark.
There are two ways for a shop to create this flavor. The artisanal (arguably the right and only way) is to grind toasted pistachio into pistachio butter or use pre-made pistachio butter in their gelato base. The second method is to skimp on using actual pistachios, opting instead to cut it with cheaper alternatives such as almond butter or worse yet, solely employ artificial flavors and colors. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not. A telltale sign of an interior pistachio gelato is that unnatural pastel green you can find in subpar shops and an overly sweet, marzipan flavor.
However, when it’s done correctly, the result is sublime. A wonderfully creamy experience with a subtle sweetness and nuttiness that you can’t get with any other flavor—a little slice of heaven in a cup or cone. If you can’t tell, I’m a little obsessed with pistachio gelato!
Yesterday, after a fail grunion run at Laguna Beach, I was in need of a serious pick-me-up. Fortunately, my friend and fellow gelato enthusiast (so much so that he used to own his own shop!) recommended Dolce Gelato, a little shop off the beaten path.
While I trust his taste, I had some reservations after seeing the shop’s signage. Being a graphic designer, I must admit I judge many a place by their appearances and the usage of the font Curlz doesn’t exactly convey an unforgettable gelato experience to me.
Fortunately, it’s the insides that matter and their gelato was exactly that. Dolce offers a rotating roster of 24 flavors, most of which are classics, (such as vanilla bean, coffee and chocolate) and some are more adventurous with Margarita, brown butter (amazing!) and habanero chocolate. All are made daily in house.
My friend orders the PB and chocolate chip at once. As for me, being highly intolerant to lactose, I arranged for a tasting of all 24 flavors. As proof, here are all my spoons! While all their flavors were top notch, there were 3 that were extraordinary:
The first was of course pistachio. Creamy, full-bodied, yet delicate at the same time, it was one of the best specimens of pistachio gelato I’ve ever eaten. The secret (not-so secret now) to Dolce’s recipe is that they use 50% California pistachios for the creaminess and 50% Sicilian pistachios for their intense flavor.
Second flavor is their non-dairy chocolate, mostly because I couldn’t tell it was non-dairy! They were able to get the richness by using quality dark chocolate, rum for the extra kick and bananas to get the creaminess just right.
Third flavor is banana cream as it was just like eating banana pudding. By using a ratio of unripe bananas and ripen bananas, they were able to get spot on with the desired texture and peak flavor.