17 September 2009
The Power of Suggestion
It’s been done. Yes, I know, its been done. Earlier this summer I saw Ina Garten on The Today Show with Al Roker making Affogato sundaes while Al was slipping a little extra Tia Maria into his. And then I opened the August issue of "Martha Stewart Living" and sure enough it also sported a recipe card for Gelato Affogato.
The next thing I knew I was eating a small scoop of Snoqualmie’s Espresso Chip ice cream and I found myself spooning hot coffee from my cup over the top. I always liked my ice cream soft and melty so it made sense, you know? And, wow, was it delicious! It was even better than I had imagined as I spooned the softening edge of the ice cream scoop into my mouth with the coffee that ran across it. No wonder everyone is doing it. It was a pleasing combination of extremes, cold and hot but not too cold or too hot anymore, in tandem, sort of like a backward overview of our weather here in the Portland area over the past month or so. When averaged it is a very amiable and balanced mixture of the elements but, along the way, I have enjoyed that distincitve taste of both extremes.
Having that small taste of what an Affogato is all about I was sold. In my view it is the perfect way to end a late summer meal. I can picture the sun beginning to set, the cool evening air beginning to settle and brushing against my skin as I dig into the hot and cool spots of this luscious dessert. And there are so many possibilities my imagination just took off.
So Many Possibilities
I could make mine with a scoop or two of espresso chip gourmet ice cream from Snoqualmie in my café au lait bowls. Over that I’d pour ¼ to ½ cup of espresso. That would be simple and great on its own. No fuss, no bother.
Snoqualmie also makes gelato. Doesn’t a scoop of Coconut Rum gelato, the kind I used in my Butter Rum Ice Cream Cupcakes earlier this summer, drenched in espresso, with a dash of dark rum and a drizzle of caramel topping sound delicious?
Or I could serve my favorite Villa Dolce Vanilla Gelato in china bowls with a small glass of Amaretto or Kahlua and a demitasse cup full of hot espresso, as Martha Stewart suggests on her website. Then my guests could assemble their desserts on the spot, pouring the espresso and the liqueur over the gelato just before tasting that first exquisite bite. This would allow for the optimum contrast of hot and cold and would make an elegant presentation.
Or I could make mine Barefoot Contessa style, just like on The Today Show, with a scoop each of hazelnut and vanilla gelato topped with a pour of hot fresh espresso straight from the pot and a splash or two of Kahlua or Tia Maria from the bottle. Pass some whipped cream and top with crushed chocolate covered espresso beans.
Actually I think this is the perfect end to a casual meal with friends in any season. The cold of the ice cream makes it a perfect choice for summer entertaining and the hot espresso makes it an appealing way to end a meal in cooler seasons. The cold and the hot marry in sweet affection, mellowing into a rich complementary understanding. The espresso warms the gelato while adding a terrifically dense layer of bold flavor. The gelato cools and sweetens the coffee as it melts and mixes lending a complexity to the taste and a creaminess to the texture. This celebration of opposites is too simple and too special not to leave your guests with a warm sense of satisfied refreshment.
PS - If you don’t want to try this at home why not order one out? Di Tazza, my favorite little gelato and coffee stop, serves Gelato Affogato, though they don’t list it on their menu. I ordered mine with Amaretto gelato and whipped cream. It was exquisite! I highly recommend running out to get one right now before the gelato case is closed for the season.