Friday, March 15, 2013

Holy Caramel Crack! (A Gelato Review)

OK, so I’m a terrible Italian. I’ve talked before about my inability to connect with my grandfather over Olive Garden and pasta in general. I just don’t like it. But I think he would be proud of me if he could see how much gelato I have consumed since discovering Talenti. (Or he might grimace as it clogs my arteries.)

Of course, the company is based in Texas and really has nothing to do with Italy beyond the fact that it produces Italian-named desserts. But still, it makes me feel sophisticated and somewhat connected to my grandfather when I forgo the ice cream in favor of gelato.

So yesterday I channeled my inner Italian and picked up a pint I’ve been conflicted about for a while now.

Sea Salt Caramel...I was both aching and afraid to try this one. I LOVE caramel. But I tried a sea salt caramel pretzel flavor at Kiwi, our local self-serve froyo bar, and could barely choke it down. Not knowing whether it was the sea salt or the pretzel, I was reluctant to spend over $5 for a pint of gelato I wouldn’t like.

Gotta love the screw cap and clear container, even if this one does look a little boring with its monotone, almost chocolate color.

But it’s deceptive, and I needn’t have worried about liking it. This stuff is like crack. Seriously. Straight out of the freezer, it’s only a little softer than premium ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s, and already super creamy. It gets even creamier as it warms up, but it’s still so thick that it doesn’t melt in your mouth right away.

And it tastes just like eating Ben & Jerry’s caramel swirl. Or Talenti’s caramel swirl, for that matter, which was mad good in the Caramel Cookie Crunch gelato. The taste, combined with the almost gooey-chewy creamy texture, makes the gelato like a swirl itself. Now I understand why they didn’t add one! The salt is very subtle, if it’s there. This stuff is super sweet and super rich. I’d compare it to B&J’s Dulce Delish, but that would be taking it down a notch.

But wait! There’s a surprise...

A few spoonfuls in and I come across some truffles. These babies are like the upscale version of a Rolo. Despite being nestled in a frozen dessert, they’re not frozen through, but still a little crunchy. They’re also smaller than a Rolo but slightly larger than a regular-sized chocolate chip. After the richness of the base, the chocolate seems almost muted, but it does eventually come through for a slight fudgy effect. It lingers in your teeth, which--far from being annoying--is really awesome. I found these to be a bit saltier than the gelato, and a welcome break in both texture and richness. Not that they weren’t sweet. But I think it would have been too boring not to include some mix-ins. The only minor change I’d suggest is to make the truffles bigger, so there is a higher caramel-to-chocolate ratio...I told you I’m a caramel fiend!

Check that out! A bit farther down and HOLY COW!! This is not a setup, I swear--so maybe they need to work on a more even distribution, but I couldn’t really find an area in the pint that got totally shorted on truffles. There were fewer toward the top and bottom, so if you’re a chocolate fiend, let someone else take the first scoop!

Or, just eat the whole pint like I did and save the truffles for last. But in my opinion, the base is worth its weight in caramel--I mean, gold--as well. The only downside is how addictive this is. It’s dangerous stuff. Eat at your own risk.
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