Frozen Treat With A Foreign Flavor

By LISA BRITTON, Baker City Herald August 29, 2008 12:55 pm

Gelato is served in two sizes — small at 120 grams and large at 190 grams — with a small, flat plastic spoon that encourages you totake small bites. (Lisa Britton/Baker City Herald)
Gelato is served in two sizes — small at 120 grams and large at 190 grams — with a small, flat plastic spoon that encourages you totake small bites. (Lisa Britton/Baker City Herald)
Gelato, which means “freeze” or “frozen,” is a creamy confection that is more dense than ice cream, and has less fat.

“It’s more flavor, less fat, less air,” Caisse said.

Ann and Andrew Bryan, owners of Mad Matilda’s, first tasted gelato on their honeymoon in Italy.

Scott Caisse has a warning for anyone who takes a taste of gelato:

“Once you have gelato, ice cream will never work. You never go back.”

Caisse and his wife, Joy, live in Nampa, Idaho, and they create gelato in the old-style Italian tradition.

They began in 2001, and first introduced the product at Boise Towne Square Mall.

Now they wholesale to 18 clients, including their newest — Mad Matilda’s Coffee House at 1917 Main St. in Baker City.

“Most folks in Baker City have been to Boise Towne Square, and tasted it there,” Caisse said. “That’s when we got hooked on it,” Ann said.

They considered making their own gelato to serve, but decided to instead find a nearby supplier.

Ann Bryan, owner of Mad Matilda’s Coffee House, scoops up pistachio gelato for a customer. She and her husband, Andrew, introduced gelato in the cafe last week. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton)
Ann Bryan, owner of Mad Matilda’s Coffee House, scoops up pistachio gelato for a customer. She and her husband, Andrew, introduced gelato in the cafe last week. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton)
Caisse delivers to his Treasure Valley clients, and in transit keeps the gelato at 10 or 20 degrees below zero.

Andrew Bryan brought the gelato home himself, using a cooler packed with dry ice.

They introduced six flavors for the first week: pistachio, coffee, mango, huckleberry, hazelnut and chocolate.

The Caisses can make more than 150 flavors, but their most popular varieties number 24 to 30.

Caisse said the Boise Co-op clientele is the most adventurous and willing to try unusual flavors such as avocado, lavender, rose, wildflower, oregano and olive oil.

His top three personal favorites are lemon, coconut and mango, but says their specialty flavors are pretty good, too.

“Our pumpkin pie is ridiculously good,” he said.

Gelato flavors have been somewhat Americanized to appeal to a different culture’s tastebuds.

“Peanut butter and cookies is not what you’d find in Italy,” Caisse said. “(Italians) are much more purists. You won’t find rocky road.”

Nut flavors are traditional in Italy, as are coffee varieties.

Also, gelato is served softer and warmer in Italy.

“The second people hand you a cone in Italy, it’s melting,” Caisse said.

The Bryans bought a special freezer that circulates air to keep the gelato between 5 and 7 degrees F.

Ice cream sold at the store is kept colder than 20 degrees below zero.

Here are the main differences between ice cream and gelato: Gelato has less air, less fat and is served at a warmer temperature. All these factors, Caisse said, results in a richer flavor.

“When you put it in your mouth, your tongue doesn’t have to go through the cold, the fat, and the air to get to the flavor,” he said.

As per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ice cream must contain at least 10 percent butterfat to be called ice cream. The premium varieties can have as much as 18 percent butterfat.

Gelato, on the other hand, has 8 percent butterfat or less, and Caisse said their fruit flavors are virtually fat free.

However, the dense texture and intense flavor make it seem like the gelato is a super-rich treat.

“I can give you the same perception of creaminess and luxury,” he said. “It’s a high reward, low fat product.”

He’s had the gelato analyzed for nutrition information, and sent those numbers to the Weight Watchers headquarters to be identified for the program’s point system. He found out that a small serving of fruit gelato is two points and a small of a milk flavor, such as chocolate or nut, is four points.

Caisse said their gelato technique takes two days to make a flavor. They produce about 30 containers on a regular day, but can push that number as high as 60 during busy times.

“It’s a very slow artisan and arduous task,” he said.

And when each flavor is finished, they mold the gelato with artistic swirls, peaks and adornments of fruit, nuts or chocolate, depending on the flavor.

“The first reaction is about how pretty it is — it looks like art,” Ann Bryan said.

Caisse said their main ingredients are imported from Italy, but he also uses many local products, such as milk from a dairy in Burley, Idaho, purified water from a Nampa company and White Satin sugar, also based in Nampa.

He uses local fruits and nuts when they’re in season, such as huckleberries and hazelnuts from Coeur d’Alene, and peaches from Emmett.

“Helping out local people is smarter,” he said.

Their gelato, he said, gives you an Italian experience.

Except for one thing.

“What’s missing is the romance,” he said.