It’s crazy, but true: yesterday I tried eight different gelatos, and today I had three more. I normally don’t eat this way and I didn’t plan on doing a major tasting. But like a lot of fun times, it just happened spur of the moment.
It all started when my friend Bernadette called yesterday evening at the last minute. She was itching to get out and do something. One idea was to go to the performance at Millennium Park, but it was already a bit too late. Another idea was to try one of the newest gelato places in the city called Black Dog Gelato. Having talked about gelato over dinner the week before and then e-mailing about it with each other afterward, the seeds were planted for a gelato outing. And, besides, we weren’t ready to let summer end quite yet.
The buzz on newly opened Black Dog Gelato was good, so we were eager to try it. Owner and pastry chef Jessica Oloroso is into creating gelato in funky flavors. Or, in better words: artisanal gelato. Sure enough, some of the evening’s flavors included balsamic, chai, Mexican chocolate, and goat cheese-caramel cashew. Bernadette went right for the goat cheese-caramel cashew and pistachio, the latter of which she deemed the best she’s ever had. As someone who travels regularly to Italy with her Sicilian-born husband (Sicily is home to the best gelato in Italy) and says “pis-ta-keeo” when she orders, I take her word seriously. The fine bits of pistachio make this gelato top-notch.
And the goat cheese gelato? Delish. Creamy with hardly a cheese taste complemented by not-too-sweet caramel and a kick of salt. And me? I went with the classic flavors: a rich espresso paired with a superb vanilla. Small and large gelato servings are available, and while the small cup looks pretty small, it easily holds two flavors and provides plenty.
About five minutes away from Black Dog by car is Caffé Gelato, Bernadette’s regular fave, which she “just wanted” to show me. The décor is total Italian gelateria. A gleaming, regal display case beams with more than a dozen flavors traditional in style but no less awesome.
Just look? Impossible. We started ooo-ing and ah-ing over the flavors and the next thing we knew we were deciding what to order. Again, I went for the classic, this time nocciola (hazelnut) (is there no better flavor to try in a gelateria?) paired with coco (coconut) yielding tiny bits of coconut (a spot-on recommendation by Bernadette). Excellent. Although the fruit flavors look creamy enough to be gelatos, most are sorbettos (sorbets). Bernadette tried two of them, blood orange and peach. Excellent again.
As though I didn’t have enough gelato the past 24 hours, today, a perfectly sunny and warm September afternoon, I was strolling through the Lake View Arts Festival and found myself walking by a food stand from local Baladoché selling fantastic Belgian waffles and … gelato. Yes, more gelato. Six kinds. Of course I had to check them out. And as I was talking to the guy scooping, who should walk by? Bernadette! Too cosmic. We both decided we just couldn’t eat anymore of the cold cococtions, but they sure did look good. I walked on to the end of the fair … and as I turned around to head back home … I stopped by again. This time in the name of research.
I ended up talking gelato with Terrance, the owner of Baladoché and the person who makes it. And he makes a pretty darn good product. All the ingredients come from Turin, and unlike some gelati he has tried around the city, his creations do not use stabilizers. So, think flavor, fabulous flavor. The pistachio has small chunks of nuts (a style I like). The cappuccino has bits of dark chocolate. And the one sorbetto is “just raspberry and sugar, and nothing else.” Intensely good. What flavors you can’t get at Caffé Gelato, which Terrance deems the “gold standard” of gelati in Chicago, you can find at Baladoché.
Each gelateria Bernadette and I visited has its own style, and each is outstanding. And as someone who hasn’t eaten gelato all summer until this weekend only to have had enough to make up for the entire summer, I know I’ll be back for more. Only I know it will be sooner than next year. And thank goodness there’s always take-home.
2905 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60657-5209