A Dietitian Does Gelato

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

The authenticity is overwhelming.  Entering Gelatiamo, at Third and Union in downtown Seattle for a special tour and tasting, the aroma of fresh pastries and the sight of swirled gelatos, transported me straight to Italy.

You may think Sicily is the most famous region for gelato. Maria Coussin, Gelatiamo founder and owner, claims that the majority of extraordinary gelato makers are from her region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.   I believe her.

  In the summer of 1994 we lived in a Fruilian farmhouse for a week and I can still taste the excellent gelatos of the region.

A quintessential Italian, Coussin made sure we started the tour with something to eat. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

 When she opened Gelatiamo in 1996 her vision included pastries to round out her business.  It’s no surprise that the tiny fruit tarts are exquisite – pastry expertise is in Coussin’s blood. 

Her family has been handcrafting pastries at Panificio Coussin in Maniago, Italy for over 250 years. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

As Coussin shares her story, passionate isn’t a big enough word to describe her. 

 She flipped a coin to select Seattle to launch her business (with a little analysis of the potential market, of course), worked to educate Seattleites on gelato (No, it’s not gelatin and it’s not flavored cream cheese for bagels.) and struggled to break even (It took 4 years to recoup her half-a-million dollar investment and included standing in front of a bus to stop a knife-wielding vandal who had smashed her window shortly after opening.  A stellar location now, near the Symphony Hall and Pike Place Market, initially she called it 3rd and Hell.

When it comes to making gelato, Coussin is a purest, an artisan and an exacting chemist.  She studied under a master gelato-maker in Italy.  When her instructor came to Seattle he insisted on exploring “the smell of the city” to inform the creation of Coussin’s gelato recipes. Place is important, she emphasizes. If she had established in Miami, she would likely create different formulas to match the location and climate.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

If you think gelato is ice cream with crazy Italian flavors like stracciatella – you are wrong.  The Gelatiamo website explains that gelato is more intensely flavored than ice cream because it has less fat, 6% to 10% on average, versus 14% to 24% for ice cream. With less fat, less air is mixed in which contributes to the flavor intensity. Gelato has a 25% overrun (air) compared to ice cream with 100% overrun. 

The perfect fat content for Seattle is 8.5% according to Coussin, which includes all sources of fat such as chocolate and nuts.  Each flavor requires a unique formula to perfectly balance solid, liquid and air and achieve the ideal mouth feel and texture when frozen.  Each ingredient impacts the chemistry. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

 For example, to create the flavor of tiramisu, you have to account for the alcohol in marsala, which freezes at a lower temperature than other liquids, mascarpone cheese and eggs.  Sucrose may be the ideal sweetener for one gelato, glucose for another.

Except for banana, all fruit flavors are sorbettos or water based formula to preserve the intense fruit flavor that the addition of milk or cream would dull.  Try Gelatiamo’s pear gelato, which is 45% fruit (compared to other gelato with about 25% fruit) and you taste the difference.  It is so rich and creamy, one would swear it contains dairy.  It helps that Coussin is a stickler for quality, insisting on small batches, sourcing all of her fruits and berries locally and freshly squeezing all citrus juices. 

Counting calories?  Coussin says that sorbettos are about 110 calories for a 3.5 to 4 ounce serving and gelatos range from 180 to 240 calories – and you can always mix a lighter sorbetto with a gelato to keep the numbers down. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

If all foods in America were made to Coussin’s standards we would not have all the fuss around portion control.  Do dessert here and you are utterly satisfied with a moderate portion – the quality is  so intensely good you slow down and savor each bite. 

Gelatiamo – It means let’s have gelato together! 

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

Comments

  1. What a wonderful post, Lorelle! You perfectly captured the flavor (ha!) of the tour and tasting, along with Maria’s passion, while offering up an informative and energizing post and lovely photos. Brava!

  2. Cheryl Eiger says:

    Lorelle; With St. Patty’s Day around the corner do you have any suggestions for fun and healthy ways to pay tribute beyond corn beef and cabbage???

    • I’ve read that corned beef and cabbage is more American than Irish so I’ll be cooking up something else with Irish ingredients such as potatoes, Cheddar cheese, root vegetables, salmon,cabbage…. If you have some suggestions send them along!

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